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State of the Union

Interview With Huma Abedin; Interview With Rep. Fred Upton (R- MI); Interview With Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI); Interview With U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired December 26, 2021 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Toxic culture. As we approach the anniversary of January 6, the atmosphere on Capitol Hill has gone from hostile to a breaking point.

REP. FRED UPTON (R-MI): I have never seen anything like this before.

BASH: Two friends and colleagues trying to change things, Democrat Debbie Dingell and Republican Fred Upton, are here.

And betrayal. She stood by her man time and time again. Now she opens up about what changed and the surprising response from so many who empathized.

HUMA ABEDIN, AUTHOR, "BOTH/AND: A LIFE IN MANY WORLDS": Find a connection in my story.

BASH: Huma Abedin joins me ahead.

Plus: kids in crisis. A deadly pandemic piles more grief and stress on our children, new signs that the kids are not all right. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy with his new warning coming up.


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is enjoying the holidays.

Merry Christmas.

As many of you enjoy a little time off and a chance to celebrate with family, we're all thinking about the things that bring us together, but increasingly here in Washington, that common ground feels more and more remote.

In a week, the anniversary of a violent insurrection, that event, instead of marking the end of an era of division and lies, seems merely to have been a jumping-off point. A majority of Republicans now believe the lie that the election was stolen.

GOP officials who have broken with former President Trump over that lie have faced threats of violence. And party leaders are protecting their members for almost any behavior, other than crossing Trump.

It's difficult to see how we as a nation move past this, but let's talk to two people who are trying.

Joining me now done, congressional colleagues and friends Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and Republican Congressman Fred Upton, both of Michigan.

Thank you so much for coming. Merry Christmas to both of you.

It's really unusual to be able to have a conversation like this, which is really unfortunate, a conversation with a Democrat and Republican.

You are friends, as I said. You genuinely work together.

But I want to talk about what it's like for you on Capitol Hill these days. It really feels like a hostile work environment, and that things are reaching a boiling point.

UPTON: It's pretty toxic. There's no question about it.

I mean, just before we adjourned probably for the Christmas break, one of our members had their words taken down. Usually, you just apologize. You just say, you know what? I was wrong, and you just sit down and life goes on. And, no, he couldn't speak the rest of the day. He stood by the words that he had.

But you got metal detectors now going on the House floor. We get really nasty threats at home. The tone gets tougher and tougher. And it's a pretty toxic place. I have never seen anything like this before.

BASH: Well, you mentioned the threats, so I want to talk about that. I don't want to start off on such a negative tone, but since you mentioned them. And then we're going to talk about some of the positive stuff that's going on, because there really is.

But, Congresswoman Dingell, I know you had some pretty nasty voice- mails last month.

You have had some recently.

We're going to play one, but I actually want to warn our viewers that it is a bit disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You goddamn old senile (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You're as old and ugly as Biden.

You ought to get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) off the planet, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) foul (EXPLETIVE DELETED). They ought to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) try you for treason. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you and every one of your scumbag (EXPLETIVE DELETED) friends.

I hope your family dies in front of you. I pray to God, if you got any children, they die in your face.


REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): I have been getting those for a couple of years.

UPTON: Oh, that was terrible.

BASH: A couple of years?

DINGELL: A couple of years, ever since -- at Christmastime. The Christmas right after John had died, President Trump was in Michigan.

BASH: John, your late husband.

DINGELL: John was my late husband.

And it -- once you're in that Trump hate tunnel, you kind of don't escape it. There are a lot of good people out there who are really wonderful to me, et cetera, but we average several of those a week.

And we're used to it. I almost -- my friends look at me. I play them, and it's almost like therapy, and say, how can you do this?


But you have to -- I don't -- we have got to be careful not to normalize it, but I'm not going to not do my job. I'm not going to go out and not be with people. I'm not going to go out and not listen to them. I want the American people to think about what's happening in our country, that this kind of hate, this fear is happening in communities across the country.

