Skip to main content

Anchor Katy Tur revisits her high-flying childhood — and the hurt that lingers

In her new memoir, Rough Draft, Tur looks back on her childhood, and reflects on her difficult relationship with her father — Zoey Tur, who came out as a trans woman in 2013 — a person she describes in her memoir as talented and charismatic, but also volatile and, at times, abusive.

52:30
This recent segment plays exclusively on
Why is this?
Due to the contractual nature of the Fresh Air Archive, segments must be at least 6 months old to be considered part of the archive. To listen to segments that aired within the last 6 months, please click the blue off-site button to visit the Fresh Air page on NPR.org.

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross, who's off this week. Our guest, MSNBC anchor Katy Tur, was last on FRESH AIR to talk about her book "Unbelievable," which chronicled her experience covering Donald Trump's first presidential campaign. Her new book is a more personal memoir in which she reflects on her childhood, family relationships and professional career. In some ways, she seemed destined to be a broadcast journalist. Here she is as a little girl, being asked to pretend she's a reporter.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KATY TUR: Tell me how to talk like.

ZOEY TUR: Pretend you're doing a report, a radio report for KNX in the helicopter.

K TUR: A fire broke down in - we're in San Diego.

DAVIES: That clip of little Katy is from the 2020 documentary about her parents, who ran a breaking news service in Los Angeles that got huge TV scoops, often shooting video from a helicopter. Katy's dad was then known as Bob Tur. That was before her dad came out as a trans woman in 2013. She's now Zoey Tur. Katy's difficult and evolving relationship with her dad is one of the central themes of the new memoir. Katy Tur is a correspondent for NBC News and anchor of "Katy Tur Reports," which airs 2 p.m. weekdays on MSNBC. Her new book is "Rough Draft: A Memoir."

Well, Katy Tur, welcome back to FRESH AIR.

K TUR: Dave, thank you so much for having me.

DAVIES: You know, most of it - I mean, I grew up in South Texas, and we never - the thought that I would know anybody who was on TV or in the news or in the movies, it was just unthinkable. That's true for a lot of us. Your childhood was a little different, wasn't it?

K TUR: Well, we grew up with parents who were on TV in the news, and so we knew everybody in their lives. And we also - my brother and I - grew up at the airport in Santa Monica. And at this airport were tons of celebrities - Harrison Ford, Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno. The hangar next to my parents' helicopter hanger was a photographer, and he'd have celebrities over to photograph occasionally. He'd have a Playboy model or two, which thrilled my brother. So we grew up in the belly of Hollywood.

DAVIES: So tell us about your parents' business - you know, how it started, what they did.

K TUR: So my parents started a business called Los Angeles News Service. And they chose that name to sound authoritative because at the time, my mom and my dad couldn't get press badges from the California Highway Patrol. And they - because they couldn't do it, because nobody took them seriously, because, I think, my dad was 20 and my mom was 25, maybe even younger - actually, yes, younger - they decided that if they can't get the CHP to recognize them as independent journalists, they were going to start their own journalism company. So they did.

They started Los Angeles News Service, and it started out with them going to overnight stories, shooting tape of the things that news stations weren't shooting because they were off overnight. So they would gather that video, and they would sell it to the news stations in the morning. And from there, they expanded. They hired their own reporters, their own entertainment report, and they sold this material to stations all around the country.

And then from there, they got the even bigger idea to cover news from the air. Because Los Angeles is so sprawling, it's impossible to get to a story in a fair amount of time. If there is a fire, it's often out by the time you get there because of all the traffic. And they said, well, we can do this faster and better from the air.

They got a plane - didn't really work so well on a plane. And then, my dad walked into a couple of helicopter companies and said, you should lease me a helicopter. And they said, how much money do you have? And he said, I've got nothing.

(LAUGHTER)

K TUR: But I've got this business plan. And one of them laughed him out of the office, and the other one bit. And so they leased him a helicopter on nothing. And so all of the iconic video that you remember from the '80s and '90s, almost all of it my parents shot. They got O.J. on that slow-speed pursuit, the Reginald Denny beating in the LA riots. He's the guy that got pulled out of the red gravel truck and a brick thrown at his head. All of the police pursuits, all of the fires in Malibu, Madonna giving a helicopter the finger on her wedding day to Sean Penn - well, she was giving my dad the finger.

