The conservative author who went viral this week for her halting response on defining "woke" told Fox News Digital her questioner made a disparaging remark about parents on a hot mic before the interview began, effectively throwing her off her game.
In an appearance Tuesday on The Hill's web series "Rising" to promote her new book "Stolen Youth," Bethany Mandel had difficulty responding to a question from co-host Briahna Joy Gray, in a clip that racked up millions of views online and jubilant commentary from media progressives.
"Would you mind defining woke?" Gray asked. "It’s come up a couple of times. I just want to make sure we’re on the same page."
"So, I mean, woke is sort of the idea that… I – this is going to be one of those moments that goes viral," Mandel said, as she paused and looked for the right words.
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"I mean, woke is something that’s very hard to define, and we’ve spent an entire chapter defining it. It is sort of the understanding that we need to totally reimagine and redo society in order to create hierarchies of oppression… Sorry, it’s hard to explain in a 15-second sound bite," she said.
Addressing the clip that happened in the middle of her 12-minute interview on Wednesday, Mandel called it a "viral brain fart" and blamed it in part on what she described as Gray's hot mic remarks demeaning parents before the interview.
Asked to elaborate on her accusation, Mandel told Fox News Digital she didn't have a recording but that Gray, right after Mandel logged on for the remote interview, said something along the lines of "I f---ing hate parents" and thought they were narcissists who just wanted small versions of themselves. Mandel, who just had her sixth child, said she took it as a direct shot and almost couldn't believe what she heard.
She added Gray's co-host Robby Soave, the libertarian senior editor of Reason, replied to Gray, "there are some good ones and some bad ones" to Gray and then moved on before starting the interview. Gray is a left-wing former national press secretary for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign who has been critical of corporate media and mainstream Democrats.
She recalled feeling "this has a real possibility of getting really nasty and really personal, which has happened to me a lot over the course of my career."
"And so I logged on thinking, 'This woman is about to come at me very personally, and I have to be really careful because one day my kids are going to see this, and I don't want them to be hurt by whatever she says and whatever I say,'" she said. "And so I have to be very careful, and so I was already very anxious when the call started, and you can tell, my goodness, if you watch the whole video, I am anxious from the get-go."
Gray and Soave didn't respond to requests for comment.
Mandel noted as she froze up over the question that it was going to go viral; indeed, a host of progressive sites and writers picked up the remarks, including The Daily Beast, the Washington Post's Philip Bump, HuffPost and the New York Daily News. She was also mocked on Twitter by liberal media figures like NBC's Ben Collins and "1619 Project" founder Nikole Hannah-Jones.
Liberals also derided Mandel's explanation on Wednesday; former Andrew Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan tweeted that "I've only been treated with respect as a mother by Briahna."
Far-left writer Jemele Hill praised Gray's question, saying it was why she "tells journalism students that open-ended questions are better than questions that sound tough."
"When conservatives first hijacked ‘woke,’ every journalist should have asked them to define it. Cause these meltdowns would have happened a lot," Hill wrote.
"The Daily Show" correspondent Roy Wood Jr. also made light of the clip in a sketch from the show's Twitter account. In the video, he pretended to be disarming a bomb where the password to disarm it was the "definition of the word woke" and Mandel couldn't help him.
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Mandel acknowledged she was "rattled" by what she said Gray remarked before the interview.
"It was very deer in the headlights," Mandel said. "I could see the next 24 hours… And I saw it at that moment, and I was right… Like she was s--t-talking on camera a few seconds before on a hot mic, and I was rattled. I compared it to someone shining a light in your eyes right before you're about to shoot a free throw, and you just choke. And that's exactly what I did."
She called the moment "humanizing," adding she hopes the dust-up doesn't distract from the book's success, noting it's reached No. 20 on the Amazon nonfiction bestseller list.
"I hope having six kids makes me realize there are worse things in the world, and I feel like I let my co-author down because this is what people are talking about, and I don't want that to be the conversation because our book today, Amazon just released that we're in the top 20," she said.
"Stolen Youth: How Radicals Are Erasing Innocence and Indoctrinating a Generation," was written by Mandel and New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz. It provides what it calls an "urgent deep dive into issues surrounding the current woke indoctrination happening in politics, education, medicine, mental health, entertainment, and culture," and how parents can "go on the offense to protect our kids."
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She said she should have been able to articulate a better answer to Gray's question.
"In that moment I was human, and I screwed up," she said. "But I need to explain that, and I think people are owed that explanation if I'm going to be taken seriously as someone who has written a bestselling book on the subject, which I have."
Mandel said so-called "wokeness" is "reimagining the world" for children in a way that puts a sharp focus on equity and race, while also redefining gender.
"There's a lot of academic definitions of woke that are constantly changing, and I don't think that they're super pertinent to our audience. I think the reality and what's important is that this is a radical reorganization of our society that is detrimental and disorienting for children," she said.
"You know it when you see it," she added. "You know, when we see young men competing in women's swimming competitions, that is wokeness personified."