You know, if you even look at that horrific shooting that killed children in our state, they were living with parents that were reflecting -- he was living with parents that had some of that. We need to really worry about our democracy, and find a way that you can disagree with people and do it in a civil and agreeable way. And it really does have me very worried.

UPTON: You know, the day before Parkland, I was meeting with one of my high schools. Until COVID, I went to a school literally every week.

And I was speaking at a high school with 300 or 400 kids there. And they had a live shooter drill, something that never happened when I was in school. Then we had Parkland. Within a couple days, I -- we all sort of changed our schedules. We did -- focused on school violence. Debbie actually came over to my district. And I went to hers as well.

And we met with law enforcement and pastors and school officials and kids. Kids can't learn in an unsafe environment. And that's where we are today. I mean, what happened in Michigan a couple weeks ago now is often -- is often -- has now triggered copycats like that.

So we have had a number of schools across our state that have been closed all over because of some of the threats, one of them in my district by an 8-year-old.

BASH: So are you connecting the toxic environment on a national political level to what you're seeing on a local level?



DINGELL: The House of Representatives is a representative body. It represents the people.

Now, what I do want to say is that there are a lot of good people that are worried about our country. So, I don't want to be all negative here. I have people every day that come up from when I'm in the grocery store, when I'm at the farmer's market, when I'm in schools.

Fred and I are both known for being out and about when we're home. And they come up and thank me for doing the job. Or they talk about an issue. We both -- we're Fred and Debbie. We don't want to be anything but Fred and Debbie, included from you, Dana.

And people talk to us, but there is a lot of fear and hatred and people scared about what's going to happen to themselves. And we need to listen to each other more. And we need to -- if you look at de Tocqueville, who came over in the early 1800s and talked about the strength of democracy, it was community.

And we have got to remind ourselves, in community, that coming together really is the pillar of our democracy.

UPTON: It was a reminder when Bob Dole passed away. I worked for Bob Dole. I worked in his office. And it was a whole different climate back then.

You know that. And it was a reminder to all of us that, how do we get the trains to run on time? How do we work together, be -- maybe disagree on issues, but not be disagreeable? And that's -- he had the best wit, but he got things done. He had wonderful relationships with either Republicans or Democrats down at the White House or certainly with his colleagues in both the House and the Senate.

BASH: You mentioned Bob Dole, and the funeral really was a reminder, as we unfortunately have seen a fair amount recently when people of great stature who were part of the Washington or political climate of yesteryear pass away.

I want to ask you, Congresswoman Dingell, about a moment that we're going to put up. You and Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, you're putting your head on her shoulder. You actually agree on January 6. You don't agree on much, but that -- talk about that moment.

DINGELL: Bob Dole was a friend, and he was a friend of John's. They were World War II veterans. Can't tell you how many issues they worked on.

Bob Dole recovered in Battle Creek, Michigan. John had known him since the '50s. And I was sad.

I mean, I will tell you a story I haven't told anybody. Elizabeth called me. I may have told you at the time.

BASH: Elizabeth Dole.

DINGELL: Elizabeth Dole, Bob Dole's wife, called me right after John had died and been buried.

And both of our husbands wanted to be buried at Arlington. And both Elizabeth and I know being buried at Arlington, we did not get any special favors. I better say that right now, but, by their Army service, they were both eligible to be -- because they're World War II veterans, were eligible to be buried in Arlington.


But Elizabeth asked me a lot of questions about what to do when Bob died. We were people that loved our husband...

BASH: Yes.

DINGELL: ... and loved our community, and -- yes.

And I, by the way, have known Liz Cheney since she was a kid. She went to school with some of John's kids. And this -- it was a time that I could have very strong disagreements, even with Fred over some policy issues, probably the more serious policy issues.

UPTON: And I will always make her laugh at the end of it.

DINGELL: I know, and probably have more policy issues...


BASH: We need more laughter in this town.

UPTON: We have it.