(LAUGHTER)

K TUR: They got it all.

DAVIES: Took a lot of hustle, no doubt. And your dad eventually became a pilot, and so they would go up as a team. What - your dad would fly. He would sometimes give live reports, I gather. What was your mom's role?

K TUR: So my dad was the pilot and the reporter. He was the voice, the brand of Los Angeles News Service. And my mom was the camerawoman. She would - before they got a gyrostabilized camera that was on the - mounted on the front of the helicopter, for many, many years, she would literally hang out of the helicopter over the skids with a Betacam - which is, you know, 40, 50 pounds - on her shoulder, and just shoot video below her.

So she would dangle out over 500 feet in the - over the ground and follow as the police chased cars down the freeways or Malibu burned down or there was a shootout in North Hollywood. And they were a really good team. You know, my dad was all of the go, go, go, go, go. And my mom listened to the scanners. She knew which places to watch. She was the head of the operation if my dad was a - the - how do I say this? - the chutzpah.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIES: Right. Right, right. And your mom was actually afraid of heights before this started, right?

K TUR: She's still afraid of heights.

DAVIES: Wow.

K TUR: She can't get close to the edge on a cliff. She can't get close to a window in a high-rise. But she said - and I have the same feeling. She said that as long as she was looking through the viewfinder of the camera, she felt detached like she was an observer of the moment, not a part of the moment.

DAVIES: You mentioned them shooting the riots that followed the not-guilty verdict for the police officers accused in the beating of Rodney King and that horrific scene where Reginald Denny, the truck driver, was assaulted while your parents hovered above it. You know, at the very, very end of your book in the acknowledgments, you kind of wanted to settle a score about the credit your mom did not get for her role that day. You want to tell us that?

K TUR: So I think this is really important. I'm so happy you're flagging this. My mom and my dad were both Los Angeles News Service, but my dad usually gets most of the credit because he had a much bigger personality and he was the face of it.

But my mom shot all of the video - nearly all of the video, and certainly the most iconic video, the most important video. And one of them was the Reginald Denny beating during the LA riots where she was literally hanging over the skids over that news story and put herself in such danger that some of the guys on the street were shooting up at the helicopter. There were bullet holes in the battery beneath her seat. And I said, what if there wasn't a battery there? - to her recently. And she said, I don't know. I might have been fine.

That's how gutsy she was. Yet when my parents won an Emmy for that footage, the Emmy had listed four names. None of them were hers. It was my dad, the news director, and a couple people on the desk. The men involved in this took my mother's name off of it because they couldn't fit more names. So they decided that it was more important to get the people back in the news station onto the award than it was to make sure the woman who shot it was on the award. So I want to set the record straight and say she shot that video, and she deserves the credit.

DAVIES: What are your memories of the helicopter of those days? And did you go up in the bird?

K TUR: I did. And I went back up in a helicopter for the first time in 24 years a couple days ago. I had not been in one since my parents lost it. And it brought back all of the memories I had because the helicopter was really my home. It was the place I grew up. Yeah, we had a lot of - we rented houses, and we moved a lot as a kid. But the one constant was this helicopter. And I felt more comfortable there than I felt in my own bed.

So I would go up with my parents on news stories. I mean, when we were over the fires, I would feel the flames burning the shins - my shins on my legs. That's how close we would get. We'd be, you know, zooming along highways, watching police pursuits. And then oftentimes, you know, we'd go up and go to Catalina for lunch or go to Santa Barbara for lunch or go to San Francisco for the day. Or I'd just hang out with them as they scanned Los Angeles, waiting for a news story.

DAVIES: Did it scare you - I mean, either the height or the speed or seeing these really adult things happening, like, you know, police chasing a speeding car? And sometimes the endings were - could be gruesome.

K TUR: Nothing scared me. I loved the feeling of flight, the rush of it. I mean, and I remember some pretty gruesome stuff. I mean, I saw in real time - if I wasn't in the helicopter, I'd watch it as it was unfolding. And I saw in real time a motorcyclist who was leading a pursuit get off the highway, and I remember this vividly. And there was an intersection off the exit. And he blew through it and right into a bus - died. I watched footage of cops shooting suspects to death on air. And in the moment, it didn't feel scary. I felt like I was special enough to handle it.

