From a new tenant moving into the White House to the onset of widespread quarantines, America has certainly endured its share of newsworthy events since CNN anchor and “60 Minutes” correspondent Anderson Cooper last joined the Stern Show. As Howard learned during his return on Tuesday, however, those headlines barely begin to tell the veteran journalist’s story over the past four years. Anderson has also welcomed the arrival of his newborn son Wyatt, said goodbye to his esteemed mother Gloria Vanderbilt, voted in a presidential election for perhaps the first time, and even managed to fall in love … with a dark, chilly stimulant called iced coffee.
“I’ve never understood it before, but now I totally get it,” Anderson told Howard with a laugh on Tuesday. “Other than seeing my son in the morning, it’s the main thing I look forward to.”
One place he gets his coffee fix is at CNN’s studios in Manhattan. The offices are largely empty now because of the coronavirus crisis, so he’s been forced to figure out the coffee machines himself.
“I went to the communal kitchen area … they had this fancy coffee machine and I took out all these different packets of coffee. I spent a good 10 minutes trying to rip off the top of the packet,” Anderson recounted, adding, “Then I suddenly realized, ‘Oh no, you just put this in the machine and you close it.’ This machine is one of the greatest inventions ever made.”
A coffee aficionado himself, Howard appreciated his guest’s enthusiasm for a strong cup of joe. What he couldn’t understand was why Cooper commuted to work during a pandemic when so many of his colleagues were now broadcasting from home. “Why put yourself at risk, Anderson?” he asked.
“The quality was better and it was easier to actually do the broadcast,” Anderson said, though he explained he’s been home the past couple nights because of his son.
“I’ve spent time in places where societies have fallen apart and I think life, you know, continues on. You take precautions—and I was taking as many precautions as possible. I really felt that CNN created a really safe environment,” he continued, adding, “They had a robotic camera … I would go all day without seeing anybody.”
“I think this is the wartime correspondent in you … I think this is what excites you about being a journalist,” Howard said. “Honestly, you’re a lot braver than I am.”
“There are people in the supermarkets who aren’t being given personal protective gear or even hand sanitizer … So, for me to go to a fancy office that’s being cleaned, it’s not that big of a deal,” Anderson said.
“Up until now I haven’t had a family and I don’t believe in leaving. I believe this is the time you plant your flag and you defend New York,” he added.
In late April, Anderson’s CNN interview with Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman went viral after she argued her city’s hotels, restaurants, casinos, and even stadiums should be re-opened despite coronavirus concerns. Howard, like many other viewers, marveled at how Anderson kept his composure while on the air. “Is it an exercise in restraint?” he wondered.
“You can scream at somebody … but then where do you go from there? Then you’re just another person screaming and there’s plenty of people screaming and calling each other names,” Anderson responded. “That’s not who I want to be or how I want to live or even think.”
Some of the news anchor’s positions have evolved over the years. In 2016, he said he rarely voted because as a journalist he wished to remain impartial. On Tuesday, he told Howard he’d changed his mind about that one. “I did vote this last time to see if it in any way affected how I then covered things,” he said. “I haven’t noticed an impact, so, you know, I go back and forth on it,” he said.
“Are you going to vote this time?” Howard asked about the 2020 election.
“I will vote this time, absolutely,” Anderson said. “It’s not because of [President] Trump, it’s just, I didn’t notice any difference.”
Another memorable topic of conversation during their last sit down was Anderson's relationship with his mother Gloria Vanderbilt, the famed heiress, designer, author, and artist who passed away recently at the age of 95.
“She lived an incredible life and I was lucky to be there at the end,” Anderson told Howard on Tuesday.
Gloria descended from one of America’s most prominent families, but Anderson told Howard personal wealth was never one of her concerns. “My mom lived a big life,” he said. “She wasn’t interested in money … She had no sense of it and she cared about being generous to her friends, having a nice, you know, physical environment, and creating art.”
Anderson went into detail about his mom’s art, which included small drawings and oil, acrylic, and pastel paintings. He said he introduced her to Instagram in recent years and she started selling pieces for $3,500 to $8,000 each. “She was doing very well,” he said . “It gave her a reason to get out of bed. It was very gratifying for her.”
Not all of art his mom’s art was sold to random internet collectors, however—Anderson also secretly purchased some himself. “If I really liked something on Instagram she was selling, I would buy it just to keep it,” he said.
Gloria didn’t live to meet her grandson Wyatt, but she knew Anderson planned to have a child. “I was able to tell her before she died that I was going to do this,” he said. “She was thrilled. It’s certainly bittersweet.”
Co-host Robin Quivers wondered how fatherhood had treated Anderson so far. “I’m very hands on. I’ve wanted a baby for a long, long time,” he told her. “I’m all-in on this. I love it. It’s incredible.”
Anderson is co-parenting with Benjamin Maisani, his ex-boyfriend of 10 years whom Cooper described as a “great guy.” He said he decided to raise Wyatt with his ex because he regretted not having more parental figures in his own life as a child. “When I was a little kid it was just my mom and my brother,” he explained. “She was not the most parental person and I wish some adult, after my dad died, had stepped in and said, ‘You know what? I’ll take you to a ball game.”
“I really want Wyatt, my son, to have a lot of people in his life because I had the opposite and I just think it’s good to have a lot of love in your life,” Anderson said at one point.
Maisani, born in Corsica, hopes to teach Wyatt another language. “He’s already speaking French to him. I have no idea what he’s saying. He could be turning him against me,” Anderson joked. “I don’t know.”
While Cooper hopes to be a role model for his son in the future, it’s clear his incredible life has already inspired others. For example, when in 2016 Apple CEO Tim Cook became the first Fortune 500 leader to come out as gay, it was Anderson he turned to for advice.
“He’s a remarkable guy … He’s operating, you know, this global business with global impact in all countries and so there’s a lot of things to think,” Cooper said. “I think he knew what he wanted to do. He had looked at how he wanted to do it and how other people had done it. I think he sort of liked the approach I took, which was to write something and kind of explain stuff and not make it [about being] on the cover of a magazine.”
Cooper himself came out in his 40s and Howard wondered why he chose that time in his life to open up about his sexuality. “I justified it to myself in a whole lot of ways. I really like traveling to dangerous places,” he said, explaining how in some countries a person can be attacked or killed just for being gay. “And also I just resisted the intrusion of people talking about my personal life.”
"Anderson Cooper 360" airs weeknights at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.