BASH: But something that is certainly not a laughing matter and something that I know you both feel strongly about is January 6.

And when I say feel strongly about, it's getting the actual facts out there. And at the end of this year, we have learned some really startling information -- or at least it's remarkable to see the words -- about some of the hosts on FOX News, and the messages that they were sending to Mark Meadows that reveal that they understand that January 6 was terrible, despite the lies that they continue to tell to their viewers on the air.

What does it mean to you, as a Republican, that this whitewashing is happening of January 6?

UPTON: You know, I was there. I wasn't in the -- I was not in the chamber when they were pounding and the woman was shot and killed. And I had been -- passed through the chamber earlier that day. They

asked us specifically not to be on the House floor just because of COVID restrictions, so I was in my office.

But I have a balcony. And I watched people go down the Mall, and I saw them come back. And I heard the noises and obviously was watching what happened. But it was real and shocking and...

BASH: So, is it shocking to you that so many Republicans now are being told it wasn't what you saw?


Well, you remember the conversation that's been recanted a good number of times, when Kevin McCarthy called the president and said, call the troops off, stop this stuff. And the response was along the lines: I guess they care more about the election than you do, Kevin.

I mean, that is -- it was a scary day. And that's why I voted to have an independent commission. We passed it in the House. Good number of Republicans supported it. Didn't happen in the Senate.

BASH: So, let's end on a positive note.

We do have the both of you here. You genuinely do, as you mentioned, work together on a number of issues. What can people look to, beyond the vitriol, to see their government actually working? Is there some bright light -- or maybe dim light that you can show that exists?

DINGELL: Well, I mean, I think it has to be a bright light.

And the fact of the matter is, Fred and I are best friends and probably talk five or six times a day about everything, and I mean everything. I have a lot of other friends on the other side of the aisle.

Fred -- the last night of session, Fred came and sat on the Democratic side with me for an hour. I'm frequently on the Republican side. And last night, when people were leaving, I hugged a lot of Republicans and wished them a merry Christmas. I have a lot of other friends on the other side.

And what we need to do is to, all of us, get back to just remembering how much we have in common, just respecting each other, treating each other with dignity. And I say to everybody, a little act of kindness towards anybody can make the difference in that person's day, week or life.

UPTON: As we look towards '22 coming, it's going to be a tough year. We see it in Michigan. We're the number one hot spot in terms of COVID.

What can we do, working together, to try and help our hospitals, our heroes, our workers, families to make sure they don't get this? I just had a neighbor die of COVID just another week or so ago.

BASH: I'm so sorry.

UPTON: I mean, it's just -- I mean, if we don't work together, we're not going to get this thing solved.

And, for me, I mean, the Pfizer vaccine is actually produced, manufactured, sent out from my district, Kalamazoo and Portage, Michigan. It's been exactly a year now. And we have -- even though we have crossed the threshold of 800,000 Americans dead, think how many hundreds of thousands would have perished without the vaccine that, frankly, we got through our committee when I was chairman.

BASH: Yes. Amen to that.

Congressman Fred Upton, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, thank you. Merry Christmas. Thank you for this image, this discussion to show there is bipartisan discussion and relationships, even in this tumultuous time.

Appreciate it.

DINGELL: And to a peaceful 2022 of bringing more people together.

UPTON: And not to make my Georgia friends unhappy, go, Blue.


DINGELL: Go, Blue. We're together.



BASH: More than 800,000 U.S. lives lost to COVID, so how many millions of people does that mean are grieving, and how can you help?

The surgeon general joins me next.

Plus, the advice Hillary Clinton did and did not give to Huma Abedin when she was dealing with a very public betrayal.


Huma Abedin is here.


BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

This is our last show of 2021, and it has been another really difficult year, more than 800,000 U.S. lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And the unthinkable tragedy is having a devastating effect on our children, who are struggling with stress from loss and social isolation and school violence.

Joining me now with a new warning about our kids is Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

Let me start, first of all, with your advisory, Dr. Murthy.