DAVIES: Well, let's take a break here. Let me reintroduce you. We're speaking with Katy Tur. She's a correspondent for NBC News and anchor of "Katy Tur Reports." She has a new memoir. It's called "Rough Draft: A Memoir." We'll continue our conversation in just a moment. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF VAMPIRE WEEKEND SONG, "M79")

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR, and we're speaking with NBC News correspondent and MSNBC anchor Katy Tur. She's written a new memoir about her childhood, family relationships and her professional career. It's called "Rough Draft: A Memoir."

Your dad was known for a lot of chutzpah, particularly when it came to getting access to any place that he wanted to shoot a video. And while he did a lot from the helicopters, he also did a lot on the ground. I thought we would listen to a bit of the documentary which was made in 2020 about him called "Whirlybird" by Matt Yoka. A little bit of sort of his ability to get into these confrontations - the first we're going to hear is an officer confronting your dad on an airport tarmac about him being there. And then we hear a clip of an interview years later, after the transition. It's Zoey recalling the old days and the rage that she had then, and then we'll hear the conclusion of the confrontation at the airport. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "WHIRLYBIRD")

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: You need a permit...

Z TUR: No, you don't.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: ...Right here. You need a permit. You're on a taxiway.

Z TUR: No, you don't. No, you don't.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Now, either you do it, or I call the law...

Z TUR: Call the law.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: ...And you take it off.

Z TUR: Call the law - OK? - because you're nothing but an imbecile.

So I was uniquely built to challenge the other testosterone-driven ass***** - in many cases, those that wore badges.

You know, you push me. I want to file assault.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Hey. Quit testing me.

Z TUR: Did you get that? Did you get him hitting me?

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: ...At 2500 Airport Avenue...

MARIKA GERRARD: This is ridiculous. You can't stop...

DAVIES: Wow. And that's your mom Marika there at the end of it. Calling police an imbecile - that's a way to get along, huh (ph)?

K TUR: Oh, my God. And, you know, when I first started in this business, I thought that that's just the way you pushed as a journalist. You try to get past police lines. You try to get closer for a shot. And I would get into these - I would try to get in - or I'd get into these confrontations with the NYPD. And I quickly learned that that was not a good idea, and maybe I should adjust the way I went about things. Maybe my parents' example wasn't the best one.

DAVIES: Yeah. Did you see these confrontations?

K TUR: Yes. I saw a lot of them.

DAVIES: Yeah. In the film, there's a lot more of them, and we just caught a little taste. How much of that did you see at home?

K TUR: I saw a lot of it at home as well. My dad - and just a note about pronouns - when I'm talking about my memories of my father before she announced to me that she was transitioning, I use the pronoun he because I'm going in the past. When I talk about my father now or from 2013 on, from the moment she announced her transition to me, she is a she. And so I want to be clear about that and respectful. It is in no way intending to not show acceptance for who she is now and who she was originally as well. So to be clear on that - but in terms of the confrontation that I witnessed at home, you know, it's hard to talk about, and this is the sort of thing that I had been running from for a long time. And it's the sort of thing that I didn't even tell my husband because it's ugly, and I don't like going there.

I also don't love the identifier that comes with it - victim - and I know my mom doesn't like it, either. So it's hard to go there because of, you know, all of the stuff that comes with it and all of the hurt that's there, both for us and all of the hurt that it will show the world. But with that out of the way, I'll tell you that I - you know, I saw my dad physically and verbally abuse my mom for a long time - and emotionally. And some of that spilled over to me and my brother as well, certainly the emotional and the verbal abuse and occasionally the physical abuse. And for a lot of my life, it felt like that's just the way a family interacted. This is the way a marriage worked. If you're yelling and you're fighting, it means you have emotion. It means you care.

DAVIES: When you're a kid, whatever your parents do is in some way normal to you.

K TUR: Totally. Totally.

DAVIES: Yeah. Yeah.

K TUR: I tried to make a list once of all the things that my dad threw at my mother, you know, it's camera batteries and car keys - anything on hand if he was in a rage.

DAVIES: You write of one occasion when you were a senior in high school when you confronted him. Can you share that story?

K TUR: Yeah. He was screaming at my mother for something. And I couldn't tell you what because the screaming became very consistent after the - after Los Angeles News Service kind of fell apart and we lost the helicopter and he lost his mother, my grandmother, he became very emotionally rundown. And he would take it out on the family and, most of all, my mom because I think he was looking for someone to blame for the business falling apart. And so I, when I got a bit older, started to intervene and tell him to back off, you know? And I'd get very - highly emotional myself.

