In a saner world, a presidential candidate suggesting that the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff should be put to death would be a big deal, not to mention the sort of assertion that would kill any presidential aspirations and raise serious questions of the need for committment for mental health observation. But that’s not our world, and it’s little more than Trump’s daily call for violence against his detractors and enemies, which seems to grow hourly.
Should he not be asked by journalists why he would say such an insane thing? Since he won’t take the stage in the Republican candidates’ debate where he has nothing to gain and much to lose if something too batshit crazy for even his adoring fans comes out of his mouth. Or perhaps another lie too obvious or too stupid to overlook? The pitfalls for Trump are many, but then, isn’t that true when he’s being interviewed?
Media critics are decrying the Trump interview by NBC’s Kristin Welker, a dubious choice to take over Meet The Press. They argue that mainstream media should not platform Darth Cheeto so he can lie, obfuscate and misinform. Why give him a platform to ignore questions and spew nonsense in their place?
“It’s arguable that, at this juncture, there is really no need to interview Trump,” posited CNN media writer Oliver Darcy. “Just a colossal mistake to showcase this sociopath,” tweeted American Enterprise Institute emeritus scholar and Atlantic contributing editor Norman Ornstein. “Downright dangerous journalism to legitimize this guy—in the name of having a ‘talked about’ premiere,” charged former New York Times media reporter Bill Carter. “Is it possible,” an exasperated former Chicago Tribune editor Mark Jacob wondered, “that journalists who platform lying fascists don’t know they’re undermining democracy?”
Granted, Welker wasn’t up to the task of either getting Trump to provide responses to questions or confronting him with the facts when he spewed lies. But that’s a problem with Welker, not with Trump being interviewed.
“Interviewing Trump does not work,” declared NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen. “No accountability moment ever comes.” Welker’s effort “proved once again that interviewing the 45th president is an impossible task,” averred Vanity Fair‘s Molly Jong-Fast. The Bulwark‘s Jonathan Last made the bold comportmental assertion that the “media’s job—and particularly broadcast media—is to think deeply about how to avoid helping Trump with its coverage….It would be nice if the folks in broadcast media could lend us—and democracy—a hand. Or, at the very least, stop giving aid and comfort to the authoritarian just because you want to pull a ratings number.”
The argument is that Trump can’t, or won’t, answer questions. Trump can’t, or won’t, tell the truth. Trump can’t, or won’t, focus, stay on topic or say something without reversing himself three or more times in a single sentence.The argument is that the mainstream media should not enable Trump to be Trump because he’s, well, Trump.
But like it or not, and they don’t, Trump remains the putative Republican candidate for president and, given plethora of problems with Old Man Biden and the Democrats acquiescence to their most extreme wing, he could end up winning by default.
“Be truthful, not neutral,” is the catchphrase longtime CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour has been drawing industry-wide praise for this season, including back in May when she deployed it to criticize her own network for holding a live town hall interview with the former and would-be future president.
If everyone already knows what Trump is, and either loathes him or loves him because of it, is there any reason to give him more free airtime? Matt Welch offers a reason.
Accepting for the moment the provocative premise that preventing Trump’s re-election is a core journalistic value, refusing to interview the guy is like taking away the rope with which he is always ready to hang himself. Given that he is unlikely to testify at his four upcoming criminal trials, interviews are a critical venue for hearing Trump’s legally germane rationalizations for engaging in facially illegal conduct.
Perhaps more to the point, is the media as gatekeeper to information right or wrong to refuse to be party to airing more Trump? Should the media be the one to decide who is deserving of airing, and accordingly, the presidency, because they despise Trump, or is it their responsibility to cover Trump, interview Trump, platform Trump, no matter how despicable he is?
*Tuesday Talk rules apply, within reason.