You lay out some really alarming trends. One in five young people report experiencing symptoms of depression. One in four suffer from anxiety.

So, is the mental health toll of the pandemic an epidemic in its own right?

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, Dana, I'm so concerned about our children, because there is an epidemic, if you will, of mental health challenges that they've been facing.

And it's partly because of the pandemic. We've seen certainly that many children have lost loved ones during this pandemic; 140,000 kids lost a caregiver. We know that their lives have been turned upside down. They haven't been able to see friends as often as they would. And that's taken a toll. It's why we've seen anxiety and depression rates go up among kids.


But here's the really important part, Dana. Our kids were struggling long before the pandemic. You know, the decade before the pandemic, we saw a 40 percent increase in the number of high school students who said they felt persistent feelings of hopelessness or sadness.

We had increases in suicide rates among kids, to alarming levels.

So, our children have been struggling for a while. And the reason I issued this advisory is because we have, I believe, a moral obligation to take action to support our kids, because they could be doing much better than they are. And every child deserves a shot at good health.

BASH: Yes. I mean, gosh, that is so true.

But when you're talking about even young children, this is an issue. You have two young children. I have a young son.


BASH: I've witnessed this firsthand. I'm sure you have too.

So, what is the long-term impact of all of this on our children?

MURTHY: Well, Dana, that story is still being written. And it's one that we can shape actually by the actions that we take today.

You know, I think about this not just as surgeon general or as a doctor, but as a dad. You know, I have two small kids. They're 5 and 3, and I've seen the impact on the pandemic, you know, on them. And parents across the country have as well.

In the days since our advisory was issued on youth mental health, I've heard from so many people around the country who have said: You know, I've been worried about my child. I've seen them struggling. What do I do?

And the reason we issued this advisory is because there are steps that we can take. We, in fact, laid out concrete recommendations for 11 sectors, including individuals and families, government, technology companies, schools, health care workers, because we all have a role to play in improving the mental health of our children.

BASH: So, and when the parents in particular contact you and say, "What do I do?" what is your advice? If you're a parent watching at home and you say, hmm, I recognize what they're talking about in my kids, what is their action plan, or what should it be?

MURTHY: So, here's what parents can really make a difference with.

Number one, there is a terrible stigma around mental health that surrounds our children and older adults as well. Many kids feel ashamed at their struggles. And they're not sure if it's OK to ask for health.

One of the most powerful things that parents can do is to start a conversation with their children about mental health, to let them know it's OK if you struggle. That doesn't mean that you're broken in some way. And you're certainly not the only one, because a lot of kids also feel that they're alone.

Starting that conversation is important, so your kids know that it's OK for them to come to you for help.

It's also important for parents to encourage kids to seek out help, even if it's not from them, if it's from a school counselor or teacher, because many kids are struggling, but they don't know if it's OK for them to ask for help.

BASH: Mm-hmm.

MURTHY: And, finally, just keep in mind that our relationships in our lives, for our kids and for adults, are one of our most powerful buffers for stress, one of our most important supports, if you will, for our mental health.

And encouraging our children to invest in relationships with family members, with friends is such an important part of ensuring their mental health and well-being.

BASH: So, we are almost two years into this pandemic. A lot of Americans beyond children are feeling increasingly pessimistic. Vaccine resistance remains high. More than 1,000 people are dying every day.

What do you say to Americans who fear that the pandemic is just never going to end and that this is the new normal?

MURTHY: Well, certainly, I can understand that fatigue and the frustration that many people have about where we are in the pandemic right now. It has been almost two years.

We've lost so many people, and our lives have been changed fundamentally.

But those struggles shouldn't obscure one critical thing, which is that we have made tremendous progress in these last two years as well. You know, by studies recently done, in fact, we have saved more than a million lives because of vaccination efforts this past year alone.

