Alex Marquardt reporting on protests
Category: Fall 2020, Georgetown Magazine

Title:Personal Reflections: Alex Marquardt

Author: Interviewed by Jeffrey Donahoe
Date Published: November 18, 2020

Covering the protests in D.C. was similar in many ways to the work I’ve done overseas. I lived in the Middle East, reporting from countries across the region. I got to Egypt just before their revolution in 2011 kicked off. I covered the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul and protests in the West Bank. In many ways, the Black Lives Matter protests looked like and reminded me of those—people coming out in big numbers to demand equality and rights, often met with fierce crackdowns.

In the run-up to the 2016 election, I could see that divisions in the U.S. were deepening dangerously. I was happy overseas, but CNN offered me a chance to come back and cover the U.S. I accepted because I knew that this was going to be a fascinating moment to be a reporter here. I came back to a wildly different country.

We are in the midst of deep political division. There’s an unprecedented re-evaluation of race in our society. The fact that this conversation is happening is good, healthy, and long overdue. It’s coming during a historic pandemic, the debate over how to react is passionate, armed groups are storming statehouses, and we’re in an election year. There are people who think they can say whatever they want, and a huge number of people who felt they haven’t had their voices heard. There’s a cumulative impact from this, and it’s all coming together now.

It was surreal to be reporting from Lafayette Square across from the White House on June 1, when peaceful protestors were violently dispersed so that the president could have his photo op at St. John’s Church. Police fired on peaceful protestors in my own country, in front of the White House. I didn’t think that I’d suck down tear gas in the U.S. or see American security forces firing pepper bullets at a lawful and nonviolent gathering. Muscle memory from past assignments kicked in to convey the message and emotion of the moment. That afternoon was deeply distressing to me as a citizen as well as a journalist.

“There’s an unprecedented re-evaluation of race in our society. The fact that this conversation is happening is good, healthy, and long overdue.”

Alex Marquardt

The stories that have always interested me lay bare who we are as a people. That’s what is happening now in the U.S. It’s an incredible time to be a journalist, but it’s disturbing to see the anger directed at journalists. There’s a lack of trust. At Trump rallies you see signs and T-shirts that read, “Rope, tree, journalist: Some assembly required.” But we need journalists and journalism now more than ever.

Emmy Award-winning CNN Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt (SFS’04) is based in the Washington, D.C., bureau. Prior to CNN, he was an ABC News foreign correspondent. Among his 2020 CNN assignments has been covering the national security implications of the 2020 election and COVID-19, as well as the Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, D.C.

More from this Issue

Coach Thompson at podium

At 6 feet, 10 inches tall, Coach John Thompson Jr.—affectionately known as “Big John”—stood above many as an athlete, pioneering NCAA coach, architect of the Big East, three-time Olympian, and…

medical students with pipettes in lab

Above: Aline de Souza, M.D., (left) and Xie Wu (right) do RNA prep for ACE2 studies led by Hong Ji, M.D. When the pandemic began widening in March 2020, Georgetown…

Rio Djiwandana

The Crown Heights community is made up of mostly low-income families of color. The vast majority of my students identify as Afro-Caribbean and are from countries such as Jamaica,…