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CNN Veteran Reporter on Life as an Alcoholic

Veteran journalist Jack Cafferty is known by many for his frank opinions as political commentator on CNN's The Situation Room. But perhaps few know that Cafferty is the son of a hard-drinking radio host and his equally-troubled wife who, between the two of them, blew through 11 marriages.

Cafferty, who likened his father to "hell on wheels" when drinking, admits that his sometimes outrageous on-air antics can be traced to a turbulent childhood.

"I have a compulsive distrust of authority figures," explains the journalist.

But Cafferty would go on to follow in the many of the same footsteps of those who let him down as a youngster. He began smoking cigarettes at age 13, and it wasn't long before he, too, became an alcoholic.

"I was actually taught to drink, without even realizing what was going on, by my dad," recalls Cafferty of frequent father-and-son visits throughout childhood to the neighborhood saloon in Reno, Nev.

The early exposure to alcohol helped set the stage for an adulthood plagued with addiction.

As a journalist, Jack Cafferty developed a passion for telling other people's stories all the while battling his own demons. Unbeknownst to the public, the Edward R. Murrow and Emmy Award-winning journalist was functioning on and off camera as an alcoholic.

"Alcohol was as much a part of my daily living as brushing my teeth was," says Cafferty.

When asked how, years later, he managed to eventually steer his life back on track, the CNN anchor hints to a measure of pure fate at work.

"I met maybe the finest woman on the planet. She was the reason that I made all the changes ... She wasn't worth losing," he says of his second wife.

According to television newsman, beating the odds has helped him to see the big picture.

"When I stopped drinking, I began to succeed at life. And that was so much more fulfilling than succeeding at television."

In this week's Behind Closed Doors, Cafferty talks more about his struggle with alcoholism and his political observations, as chronicled in his new book, It's Getting Ugly Out There: Frauds, Burglars, Liars and Losers who are Hurting America.

Web material written and produced by Lee Hill.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.