And in one case over one blowout, we were face to face. And suddenly, I felt pain in my upper lip and my tooth, an ache in my tooth. And I tasted a little bit of blood. He had punched me - not very hard, but he had punched me in my mouth. And you could tell in the moment he didn't - he wasn't trying - it wasn't like a - I feel like I'm justifying this. He didn't hit me hard, but just enough to - for me to, obviously, feel it. And I think he pulled back pretty quickly because he knew he'd crossed a big line. And I was livid. I said, how dare you punch me? I'm your daughter. I think I punched him back in the chest. And I just remember saying, like, get out of here, you know? Get out of here. We don't want you here. Get out of here.

DAVIES: Your parents would stay together a few years after that. You know, you write that when the business, the Los Angeles News Service, kind of fell apart, I mean, partly it was that your grandmother, who was so terrific at running the business side of it, died. But you also say the real reason was your dad's anger. What did you learn about that?

K TUR: My dad didn't make any friends. He was always in a confrontation with somebody. Somebody was doing something wrong, something to him. He had kind of a victim complex. And I think people just got tired of dealing with him. He was the best at what he did. My parents were the best at scooping the competition. That's why they have all of this iconic video footage in their library. They got there first. And so stations and news directors put up with it for a long time because, I mean, when you're the best, you're the best. And you can get away with a lot. But there came a point where it became too much. It - he became too hard to deal with. Los Angeles News Service became too much of a liability.

And there's a tape - I mean, and they just - it's not just the way that he treated other people in the business. It was also the way he treated my mother. I mean, he'd be on the - he'd be on microphone as we were feeding tapes back to any station from the microwave on the helicopter. And while that hot mic was rolling, while we were feeding, they would also hear the headphone mics in the helicopter. And he would sometimes just be berating my mother. And sometimes it was words, and other times you could hear him throw things. And at one point, somebody from KCBS, which was the last station that they had a contract with, sent my mom an anonymous package in the mail. And it was a tape. It was an audio recording of my dad berating my mother. And it was an hour long.

DAVIES: What was it? Was it different sessions spliced together or an hour of berating?

K TUR: It was different sessions spliced together. When I got into the news business myself, I started at KTLA in Los Angeles. And I remember the first day, I was really excited. And the assignment manager came up to me. And he was this old card. He had been in the business a long time. He knew my parents well. And he said, you're Bob Tur's daughter? And I said, yes. And he said - he just gave me this look like he'd seen an accident, seen a bloody murder. And he said, ick, I remember the way he used to scream at your mother. And then he walked away. And I remember thinking, oh, my gosh, all of the stuff that I grew up with was not private. Like, they know all about it.

DAVIES: Let's take a break. And let me reintroduce you. We are speaking with Katy Tur, correspondent for NBC News and anchor of "Katy Tur Reports," which airs 2 p.m. weekdays on MSNBC. Her new book is "Rough Draft: A Memoir." She'll be back to talk more after this short break. I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARIO ADNET AND ZE NOGUEIRA'S "OUTRA COISA")

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross, who's off this week. We're speaking with NBC News correspondent and MSNBC anchor Katy Tur. She's written a new memoir about her childhood, family relationships and professional career. She grew up around cameras and microphones. Her parents ran a breaking news service in Los Angeles, often getting big scoops shooting video from the helicopter her dad piloted. Tur writes a lot about her relationship with her father, who she says was talented and charismatic, but also at times abusive to his family. In 2013, her dad transitioned from male to female. She's now Zoey Tur. Katy Tur's new book is "Rough Draft: A Memoir."

You followed your parents into journalism and decided around, I guess, 2006 to move to New York. You had a relationship with Keith Olbermann, who was older and, at the time, a cable news star on MSNBC. You write that you paid a price for that relationship. By the way, I didn't know you even had this relationship...

K TUR: (Laughter).

DAVIES: ...But I guess a lot of people at the time took note of it. What was the price?

K TUR: Well, I'm actually happy to hear that you didn't even know that. That means there's been some distance. But when I first started out, I was a lot younger than Keith. And Keith was an enemy of the New York Post and Fox News. And so they would try to dig up anything they could about him to discredit him or to hurt him. And at the time, I was a pretty easy target. And so they dug up stuff about me. And they found, you know, a photo of me dancing in college and put it out there to, I guess, imbue this idea that I was - I don't know - that I was - that I went to college (laughter). And the subtext was that I'm a bimbo and that he's doing what he's doing and I'm doing what I'm doing, and it's all perverse.

