Trump’s Fatigue, Merrick’s Motives, & the Jan. 6 Mega Producer

Trump at the "Stop The Steal" rally on Jan 6, 2021. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
Tara Palmeri
June 9, 2022
The Producer

When I first met James Goldston at Le Pain Quotidien on West 65th Street, near the ABC News studios, he kept repeating a line that Trump used frequently to praise his own team: “You’re a killer, you’re a killer.” It was 2017 and Goldston, then the president of ABC News, was recruiting me to join the D.C. Bureau as a White House correspondent. I was obviously enchanted by the prospect of joining a major network. And he was unbothered by my relative lack of television experience. He wanted a scrappy young reporter from Politico to help shake up the bureau. Goldston also liked that I had spent the formative years of my career working at the New York Post. 

Goldston always wanted a splash. While some people at the network questioned my experience as a former Page Six reporter at 22, Goldston defended it, and in fact, loved it. Given the mischievous glint in his eyes and his Fleet Street sensibility, I thought we would get on spectacularly. I’d worked with lots of Brits like him at the Post. And we did. Unfortunately, the thing I liked most about Goldston—his tabloid flair—wasn’t equally appreciated by some of my more self-reverential colleagues in D.C. They respected his Oxford degree, but looked down on him as a showman who cared less about the journalism and more about the shot. 

In my opinion, that view undercut his talents. Goldston thought news didn’t have to be boring, and he enjoyed the magic of television. At the same time, he was notorious for being overly concerned with how a correspondent looked—hair, makeup, wardrobe— rather than critiquing the substance of their report, but TV is sadly a visual, and cynical, business. Correspondents and producers could gripe about Goldston’s priorities, his lack of management style, his short temper, but no one could take away from him the fact that he was one of the best producers in the building. It’s telling that he’s most remembered for producing one of the creepiest TV specials on Michael Jackson, helmed by Martin Bashir. The program saved the Nightline brand and indirectly led to child molestation charges being filed against Jackson.