For the past week, Anita Esterday's life has been turned upside down. A single mother of two, she found herself in the middle of a media circus when it was reported that Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign failed to leave her a tip after they were waited on at a Maid-Rite in Toledo, Iowa. In the ensuing frenzy, the Maid-Rite manager insisted that a tip was, in fact, left. But Esterday says the manager just told a fib to make the attention go away. And the press, she adds, needs to get a perspective on what actually matters. Esterday took time out of her day on Tuesday to answer questions from the Huffington Post.
Huffington Post: What is it like to be in the middle of a campaign-related media frenzy?
Esterday: It is nuts. Even going on the web for anything. There was a website in Cedar Rapids that said I had committed suicide. I understand that whoever wrote this meant it as a joke, but I have family in Cedar Rapids and I know people in Cedar Rapids and my mother committed suicide. So it wasn't a joke to me... It's taking it to an extreme and I guess in America now that's what people like and it's a shame that the media ran with this.
Does the press have misplaced priorities?
In this country, look at how many homeless people there are. There are millions. There are people just like me. I'm not the only parent who has had to raise two kids and barely makes $20,000 a year... This is supposed to be the United States of America, the strongest nation in the world, and we can't even provide places for our homeless. The media should be focusing on that.
Point taken. But could you set the record straight about the tip? Your manager says they left something but you contend it never happened.
If your phone is ringing from six in the morning till four in the afternoon and customers are saying what's wrong, the telephone lines are down, and it's because reporters are trying to get through, you say whatever you have to say [to get them to go away]. I don't know if they left a $100 tip or not but I haven't seen it yet. And none of the other waitresses have said they got the tip. [Editor's Note: after the tip controversy became a national story, the Clinton campaign returned to the restaurant and left $20].
Sen. Clinton talked about you - following this incident - in some of her speeches about women earning minimum wage and you seemed upset about it.
To all the politicians, if you talk to somebody and maybe their life interests you, don't just go down the road then and use them as part of your speech to get votes. I was never even asked that day if I'm a Democrat or a Republican or whatever. I was never asked whom I was behind. And then to go down and be called up that night [in a speech by Clinton], was I angry about it? Yes I was. Don't get me wrong they called me a few days later to ask if they could use me in the speech. And they sent me a release form, but they were already using me. So what the hell, I signed it.
How has this whole saga affected you and the restaurant?
There were phone calls going off the wall. It disrupted business and hurt it in some ways. I'm thankful I still have a job there and thank them very much for that. I'm sure it took money away from them. Out of my life, from day one of meeting her it has been turned upside down and not in a good way.
Does this change the way you are approaching the presidential election?
I've been an independent all my life. My mom was a Democrat and my father a Republican. I just sat back and watched them argue and stayed in the middle. But I'm not going to vote for Hillary. That is a definite. No one could pay me enough money. My opinion of her has changed drastically. The more I read and find out about her it changes more and more to the negative. I don't believe she can help out the working women of this world because I don't believe she gets it.