And when I got my own job in the business, it wasn't a secret because I was in the Post all the time. And people that I worked with, you know, would snicker behind my back, or they wouldn't take me seriously. Or I felt like I had to go above and beyond to make them take me seriously, work harder. And then I started building up a lot of walls because I didn't trust anybody. If someone was being nice, I assumed they had ulterior motives.

And that label followed me around for a while, this bimbo label and the whispers of, oh, she only has this job because of this reason or that reason. Keith got her this, and that's why she's here, that's why she knows people - never, wait; hold on. Like, she's doing the work, and (laughter) she's doing a decent job at the work. It took many years for me to shake that off. And even today, when you want to discredit me, you will bring up Keith. Like, my Twitter is filled with people saying that I slept my way to the top, etc.

DAVIES: Well, you know, I would say, boy, if you were doing this just to get ahead, it's not like you got your own show on MSNBC. I mean, you were...

K TUR: (Laughter).

DAVIES: You were doing local news for cable TV outlets.

K TUR: Yeah. And, you know, it's not as if Keith left these networks (laughter) amicably either.

DAVIES: Right. Right. He cuts his own swath.

K TUR: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, my first job in New York was carrying my own camera and doing my own reporting and my own producing and my own editing in a station with the tagline, as local as local news gets.

DAVIES: Right. You know, you spent several years doing local news. And I was really glad that you wrote about this because I - you know, I did - covered local news for a long time for radio and for a newspaper. And I had such respect for the TV reporters that I got to know. I mean, you know, people criticize local TV news as, you know, shallow and sensational. And there's certainly a critique there. But what it takes for somebody to parachute into a story about, you know, a crime or a natural disaster or a political fight and get your bearings, get information quickly, craft it into a coherent story, which you then have to tell with pictures - you have to get the pictures. You have to - that's really - that's a lot to do.

K TUR: It's trial by fire.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIES: What did you learn in those days that was so - that helped you...

K TUR: I think that if you want to be a reporter, the best place to start, often, is in local news. And my husband will disagree with you. He will say the best place to start is magazine writing, which he did. But - and he's very successful, so maybe he's got a point. But I think local news is a great place to start because you learn the ins and outs of a community. You learn how to develop sources even when it can be a little bit difficult. You learn what the people care about. You learn how to craft a story and to get their message out. And you learn to do it really fast.

And so I valued being at News 12 and then at WPIX and at WNBC because I got to know New York City better than people I knew who had grown up in New York City. And I had been to neighborhoods that they had never been to. I'd spoken to the types of people that they had never interacted with. I had talked about, you know, problems that you don't get, you know, in every neighborhood - problems with hot water, the camera surveillance not working in some of the housing complexes, the subway's problem. So the other day when I - when there was a shooting in the subway and they had no surveillance video, I went to report for that for MSNBC. And I had a full background of all of the problems that New York City has had with surveillance because I had come up through local news.

DAVIES: You ended up doing a stint with the Weather Channel and, you know, you got connected. You just - you were noticed. You ended up at WNBC and started getting on the national "Nightly News." So you were - things were starting to move. What did your dad think?

K TUR: So my dad was touch and go on this stuff. And we - our relationship was strained. When I moved to New York, he felt it was kind of a personal sleight. And he felt, I think, my relationship with Keith was a bit of a personal sleight. He thought that because the business had fallen apart that I was ashamed. And so our relationship was tense. And it always felt like, you know, one wrong word and we'd get into a big fight. And so when he would call and give me advice about my job, I took it as not so much fatherly advice to his daughter but him lecturing me on what I was doing wrong, not so much of what I was doing right. Like, my hair wasn't combed for my first story I did for "Nightly News." It didn't look good - not, like, oh, my God, you were on "Nightly News." Congratulations.

DAVIES: Right. Let's find some...

K TUR: What an amazing thing. No, your hair, comb your hair - even though I was doing a story underneath the city of New York about the Second Avenue Subway. And it was very humid down there. There was nothing I could do. I was wearing a hard hat. And, you know, when I was in - at News 12, what are you doing at News 12? You should be at one of the owned and operated in New York. I got to WPIX. Great. But you should be at WNBC. I got to WNBC. Well, you should be on the network. I got to the network. Why aren't you anchoring? And I know it came from a good place, but it didn't - it made me feel worthless.

