Jake Tapper Grills Gavin Newsom Over Recall, French Laundry Dinner: ‘What On Earth Were You Thinking?’

(CNN screengrab)

Font Size:

CNN anchor Jake Tapper grilled Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom over the ongoing recall effort as well as the infamous dinner at The French Laundry during a Tuesday afternoon appearance on “The Lead.”

The November dinner party at the Napa Valley upscale restaurant, held to celebrate the birthday of the California governor’s longtime friend and advisor Jason Kinney, reportedly went against the state’s COVID-19 guidelines by including around a dozen people from several households.

Tapper pointed out that the effort to recall Newsom gained significant steam, and hundreds of thousands of signatures, after negative publicity from the event.

“Now, I know, Governor, you have apologized for that dinner,” Tapper said. “You called it a mistake to go, but what I was wondering at the time, and I don’t think you’ve answered, what on Earth were you thinking?”


“Well, as a friend of over a quarter of century, his having his 50th birthday, restaurants were open in the state,” Newsom responded. “I wasn’t suggesting people should not eat. Where I was wrong, and I’ve owned this and I’ve held myself to a high level of accountability, even my worst critics said there were too many people at the table. And that was a mistake.”

“So you don’t regret going to the dinner, you regret the fact that there were too many people at the table, like, you would have gone if it had been six people or something or four people?” Tapper pressed.

“Restaurants were open in the vast majority of the state,” the governor responded. “That’s neither here nor there. It was a mistake, and I should have gotten up and left when I sat down at that table, and there were too many people at the table and that was inconsistent with what I was expressing.”

Newsom told Tapper that he’s made the point “crystal clear at ad nauseam occasions,” adding that he hasn’t made such a mistake “before or since.”

The interview also included Tapper pressing Newsom on the governor’s claim that people driving the recall effort are extremists.

“You can’t think that all 2 million are, as you characterize them, anti-vaxxers, QAnon conspiracy theorists and anti-immigrant Trump supporters, can you?” the CNN anchor asked.

Newsom argued that the “lead proponents” were affiliated with various extremist groups.

“But what do you think of the 2 million or so Californians who have signed it, who have signed this petition?” Tapper asked. “I’m not talking about the leaders that you just went after. Certainly, all 2 million Californians who signed this aren’t all Trumpsters. I mean, we have interviewed people who were supporters of yours who are now supporting the recall effort, in large part, at least according to, anecdotally, the interviews our reporters on the ground have been doing, because they think that the measures you took were too harsh, too aggressive.” (RELATED: ‘I Will Fight It’: Gov. Newsom Criticizes Recall Election Effort, Promotes Counter-Campaign)

“Look, I respect that. It’s been a difficult year,” he responded. “In hindsight, you know, we’re all experts.”

Newsom went on to defend his early stay-at-home order as saving “thousands and thousands of lives” and praised current reopening efforts.