I know it may not always feel like the progress is enough. But we've also gotten tools and we developed tools to learn to live our lives to gather with family and friends. And those include not just the vaccines and the boosters, but testing, using masks judiciously, and using better ventilation, and gathering in better ventilated spaces.

So, what I would say to folks out there is, look, I know it's tough right now. I know that there's a prospect of another wave with Omicron coming, but we now know more about how to stay safe than we've ever known. If you're vaccinated and boosted, your risk of having a bad outcome with COVID-19 is much, much lower.

And we will get to the end of this pandemic. It's gone through twists and turns. But we will get there, and we will get there together.

BASH: Well, it is nice to hear you end that on a hopeful note. It is important for all of us to end this year on a hopeful note, even though it's sometimes pretty hard.

I appreciate you coming on, and especially talking about the challenges that our children are having with mental health because of this pandemic.

I hope you have a happy new year.

MURTHY: Thanks, and I hope you do as well, Dana.

And I hope that everyone out there who's listening just takes some time over the holidays to reconnect with people you love. This is a time for us to double down on those connections with others. Our relationships with each other...

BASH: Yes.

MURTHY: ... are a source of healing. And we need that right now.


BASH: Well said.

Dr. Murthy, thank you so much.

MURTHY: Thank you, Dana.

And you definitely remember her story, and you probably said to yourself, what is she thinking?

Well, next, we're going to talk to Huma Abedin about that and the most surprising response to her book next.


BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

My next guest has been one of the most recognizable people in Democratic politics for decades, but also one of the most private, Huma Abedin, longtime aide to Hillary Clinton and former wife to the infamous former Congressman Anthony Weiner.


Now she is telling her own story. And while there's been a lot of focus on her role in the Clinton campaign and the scandal that marred its final days, today, we're going to zero in on something a little different, something Abedin says prompted a lot of people to come up to her and confide their experiences.

And that is her story of betrayal, of being a new mother, and of seeking a divorce, and how she is picking up the pieces.

Joining me now is Huma Abedin, author of a new book, "Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds."

Thank you so much for joining me.

ABEDIN: Thanks for having me, Dana.

BASH: I appreciate it.

So, let's start there.

This is a really raw book. You kind of put it all out there. And it is done in a way that people who've known you -- and I've only known you from afar for this reason, because you've always been so private.

And, specifically, what was surprising to me was how open you are about what happened when you found out that your then-husband Anthony Weiner was sending inappropriate photos of himself.

Why did you want to let people into your marriage like this?

ABEDIN: So, Dana, first of all, I'm thrilled to be talking to you about this.

And it is one of the things, as you said in your introduction, that a lot of people do come up and talk to me about, strangers on the street, friends, people I've lost touch with for many years, people from my childhood would reach out and find a connection in my story, something about my relationship or my marriage that they can either relate to, they've heard of, they know somebody in our family who's kind of gone through a similar kind of betrayal.

But the one thing I actually haven't had an opportunity to talk very much about while I've been on this book tour, which I've enjoyed very much, is that I was private. I liked being private.

And, actually, the first time I was recognized as an individual on my own was the moment that the first story broke. I was newly pregnant. And I share the story of getting on an airplane to meet Anthony, who had gone -- who had, you know, gone to Texas for therapy.

I was a staff person for Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state, and being in a bathroom, and here I am still reeling from the shock of this news, and a woman leaned over and touches my arm in a public bathroom, and said: "Hang in there. I know what you're going through."

And it was the first moment that a stranger made that personal connection, and that was the first of, I would say, are hundreds of experiences I've had since then, people -- I have been at restaurants in New York, pre-COVID, and people will come up to me and say: "Could I get five minutes of your time?"

And we go into a corner. And they share their story. And, often, the questions are very similar, which is, when do you know and when does it stop hurting, or what do I do?

And so if I can make one piece of service in writing my story, it's one of the reasons I chose to write in detail what it was like.

BASH: So, I want to ask you a lot more about that because I find that fascinating that there is an unfortunate sisterhood. And maybe it's not even just women. Maybe there are men who come up to as well.