DAVIES: Let's take another break here. We are speaking with Katy Tur. She's a correspondent for NBC News and anchor of "Katy Tur Reports." Her new memoir is called "Rough Draft: A Memoir." We'll continue our conversation after this break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF DICE RAW SONG, "PREGUNTA")

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR, and we're speaking with Katy Tur. She's a correspondent for NBC News and anchor of "Katy Tur Reports" on MSNBC. She has a new book about her family relationships, childhood and professional career. It's called "Rough Draft: A Memoir."

You were covering the Boston Marathon bombing in April of 2013 in a hotel, as you write it, exhausted. But things were still happening because the - you know, the suspects were still at large. Then, the phone rings. It's your dad with some very big, personal news. What happened?

K TUR: So it was late at night, I think around 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock at night. And I am watching local news in my hotel room. It's the first time I had been inside all day. I'm eating a cheeseburger. It's the first meal I have had that wasn't in a plastic wrapper. I had been tethered to a live shot for countless hours. And I get a call from my dad. And as I said up to this point, our relationship was strained. It was difficult. It was hard. You never knew if it was going to be a good conversation or a bad conversation. And my dad's calling, and I remember thinking, do I have the energy for this right now? And I decided I did.

I hadn't heard from him. And I thought maybe he was calling to say, like, you're on a crazy, big national story. Let's talk about it. But instead, it was a completely different call. And this is where pronouns are going to get shaky, so I'll switch. But he says to me, Katy, are you sitting down? And I said, yeah. And he said, I have something big to tell you. And I said, OK. And he said, I'm becoming a woman.

And I remember in the moment, I thought he - 'cause I'm still thinking he at this point - was joking (laughter) because it's - felt very out of left field. And I said, are you kidding? Are you serious? And he said, serious as a heart attack. And in that moment, I didn't really know what to make of it because it felt out of the blue. It was on the phone. I didn't have any cultural touchstones to guide me. "Orange Is The New Black" hadn't yet aired. Laverne Cox wasn't yet a household name. This wasn't a part of the national dialogue yet. It was going to be pretty soon, but it wasn't yet.

And I remember getting very emotional because I didn't really know how to process it. And we go through the conversation. Yes, I am serious. Yes, this is going to happen. Can I still call you dad? Yes, you can still call me dad. Of course. I'm always going to be your father, no matter what. How does it work? What do you do? Do you have to go to therapy? Do you - like, what's the process? And then he - she said something that stuck with me. And that was the, don't you see how good this is going to be? This is why I've been so angry. I won't be so angry anymore. I already don't feel as angry. And I remember thinking, oh. Oh, OK. Let's talk about that anger. You want to clean the slate? Let's clean it. And I took it as an opening. And I got the guts to say, well, OK, let's talk about that rage. Let's talk about that anger.

DAVIES: Reading the account, one of the things that's interesting about this is that some of what you would learn would be from her appearances and contacts with the media, like talking about the transition on TMZ and her saying that people in her family are mourning. That must have been odd.

K TUR: Yeah, she said Bob Tur is dead. And I said, wait, hold on. Bob Tur, my father? And yeah, Bob Tur is dead and gone. And we don't even need to talk about any of this because Bob Tur is gone. It's over. And I remember thinking, Bob Tur is my dad, and it's not over for me.

DAVIES: You know, she would talk about how her emotions were softer now. I mean, she was different. And you describe this - a meeting in a Mexican restaurant where she says, you know, this violence in her past is gone. It's fixed because, you know, the hormones are different and the emotions are different.

K TUR: Yeah, and she being her - she was her true self, and all of the anger that she experienced was because she couldn't be who she was. And I have incredible sympathy for how hard that must be, to be living a lie your entire life and not being - not feeling like you're allowed to be who you are. But we had - I mean, you're talking about the Mexican restaurant, so I'll tell you about it. So after the conversation in Boston - it ended well even though it had a few tense moments trying to - for me - with me trying to talk about the violence and my dad not wanting to.

