Interviewing Trump: Same old, same old not good enough anymore

Interviewing Trump: Same old, same old not good enough anymore
Host Brian Stelter and guests Olivia Nuzzi and David Zurawik on "Reliable Sources" debating how best to do a TV interview with Donald Trump.

For more than two years, we have been debating how best to do a TV interview with Donald Trump.

And we still haven’t figured it out.


Sunday, on CNN’s “Reliable Sources, Olivia Nuzzi, of New York magazine, and I joined host Brian Stelter for another bite out of that apple with a focus on CBS anchorman Jeff Glor’s interview with Trump last week.

Trump did other interviews last week, including one each with Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. But those are not interviews as a journalist would define the term.

Those are Ministry of Propaganda productions presented on Fox News with Hannity and Carlson letting their fearless leader run the table with his obfuscations, boasts, lies and slanders.

My core takeaway from watching Glor and Trump is that the same old, same old style of network interview is absolutely hopeless with Trump. Grant Trump the space to make his claims without interruption and he will filibuster the time and space with so many contradictions and lies the viewers won’t know what they heard, let alone what they can believe.

You have to push back and push back hard continually during the conversation. When Trump calls former CIA Director John Brennan a “total low life,” as he did in the Glor interview, I firmly believe you have to stop the conversation and challenge him. Ask him to support that claim. Better yet ask him what he means when he says that.

Seriously, I would ask,”Mr. President, can you explain specifically what you mean by ‘total low life?’ That’s pretty harsh language to use on anyone, let alone someone with Brennan’s record of government service.”

I was also troubled by Glor’s body language — leaning back in his chair, while Trump sat on the edge of his aggressively leaning forward into the space between them. I wanted Glor to be leaning back into him.

For all his sins, I kind of longed for former CBS anchorman Dan Rather and the way he challenged the likes of George H.W. Bush and Richard Nixon.

I am not being highly critical of Glor. He did OK. But the interview provided nothing useful for citizens. Trump did not allow it to.

Nuzzi made the point that interviews like the one Glor did at least get Trump on the record.

She is correct. But with Trump changing his story every day, the record no longer even seems to matter.