But, let's just, for people who are not super familiar with the stories maybe as much as others, I remember this in a maybe a different way than other people, because I was a Capitol Hill reporter at the time. It was 2011. I was eight months' pregnant.

And I contacted his office that -- it was that Memorial Day weekend 2011, when they said that he was hacked. And just something felt fishy, it smelled fishy to me.

That's how I felt as a reporter. I felt something was off. How did it feel as a wife?

ABEDIN: Well, I was in shock.

Well, when he called me -- when he texted me -- I write in the book, I get a text in the middle of the night. And it was right after I'd returned from a trip with the secretary of state. We were staying at Buckingham Palace. It was an official trip with President Obama.

We then went on to Pakistan, if I remember correctly. I mean, it was an important trip that I was in the middle of. And I arrived back home. I was living in Washington at the time. And I crawl into bed. I'm exhausted. I'm newly pregnant. Nobody knew.

I mean, I was living this dream life. I was living in this blissful marriage. I thought I was married to the perfect man, and getting a text from Anthony in the middle of the night, saying that his account had been hacked, but not to worry, that he was handling it.

And, Dana, honestly, I didn't worry, and in part because I had so many other things going on at the office I was worried about. I was carrying this little secret, my pregnancy

And Anthony was, in our relationship, always the fixer. He was the doer. He was the problem-solver. He took care of everything.

I share the stories that, if I left the apartment, a mess, I would come home to a clean apartment and groceries in the fridge, hot food on the table, my dry cleaning done, my shoes fixed. That's the role he played in our marriage.


So, no, I thought it was an anomaly. I thought it was -- the word hack was a little puzzling, because I didn't really back then -- I mean, we are talking about 2011. Somebody being hacked was still kind of a scary thing. But that was it.

BASH: Yes.

And you mentioned you were newly pregnant. How did you reconcile what was supposed to be one of the happiest moments of your life with the fact that, after he said he was hacked, he eventually did come to you and say, it's true?

ABEDIN: Well, he -- it took him a few days to come around to telling the truth.

And we went away for the weekend. And he -- I noticed him being not himself over that weekend. And the morning we were to leave to return to New York, he is standing at the front door with his bags right in the doorway, not in and out, and he told me the truth that it was him, that he had sent the image.

And, in that moment, I just felt a bolt of lightning just from the top of my head. I felt like that lightning was the only thing. I remember everything about the room in that moment, the sofa, the staircase. And I walked outside. I mean, my immediate reaction was: You have constituents. You are responsible to people. You have to tell everybody the truth.

Immediately, it became not about me. It became about the child I was carrying, and it became about his constituents and coming clean. And he immediately called his team. And I went out the back terrace. And all I could think was, what is happening to my life?

I was in such shock, Dana, and such a -- and anger, too. I mean, these were supposed to be these blissful days, enjoying being parents about to bring a child into the world.

BASH: So many people, I think, can relate to that moment, I mean, when you -- where your world falls apart, and it's like a freeze frame of where you are at that moment.

Two years later, Anthony decides to run for mayor in 2013. And during that campaign, things were going pretty well for him, and then another revelation, another inappropriate sexting, I guess you could call it, with a woman was out there. That time, you went out. You did a press conference with him. It was

the first time a lot of people even heard your voice. And you were getting phone calls in the car from people like Hillary Clinton, and you let them go to voice-mail. You didn't answer them.


ABEDIN: I, in that moment, thought every decision I've tried to make in my marriage, I have tried to do what I thought was the right decision in that moment.

And, in that moment, I felt that I owed the public an explanation for why I had stood with him when he decided to run for mayor. And there's such a -- I've said this before, that there is a 2021 sort of hindsight is 20/20 about all the things we shoulda, woulda, coulda done in the time.

I don't think we understood the behavior. I share in the story how the very first therapy session we went away through -- we went away to that, even Anthony, who was confused -- didn't -- he didn't understand the behavior, said, you know, how -- what is it? How do I -- what is the explanation? How do I prevent myself from ever doing it again?