And so we agreed to meet. I was in town a few months later covering another story. And the day before I landed - or the day I landed, one of the two - my dad started coming out to the world, and she gave an interview to TMZ talking about the transition and bringing me up in it and talking about how I was dealing with it. And I remember thinking, oh, my gosh. You're really just going to do this all out there without first coming to any of us and saying, here's what I'm planning in terms of talking publicly about it. And that's fine. You don't have to. You're certainly not required to run things by your adult daughter.

But - so we sat down for this conversation at the Mexican restaurant, and it was tense again because I was there to talk about the anger and to try and come to a place of peace, to find some closure with it. And my dad didn't want to talk about it, felt like I wasn't being fair, felt like I should just forget it because she was forgetting it. It was all in the past. And I remember bringing it up, and immediately, she just starts looking at her plate and messing around with her guacamole and just not looking at me and getting silent. And this is one of the ways that she would deal with us growing up and my mom. And she would just get silent, and it would just be so awful.

And I said, we - can we talk about this? Can we get to the rage? Because Bob Tur did some pretty terrible things. And I understand you don't want to be Bob Tur anymore, but we got to talk about what Bob Tur did. And it - we just couldn't have the conversation. We had - it felt like minutes after we sat down, before we even had ordered, she looked at me, and she said, you're disgusting. I never want to see you again. And she got up and left. And that was the last time that I sat face to face with her. It was 10 years ago.

DAVIES: She subsequently kind of characterized your reaction in stories in the LA Times and The New York Times. What did she say?

K TUR: She said that I was warning that I wasn't dealing with it well. She did a Facebook post that called me transphobic. It's like she was attacking me in public because we weren't talking in private. And I was really hurt by it. I was really - she said that I was upset because the transition was hurting my career and all I cared about was my career. And I just remember I would shut off. I would avoid reading it. I would have my husband or my mom read it for me and tell me what I needed to know because I was so - I felt so wounded by my father, instead of calling me, calling me names in public. And it broke something in our relationship that I've tried - we've - I've tried to repair, but I don't know if you can repair that.

DAVIES: Let me reintroduce you. We'll take another break here. We're speaking with Katy Tur, correspondent for NBC News and the anchor of "Katy Tur Reports" on MSNBC. Her new book is "Rough Draft: A Memoir." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOMMASO RAVA QUARTET'S "TI GUARDERO NEL CURO")

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR, and we're speaking with Katy Tur. She's a correspondent for NBC News and an anchor for "Katy Tur Reports," which airs 2 p.m. weekdays on NBC. Her new book is "Rough Draft: A Memoir." You know, I'm going to play one more clip from the film, the documentary about your parents, "Whirlybird." And it's a moment when your dad - I mean, Zoey is reflecting on some of the harmful things she did before she transitioned and says she was abused, and abused kids often abuse. And - well, let's listen. Again, this is Zoey Tur talking about her past.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "WHIRLYBIRD")

Z TUR: You know, abused children become abusers, and rarely do they get broken of it. And I worked as hard as I could humanly do - work trying to rid myself of rage. Fortunately, it's what kept me alive. It made me a very good news person. It made me a terrible, a terrible partner. It made me a terrible husband. I could have been a much better husband. I regret, I regret, I regret every single day some of the despicable things that I've done.

DAVIES: That's Zoey Tur speaking in the documentary "Whirlybird." You know, I read - I saw that after I had read your book. And what struck me about hearing that - and remember, this was 2020, I mean, some years after the transition and after you and she had had this difficult relationship. And it struck me that, in an interview at a camera, she can express regret. She can express sorrow. Why couldn't she face to face with you? Do you think - do you feel like you understand that?

K TUR: I don't understand that. And it was - you know, I watched that documentary in early 2020, right before the pandemic hit. And I remember I cried a lot at the end of it because I felt like all of the things that she said, again, to that camera were things that I had been trying to get her to say to me. And it was hard, and in one respect, it was helpful to hear. And in another, it was hurtful because, again, it wasn't to me. And I wondered how much of it she meant, I guess.

DAVIES: Well, the book will be out. She will read it. Do you have any particular hopes or expectations? I mean, did - you sending her a copy?

K TUR: I have not sent her a copy. I don't know what to expect, and I - the ugly answer is I'm not sure that I want a relationship. And I'm going - I'm working through this in real time as I am talking about the book. I think it's - I have great memories of my dad. And I want to hold on to those great memories. I'm not sure. I don't know what a relationship looks like. I'm not sure that she wants one.

