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A Reporter's Experience Covering Sen. McCain

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One of the common themes we keep hearing about today is that John McCain treated everyone around him with respect. Melanie Eversley is a reporter who covered Capitol Hill for years. She tweeted about her experience covering this senator, and it caught our attention, so we called her. Melanie Eversley, welcome. Thanks for joining us.

MELANIE EVERSLEY: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: You wrote on Twitter (reading) Dear @SenJohnMcCain, I covered Capitol Hill for two newspapers from ‘97 to 2000 and 2000 to 2004. I'm black, female and 5-foot-3. The atmosphere was cutthroat - even among peers. You were one of maybe 10 lawmakers who were genuine, who always treated me with respect. Thank you, and God bless you.

Tell us more about that. What are you talking about when you say that?

EVERSLEY: Well, when I got to Washington in '97 from the Detroit Free Press from covering municipal politics to Washington and - as soon as you got to the Capitol to actually cover some of the lawmakers in person, there's just this big flurry of activity. And when you stop to ask folks, like, what's going on, they don't even answer your question. So it was really just kind of an unfriendly atmosphere. It seemed as if a lot of times if people saw that you were a person of color or a female, they assumed that you were there perhaps as an intern or not legitimately. And because the atmosphere was so cutthroat, there were certain people who stuck out in my mind who actually had been decent, and John McCain was one of them.

MARTIN: Tell me about that. Like how - give me an example.

EVERSLEY: Sure. There used to be this TV show about Washington where people were always walking. It really was like that. Everybody was always walking or rushing, and a large part of my job was rushing down hallways trying to stop some lawmaker in their steps so I could get a quote from them. And a lot of times, it seemed as if the lawmakers would do, like, this quick sizing up. What paper do you work for? Is it large enough? Do I care if I'm quoted there? And sometimes, they would just keep walking. But every time I approached John McCain, I would say who I was, who I worked for, and he would always stop in his tracks. He'd smile. He'd call me by name, ask how I was doing, and he would take the time to really answer the question.

MARTIN: John McCain himself joked about his popularity with the media. But what I think you're getting at is that he treated everybody with respect. And I just wonder if you had ever got a chance to ask him or anybody around him why that is.

EVERSLEY: I never did, and I wish I had because I like to compare Capitol Hill to Hollywood in some ways. A lot of what happens is about appearances and press releases and lawmakers consulting with aides to figure out the best way they can convey their message. But John McCain - he was always the same person. It wasn't, OK, I'm rehearsing my lines before I go to this press conference. He was always himself.

MARTIN: That's Melanie Eversley. She is now an independent journalist based in New York City. Melanie Eversley, thanks so much for talking to us.

EVERSLEY: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.