In her time as US correspondent, Rebecca Wright has covered stories that run the gamut from heartbreaking to bizarre.
Meeting the ‘Trumpettes’ – a group of women who are wealthy Donald Trump supporters – certainly falls into the latter category.
“It’s definitely my most memorable. It’s probably my most funny. It’s certainly my most unusual,” says Wright, who has returned home to New Zealand to work on the current affairs programme Sunday.
“Getting access to Mar-a-Lago and the winter White House and just looking at their world, getting to walk in it for a little while with them – although not in the nine-inch stilettos for me, anyway – that was a phenomenal few days. It was mind bending. It was fascinating.”
As well as luncheoning with women “dripping in diamonds”, Wright also visited with Toni Holt Kramer, an ardent admirer of the President whose pet poodle shares its name with Stormy Daniels – the woman with whom Trump allegedly had a liaison.
It was an engrossing, exhilarating encounter that mirrors the reporter’s whirlwind experience in the US these past three years.
“It has been non stop for me in this role,” says Wright. “There are just so many things that I’ve had to get up to speed with really quickly. The Supreme Court immigration issues, abortion reform, women’s reproductive rights, you know, all of these big issues that America is confronting right now.
“Many of them have made me kind of think about those things for myself, things that I never thought that I would consider really because we’re from New Zealand.
“It’s been like cramming for an exam over and over and over again. But it’s been fascinating. I love politics. I studied politics. I worked in the gallery in Wellington for a while. It’s always been a feature of my reporting somehow. And so it’s been fascinating for me and an education too.”
Wright says Trump’s “polarising presidency” has seen America almost split down the middle about the politics of Donald Trump. “So it’s a country in conflict. It’s a country in political crisis.”
Wright arrived in the US just as the President was sworn in and she leaves as he is acquitted of impeachment.
“I think I can honestly say it’s just been a very wild ride from the moment I started.”
During her time in the US, she has covered a variety of subjects – from politics to entertainment. But the hardest story to tell was covering the Las Vegas shooting in which 58 people were killed.
Wright says the experience – her first covering a mass shooting – was “such a haunting time as a reporter, as a person, as a human being”.
“I was amazed at the kind of resilience and the grace that the families of the people who were killed there showed within those few days afterwards.”
The 38 year old says that seeing the broken window of the Mandalay Bay hotel where the shooter had targeted his victims and standing “in a crime scene for three days” was “chilling”.
“It is something that will never leave me.”
Wright, who has contributed stories to Sunday from the United States, is looking forward to being a part of a team again.
“That’s one of the things that excites me most about it because I’ve been working remotely across two time zones for three years.”
She says she and her family – partner Cam and daughter Scarlett – have “loved every minute” of their time in New York.
“There’s all those other kinds of moments that make you stop in your tracks. Like, I saw Yoko Ono this morning. She lives a few blocks from us.
“I’ve seen Seinfeld before, he was in the supermarket wearing these crazy glasses. So, you know, there are just those little moments that sneak up on you and surprise you and you feel like you’re sort of living in the centre of the universe. I’ve never got sick of that. It’s never become old or tired to me.
“But I’ve always looked at my time here as an adventure for our family. We never wanted to live here (New York) permanently.
“My life, my home, my heart is in New Zealand and our families are there. That’s where I want Scarlett to grow up.
“But we’ve had an amazing time here and an amazing adventure and I think we will all take a little bit of New York with us.”
Sunday, TVNZ 1, Sundays