And it's hard. Obviously, it's crappy. My - I've got two beautiful kids, four in total, two of whom are her grandkids, biologically speaking. And she would love them, and they would love her. And I wish I could bring them up in a helicopter that my dad was flying. You know, I wish that I could give them that experience. I could give them all of that fun and that family history. And I'm sad that I don't. I'm sad that she's missing out on this stuff. I just don't - I don't know. I don't know if we can come back from any of this.

DAVIES: You know, getting back to your career, you know, after you became a foreign correspondent based in London and covered lots of stuff in Europe and then ended up kind of by a turn of fate covering Donald Trump in 2015, which you stayed with through the 2016 election - and people can hear all about that and read about it in your first book or listen to Terry Gross' great interview with you from that book. We won't go into it here. But, you know, it's interesting that when I read in your new book about your relationship with your father, I wondered if in some way dealing with that experience helped prepare you for dealing with Donald Trump.

K TUR: It definitely did. And, you know, my dad and Donald Trump have similar personality types. I'm not saying that they are the same person. I'm not saying that they have the same thoughts or advocate for the same things, not at all. But personality types - and this is bombastic and magnetic and funny and volatile and sometimes scary and angry, all of that rolled into one.

And so when Donald Trump would come at me either in a vicious way or in a friendly way, in a banter-y (ph) way, I just knew how to parry that shot. I knew how to deal with it. I knew how to stand up to him. I knew how to speak to him. And that was because I grew up speaking to a similar personality type. They're not the same person. I write in the book very clearly they are not the same person. But if they were asking, I would recommend the same therapist.

DAVIES: You know, you write in the book that we're now in a place where, as you put it, the truth doesn't seem to matter. Facts seem worthless. Lies were winning. And even worse, you say, sometimes you wonder that journalists might be making it worse, including you. How might you be making it worse?

K TUR: Because we aren't talking to a general audience any longer. And everybody is deciding what sort of news they want to get, and they're going to their own corner to get that news. And obviously, some corners are worse than others. And I think that we do great, impartial journalism in the daytime hours of my network. But I also worry that viewers can be primed to expect something. And when you don't give them what they expect or what they want to hear, they can get angry. And I worry about the reward system that that creates.

DAVIES: Right. You say something that really, you know, tickles somebody's partisan funny bone and/or really speaks to what they're thinking, and you're a hero.

K TUR: Yeah. And you get more viewers. Oh, I love what she said. Let me just - yeah, let's watch this because it's just - it's exactly what I want to hear.

DAVIES: Well, Katy Tur, thanks so much for speaking with us. It's been fun.

K TUR: Dave, thank you so much. It was a real pleasure.

DAVIES: Katy Tur is a correspondent for NBC News and anchor of "Katy Tur Reports," which airs 2 p.m. weekdays on MSNBC. Her new book is "Rough Draft: A Memoir." On tomorrow's show, why Black people in the United States have poorer health outcomes than whites. Journalist Linda Villarosa used to think it was about poverty. In a new book, she says there's something else - racism. She says studies show the stress of living with racism undermines health, and there's evidence of bias in health care delivery. Her new book is "Under The Skin." I hope you can join us.

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our engineer and technical director is Audrey Bentham with additional engineering support from Adam Staniszewski. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Theresa Madden, Ann Marie Baldonado, Thea Chaloner, Seth Kelley and Joel Wolfram. Our digital media producer is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.

(SOUNDBITE OF RANDY WESTON'S "HI-FLY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?

Advertisement

Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR

52:30

Did the Trump camp help far-right militia groups plan the Jan. 6 attack?

New York Times journalist Alan Feuer says some members of Trump's inner circle have close ties to the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, whose leaders have been charged with seditious conspiracy.

52:30

Real life or satire? Novelist Mat Johnson says it can be hard to tell the difference

Novelist Mat Johnson believes that America has its own unique "flavor" of apocalypse. "It's hard not seeing the possible end of things in a variety of different ways," he says. Johnson's new satirical novel, Invisible Things, serves up one of those apocalyptic flavors.

42:38

A novelist's time in the MMA cage informed his book on memory loss and identity

"Really, the heart of the story is about misplaced loyalty and what we can do with memory and how fluid and malleable memory can be when we ... use it to fit the narrative that we've created in our mind," says novelist John Vercher.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue