Written By @cabbagepatchgrl
Ahead of an interview with disgraced former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and his wife, talk show host Tamron Hall says that in her 27-year career as a journalist, this was “one of the most difficult.”
“The level of shame that he is feeling, the level of heartbreak and humiliation that his wife has been exposed to, reaches a depth of pain that I cannot imagine,” Hall tells PEOPLE.
Gillum and his wife, R. Jai Gillum, sat down for their first interview since Gillum was caught in the middle of a scandal in March that led to him to enter rehab, therapy, and retreat from his once-promising career.
” It was intense, and at moments it was heartbreaking, upsetting, and it was disorienting,” Hall said of the interview.” I’m only there because they’ve agreed, but I still felt like I was prying. They agreed to talk with me, but as a journalist, there’s moments where you wonder: How far are we really supposed to go?”
Gillum lost to Ron DeSantis by 32,000 votes in the 2018 Florida gubernatorial race, which made headlines this spring when he was found drunk in a hotel room with another man who may have overdosed on drugs and was treated by responders.
The other man identified himself as an escort through the website ‘Rent Men.’ He told the Miami New Times that he and Gillum had been “friends for a while,” according to a local TV news article. Meanwhile, Gillum said he “had too much to drink” but had not taken meth, which authorities suspect was in the room with the men.
Photos circulated the internet of an unconscious Gillum “on the floor … literally lying in my own vomit,” he told Hall.
Gillum announced he would be stepping back to “seek help, guidance, and enter a rehabilitation facility,” after the news of the incident spread.
“The truth is Tamron; everyone believes the absolute worst about that day,” the former mayor of Tallahassee explained in his first interview since the incident.” At this stage, I don’t have anything else to have to conceal. I literally got broken down to my most bare place, to the place where I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to live. Not because of what I had done, but because of everything that was being said about me,” Gillum told Hall.
Gillum said he has cried “every day” since the incident.
According to a police report, Miami Beach officers arrived at the Mondrian South Beach hotel on a Friday night that month. They found Gillum in the room with Travis Dyson, who was being treated by emergency responders for a “possible drug overdose.” The report obtained by The Miami New Times stated that officers found three bags of what they suspected to be crystal meth on the bed and on the floor of the room.
Authorities told PEOPLE that the incident was not being treated as a criminal matter, and Gillum was not being charged with any crime.
Over the summer, Gillum posted to social media that he was “working” on himself in recovery and taking time to “deal with some issues I was having,” including alcoholism.
In an Instagram video Gillum posted in July, he said, “I had totally underestimated the impact that losing the race for governor had had on my life and on the way those impacts started to show up in every aspect of my life.”
Hall said she first reached out to Gillum after she heard about the hotel scandal on social media. Eventually, after weeks of texting about how the conversation would take place, Gillum and his wife agreed to a joint interview.
“He and his wife had refused many, many requests from so many shows — both news and entertainment,” Hall said to PEOPLE.” I think what the breakthrough was, at least what they told me, was that I wanted her to be a major part of the story, not just the spouse on the side meant to prop you up or meant to shield you from the incoming criticism, but what’s your story as well?” she said.
As she continued, she said Gillum’s wife, R. Jai, is “tough as nails” and “defiant”, as she revealed, R. Jai told her she doesn’t want the incident to define their marriage.
Hall said the couple “addressed it all,” and that R. Jai is “incredibly protective of their three children, as you can imagine, but she’s also very protective of Andrew.” “She’s very forthcoming about their relationship, about decisions they made within their relationship that she never expected to be discussing publicly — nor did she want to and now she is,” Hall said.
In the interview, R. Jai said, “a grenade went off inside their marriage and inside their lives,” but she doesn’t believe they know yet what the future holds for Gillum. “They went into great detail on their history, on their marriage, on what R. Jai described as their ‘personal covenant,” Hall explained.
Gillum was a political rising star for the Democratic Party who received an endorsement from President Barack Obama during the 2018 race. He has now stepped back from politics, though he still uses social media to show support for the Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the general election.
“We discussed that: Can he return to politics? Does he even want to?” Hall said.” We know that on both sides of the aisle, politicians have returned from scandals that people were certain would end it all for them. I think with Andrew, his first focus is on his children, his wife, and his career,” she added.
The full interview premieres on September 14.