So, I think we were in this two years of just muddling through, going to therapy. And I certainly didn't understand, Dana, but it was something that -- this was behavior that one could not control.

I had encouraged him to run for mayor, and in part because he'd been a good congressman. He'd been reelected time and time again. Even when he had resigned, his constituents didn't want him to resign. And I wanted him to have a focused profession, a profession that he was good at.

BASH: You thought it was fixable.

ABEDIN: I 100 percent thought it was fixable when I encouraged him to run.

The story breaks. Again, our world is falling apart. But I didn't think it was right for him to go out on his own because I had encouraged him to run.

BASH: I'm sure you've heard this, and I've heard this I can't even count how many times, people, they're speculating at that time why you stayed.

And one of the questions is, is it because your model was Hillary Clinton, who was famously betrayed by her husband and stayed?

ABEDIN: I don't think it occurred to me for even a second.

The first time it happened, I was so -- it's why I opened the chapter...

BASH: Yes. ABEDIN: ... waking up at Buckingham Palace, writing a letter to Anthony, saying: "How is it possible for two people to be this blessed? We have to be thankful to God."

That's how amazing the moments were. I was madly in love with him. He was my first love, the first one I was ever with. So, start there. That is why I stayed the first time. And, really, a lot of it was motivated by the fact that I was carrying his child.

BASH: Yes.

ABEDIN: And I did not have a choice when my father was taken from me.

And so I was going to do everything I could to have my son grow up in a household with two parents. And I really tried, tried to make that marriage work.

And, by the way, Dana, I believe he did too. We both tried to figure out how to be in this relationship together, and how to be healthy mentally and otherwise. And it just didn't -- it was so much more complicated than either of us realized.


And I think comparing to other situations, it's just neither here nor there for me.

BASH: Yes.

ABEDIN: So, no, it did not occur to me.

BASH: Complicated is the perfect word.

And, again, so many people, including myself, can relate to that.

And we're going to take a quick break, because we have a lot more to talk about, including the moment that Huma says was a breaking point.

We'll be right back.


BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

We're back with Huma Abedin.

So, the decision of when to leave someone, when to stay, you say that people have come up to you a lot. And I want to get to what you say to them.


But just in the narrative of your story, it happened because of "The New York Post" putting out a photo of Anthony sending an inappropriate text with a photo of your son, your young son in it.

And you said: "Everybody has a limit. I finally reached mine ages after everyone else had gotten there."

ABEDIN: I do think, for me, every time I was making a decision as it related to my marriage, somebody was making a judgment about it.

BASH: You were judged big time.

ABEDIN: I was judged big time.

And to the point you made about strangers coming up to me or friends coming up to me saying they've been in similar situations, they'll say the same thing. I just had to go through all of us on the front page of the newspaper, but, certainly, many women, as -- and men, because I don't think it's only women.

And, yes, both men and women have come up to me, but this -- it is primarily women, and this notion that they are judged for staying, judged for leaving, judged for what their decisions are, and trying to -- muddling their way through it.

And so, for me, the one thing I always say to people is, don't -- I was very good at compartmentalizing. It is one of the things I learned about myself, but also allow yourself to feel.

I mean, I just -- I just became this sort of closed, angry, bitter person for a really long time. And so, when that had happened, you know...

BASH: That was your breaking point.

ABEDIN: It was my breaking point, and, in part, because the first few years of Anthony and I living this together, I felt as though we were in a bit of a bunker, is the -- there was the outside world.

I wasn't sure who I could trust or who I could talk to. I would read about things I had supposedly told friends in confidence. And so it gave you a sense of insecurity about who in the outside world you could trust.

And so we really were kind of in this together. We were both shunned from certain society events. We were both asked to not show up at charity, at a food bank.

And so it increasingly led us to be in this isolation together initially. But, yes, I did finally reach my breaking point, because that was the point where I -- for so long, Dana, I was saying, I don't understand. I don't understand. Why can't you just knock it off?

