John King is putting a pause on hard-hitting news and politics to share more of his personal life, particularly his ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis.
The beloved CNN anchor, 60, first revealed that he had MS, specifically relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), back in 2021, 13 years after he was first diagnosed in 2008, during the Republican convention in St. Paul.
Though he has always maintained his battle with the disease largely private, in a rare, candid interview, the veteran political reporter and commentator gave insight into his life with MS, and what's next.
Speaking with People, King detailed his journey with MS, from feeling hints of it back in 1998, to finally getting a diagnosis ten years later, and then his unplanned announcement about it in 2021, when COVID-19 and the importance of vaccines weighed heavily on his mind.
Recalling his first bout with MS symptoms – which include numbness, tingling, nerve pain, blurred vision and fatigue – he said he was on a jog during the summer of 1998 while covering one of President Bill Clinton's vacations in Martha’s Vineyard as a White House reporter, when: "I came back, I had pins and needles, first in my feet, and then it went up to my knees – and I just thought it was weird."
Though at the time he did consult with the White House doctor, both an x-ray and MRI proved to be inconclusive. In the following years, he continued to face subtle symptoms, and it wasn't until 2008 that, after losing sensation throughout his arms and legs – while on the job no less – he again consulted with a doctor, who determined his RRMS.
"I was petrified," he recalled, adding: "I immediately thought, 'Am I not going to be able to walk or do my job? Am I not going to be able to play baseball or hike with my kids?'"
King has three kids; he shares Noah, 30, and Hannah, 26, with his first wife Jean Makie, plus son Jonah, 12, with his second wife Dana Bash. The two divorced in 2012, but both still work together at CNN, and King tells People she's one of his "best friends."
Shortly after his diagnosis, the father-of-three was prescribed medication that he still injects himself with every other day, and today he says: "I have my challenges," though he adds: "If you look at the spectrum of what MS can do – for a lot of people it's incredibly aggressive and horribly cruel – I'm very, very lucky."
Looking back at his decision to keep his battle with MS private for 13 years, save for a few close friends and CNN colleagues, he can admit: "It was plainly stupid on my part, but I thought it would hurt me professionally," and explains: "I was afraid they would think they needed to protect me. 'So, you want to go to Iraq? No, we can't let you do that.'"
He finally shared his diagnosis with the world while hosting Inside Politics – which he hosted from 2016 until this year – and now recalls: "I could see that it was a shock to the people at the table. But the reaction internally and from perfect strangers was overwhelmingly positive, mind-blowing."
Today, he's more aware than ever about recognizing his symptoms and triggers, and isn't slowing down anytime soon. "Heat and stress are my worst triggers," he explains, and that he can "either lose my balance, or my vision gets blurry," over sudden loud noises or bright flashing lights.
King – who during the 2020 election week, along with his "Magic Wall," became a place of both valuable information and comfort on CNN – can even admit: "Almost every time I'm at the Magic Wall, it manifests itself in one way or another," though he adds: "When you're on live television, you just get through it."
This year, he passed down the Inside Politics hosting torch to none other than Dana, and instead he will be traveling the country, specifically to battleground and swing states, to talk to all sorts of voters ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
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