It was fitting that President Donald Trump chose his rally in South Carolina Monday night to thank film director David Lynch for his recently announced support. Lynch, who is best known for such cinematic trips into the surreal as “Blue Velvet” and “Wild at Heart,” could not have directed the scene any better.
I felt like I was in one of his movies.
Approximately three hours before Trump took the stage in West Columbia, an elderly woman walked right up to me and ordered me to leave the venue. Her language would likely make her grandkids blush.
“Get the f*** out of here,” she told me. “Out of here. Out. Out. Out. Out.”
As she screamed at me, she was waving a campaign sign for South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, who would later share the stage with Trump to receive his endorsement for another four years in office. The hundreds of people in the crowd roared with approval.
I tried to shake her hand but she refused.
“No,” she said. “Out. Out. Out.”
“Ma’am I have every right to be here,” I reminded her.
“Out. Out. Out,” she continued. “You are scum. Get out of here.”
During my live shot on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” at 5 p.m., the crowd picked up where she left off.
“Go home Jim,” the crowd chanted. “Go home Jim!”
There were a few more plot twists over the course of the evening. Namely, the selfies. A steady stream of Trump supporters approached me for either autographs on their McMaster signs (sorry, governor) or photos which I am sure they shared on social media.
One of the young men in the crowd who was shouting “go home,” a bearded fellow who called himself Patrick, asked if I could somehow put him on television.
“Didn’t you just shout for me to go home? What do you really want?” I asked him.
“A little of both,” he answered. We went on to talk for a good 10 minutes.
Not everybody was so kind in person.
Another woman came up to me at the press pen and urged me to change my approach to reporting on the Trump White House. She accused me of being rude to both the President and press secretary Sarah Sanders.
“What’s going to happen is we’re going to end up with a civil war. You’re going to have people shooting people,” she warned. “You need to tone it down a little bit. The language, everything. It’s gotta stop. Be decent, please be decent. Don’t ask any more stupid questions.”
She seemed pleased to get that off of her chest and she went on her way.
Truth be told, there were countless other people who came up to me and apologized for the behavior they had also witnessed Monday night. A few said they were sorry “on behalf of the people of South Carolina.” No problem, I told them. It’s part of the job.
A local reporter from Columbia leaned over and said to me: “I’d say you’ve won over half the crowd.”
Then came the highlight of the night. Shortly before Trump’s speech, a gentleman asked if any of us in the press could lend him a chair for an elderly woman who was not feeling well. She, like so many of the President’s supporters, had stood in line for hours in 90-degree temperatures to get a glimpse of Trump in action. Without hesitation, I offered him mine. The man later came back to us with his mother who thanked me.
“You’re a good man. Your mama raised you right,” the man told me. “She tried,” I joked to him.
As the President railed against the press during his speech, the same man looked back at me to tell me he understood this was all an act. He knew I was not the enemy.
At the end of the rally, the elderly woman who used my chair thanked me and shook my hand. Then she just held my hand for a few moments, paused and said to me: “I hope you’re going to be OK.”
My team and I endured a few more insults as we headed toward our car. But, yes ma’am, we got out of there just fine.