And this was my final straw.

BASH: So, one of the many remarkable things that I didn't know that you talk about in the book is, after that photo was published, child services got involved.

And you were the subject of a child services investigation, both of you. I can't even imagine what that was like. You were questioned about whether you were a fit parent for leaving him, your son, with your husband.

ABEDIN: I was. And it was one of the hardest things I had to endure.

And as I share in the book, I mean, the defiance that sort of I found that lived within me, this notion that I -- I recall the conversation. I was asked, do you think you would have had a better assessment of the conditions if you were a more present parent?

And I was one of those working mothers that constantly felt torn between leaving for a campaign trip and taking care of my child. And I think a lot of working mothers can relate to what that feels like.

It was one of the hardest things that I had to endure in those closing days of the campaign. And I just -- I share a story of sitting by the front door not wanting to answer it because I was scared of what was on the other side, angry about what was on the -- potentially on the other side.

BASH: Well, let's talk about the other side now, meaning where you are now.

You and Anthony are co-parenting your son?

ABEDIN: We are.

BASH: Is that a fair thing to say?

ABEDIN: It's a fair thing to say.

And I think that so much of the decisions that I made, if I didn't have a child, I'm not sure I would have made some of the decisions that I made in the years past, but...

BASH: Like what, meaning you would have stayed -- you wouldn't have stayed with him as long as you did?

ABEDIN: I don't know.

Dana, it is sort of, I can do a woulda, coulda, shoulda.

BASH: Yes.

ABEDIN: I just don't know.

BASH: Yes.

ABEDIN: But, for me, in large part, I know he's going to be in my life forever because we share a child together.

And so I have to figure out how to navigate that relationship for the sake of our child. And we have figured that out.

BASH: Yes.

You mean, there's a lot of hurt. I mean, I'm somebody who is divorced with a child. I can say that. And we have that in common. And, as a mom, you just have to put a lot of stuff -- you have to eat a lot of stuff in order to do what's right for your child.

ABEDIN: You do. You do, and, in part, because you want to model this for your children.

And, for me, it is all about -- I mean, I tell my son I love him so many times a day. I hug him. This -- I want him to feel, know that he is loved, that he is cherished, that he is supported.

And I do believe a lot of behavior that we don't understand in adults, both men and women, so much of it goes back to the experiences they had as children.

And so, for me, my single most important job is parenting this little boy.

BASH: How does he handle this stuff?


ABEDIN: I don't think he's aware yet of the -- he is generally aware that his parents are in the public a little bit.

But he thankfully hasn't had to endure anything overtly negative yet. I mean, when Anthony was sent away, he was teased a little bit about that, but he has really handled it well.

We do know that we've shared things with him, and we will continue to do that, as -- as he ages, in an appropriate way...

BASH: Yes.

ABEDIN: ... because we believe that we should always be sources of truth for him. Can't protect him from everything.

BASH: Yes.

ABEDIN: But I think he's going to be OK.

BASH: If only we could protect our children from everything.

ABEDIN: We just -- but certainly not in the age of having computers in your pocket.

BASH: Exactly.

Huma, I -- and I'll share. This is -- this is what happens when I read a book when I'm preparing.


BASH: But this is really a remarkable book. And I learned so much about not only your history, your personal history, your family history, which is fascinating.

But when it's -- you are a reporter covering something, to really hear what was going on, on the other side is fascinating and obviously very painful.

So, thank you for sharing it.

ABEDIN: Thank you for having me.

BASH: And thank you for being here.

ABEDIN: I really enjoyed the conversation. Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Thank you.




BASH: On behalf of all of us here at STATE OF THE UNION, we want to wish you all a merry Christmas and happy holidays.

And we hope you have a safe and healthy new year. And fingers crossed for a little bit of an easier time in 2022.

Thanks so much for watching. We look forward to seeing you in the new year.

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