Lou recalls his media darling days in 2016 at RNC Cleveland

…from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland two years ago.

To backtrack a bit from mentioning my favorite reminiscence: I was VERY happy to read a report in The Plain Dealer in July, 2014 that the powers that be in the Republican Party chose Cleveland over Dallas as the site for the 2016 convention. The reason is obvious to those aware of my passion for peace. I knew having the convention here would be a wonderful opportunity to promote peace on a global scale. (The PD later reported 15,000 journalists from around the world were in Cleveland to cover the convention.)

      Two days before the start of the convention a reporter from France interviewed me behind the West Side Market during my weekly Saturday morning peace vigil gig, while his colleague took a photo. 
      I went downtown the following day, Sunday, the day before the convention began, knowing virtually all reporters and photographers were already in Cleveland. On Euclid Avenue, just a bit east of Public Square, a television cameraman jumped out of a white van and stopped me for an interview by a woman reporter. They were from WGN-TV in Chicago.

      Toward the end of the interview the reporter asked for my thoughts about veterans supporting Trump and I said, “They’re brainwashed. The biggest problem in this country is that people do not question authority. They simply march in lockstep to whatever any president, Republican or Democrat, wants to do when it comes to war.”

       The woman closed the interview by noting I still fit in my uniform. I said, “I had to lose 25 pounds to do it. I was so disgusted with Bush’s ignoble, disgraceful, unjustified invasion and war in Iraq that I wanted to let people know some war veterans are pro-peace.”

      A reporter from Kurdistan interviewed me later in the morning, also on Euclid Avenue. A little while later, a photographer for the Washington Post took my photo, ironically, near the War Memorial Fountain, and the photo appeared the following day, the first day of the convention, in a special Washington Post section about the convention. A photographer from Argentina on assignment for New York magazine took several photos of me as I walked along East Ninth Street, the day before the convention. 

      While walking past a restaurant with large plate-glass windows at Playhouse Square, I was suddenly surrounded by about a half-dozen journalists who had spotted me and dashed from their seats in the restaurant to interview me and take my photo. Among them was a photographer from Time magazine and another from The New York Times

      Over the course of the convention, journalists representing news organizations based in Israel, China, Australia (two TV crews), Germany (two TV crews), Sweden (two TV crews), Switzerland, a woman reporter from France, another woman from The Guardian in the UK, a male reporter from England and women reporters from the Czech Republic and Poland also interviewed me. 

       A freelance radio reporter from New York interviewed me, a freelance woman television reporter from Los Angeles,……, from an ABC affiliate as well as reporters from Ft. Myers, Florida, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, a radio station in Canton, a television station in Dayton and a newspaper reporter from the Toledo Blade. Nina Burleigh, national politics correspondent for Newsweek magazine also interviewed me and took my photo.Locally, a woman reporter from Channel 19 interviewed me.

       It will come as no surprise that I had the time of my life that week!!

       Okay, here’s my favorite memory. 

       I’m quietly minding my own business on Tuesday, July 19th, standing on East Fourth Street, which was “media central,” the epicenter for convention coverage. MSNBC and The Today Show had set up stages there and CNN was nearby, on Prospect Avenue.

       I was used to seeing several passersby taking my picture, so as I looked to my left toward a petite woman taking my photo, I didn’t think much of it. When she lowered her cellphone camera and walked toward me smiling, I was stunned, exclaiming, “Oh my God!! It’s Katie Couric!! What a nice surprise!!” I put my left arm around her waist and gave Katie a little hug. 

       The veteran television reporter took a few minutes to interview me, then posted the result of her efforts on Instagram.



I talked briefly with Joy Reid, who hosts two-hour news analysis programs Saturday and Sunday mornings (10 ’til noon) on MSNBC. I said to Joy, “I see you on Bill Maher’s show.” She said she would be on his show that evening and I told her to “give me a plug.” Joy just smiled. (I watched the show. She didn’t give me a plug, although perhaps she did so privately with Maher.)

      Later in the week, while walking on East Fourth toward Euclid Avenue, I immediately recognized a tall black man walking toward me. As we passed one another I turned and shouted at him, “Is that Michael Steele!!??” Steele turned and smiled. A former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele is a frequent guest on MSNBC, CNN and has appeared several times on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher”show.

In the interest of full disclosure, however, the week was not all sunshine and roses. Three gentlemen, and I use the term loosely, gave me a hard time, getting their knickers in a knot over the sight of my U.S. Army dress uniform sullied, in their mind, by my peace flag. One man was a U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) veteran. The most offensive–probably a Marine, as they always give me the most grief–was a man who called me a “fraud”, apparently assuming my uniform was a costume. He infuriated me.

I reached into my jacket pocket and yanked out a photocopy of my DD214 (my army discharge paper) as proof of service. He looked at it and dismissively said, “It’s a copy,” implying the information on it was suspect. As he walked away, with my blood still boiling, I said loud enough for him several others who witnessed our exchange to hear, “What a piece of work!!” A few minutes later he walked by me in the other direction on East Fourth Street, shouting that he knew some of the names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. I shouted back at the “gentleman,” “Wasted lives! Wasted lives!” He said nothing and kept walking.


(To see other RNC stuff, simply google: pumphrey rnc.)