CNN’s John King Tells Us How He’s Still Standing

CNN’s John King Tells Us How He’s Still Standing
Four days into the 2020 presidential election, America still may not have final ballot counts for Joe Biden and Donald Trump, or much real clarity on the direction of our democracy. But boy, does it have respect for John King, CNN’s tireless anchor, chief national correspondent, and election-map guru. King has spent so many hours live-commentating on election counts that some Twitter users now consider him family, or at least the ever-present man on their TV.

After seeing King on his feet for what’s seemed like 100 hours of consecutive news coverage, others may be wondering about his general well-being—and whether he’s being held hostage at CNN. Perhaps the network is forcing him to work off some sort of very particular, touch-screen-related debt?

Equally concerned for and inspired by King, Vanity Fair reached out to the indefatigable news anchor on Friday morning. Responding by email between marathon live-spot segments, King reassured us that he’s been enjoying the long hours.

“Elections are always a challenge, but worth it and then some,” wrote King, who revealed that he had been training for spending so many grueling hours on his feet. “Regular exercise is always critical to me—and knowing there could be a long studio stretch, I was mindful for weeks beforehand to try to get more. Nothing fancy—walking on the treadmill, rower, light weights. I’ve been working long hours during COVID.” That said, he added, “The best preparation I have is eight previous presidential campaigns and every midterm in between. Repeat visits to all 50 states dating back to 1987 gives me enormous respect for everything involved in choosing a president.”

King, who was on air between 12 and 14 hours Tuesday and Wednesday, said that he has been sleeping at his home each night—which happens to be about a 15-minute drive from the CNN studio. After unwinding during those drives, King tries to get what sleep he can. He slept two and a half hours on Tuesday night; four hours on Wednesday night; and another three hours Thursday night. In total, he’s had less than 10 hours of sleep since Tuesday, during which King said he thankfully did not dream of anything election- or “Magic Wall”-related. (“What little sleep I’ve had has been very solid.”)

When he wakes up, King said he starts his election-week mornings with a loose ritual. “Breakfast is essential. Bagel with eggs, a little bit of fruit. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee,” King wrote, explaining that the meal is followed by a “quick walk around the neighborhood…sipping coffee to think and get fresh air.” Thinking about all that coffee, King remembered that he was almost out: “Need to find time for an Amazon order today to avoid that impending crisis.”

In between his quick hits at the election map, King drinks water and more coffee—no human blood; we asked—and waits for more counts to roll in. Sometimes, though, the election changes can be more potent than caffeine: “Adrenaline also kicks in when big things change.”

Courtesy of CNN. 

Some TV viewers have compared King to MSNBC’s own resident “map daddy,” Steve Kornacki. But King said he does not view his cable peer as a rival.

“I don’t know Steve,” King said. “But I know how both challenging and exciting it can be to be in that role. I love our team and think it is stronger and deeper, but have nothing but respect for Steve and his colleagues.”

Once this election-week madness ends, King’s first priority is to “reintroduce myself to my nine-year-old, Jonah! We text and FaceTime every day, but I can’t wait to plop down on the couch with him or get outside for a river walk or some baseball…. Star Trek: Discovery is a ritual with Jonah. And we missed this week, so we need to catch up!”

How can King top this week’s adrenaline rush? “I am perfectly happy to have some calm, and dad time,” wrote King. “But there will also be plenty of exciting work: A Biden win would mean a fascinating transition and governing challenges. And President Trump, even if evicted from the White House, isn’t going to voluntarily yield the stage or his grip on the GOP. So a little break and back to the challenge is fine by me.”

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