CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, the journalist and lawyer who believes “hate speech is excluded from protection” under the First Amendment, kicked off an interview with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee by zeroing in on the most salacious, National Enquirer-y, least important story offered by Donald Trump over the past few days.
“You are attacking Hillary Clinton for the sexual past and indiscretions of her husband. What is your thinking on this line of attack?” Cuomo asks, apparently under the assumption that this is the most pressing issue facing Americans in 2016.
This is how the media—and not all, but many—have covered Trump from the start: allowing him to dictate the contours of interviews, tossing him superficial questions that allow him to exert pretend toughness, and giving him a pass on the vital policy questions to engage in reality show theatrics.
Cuomo might have started by asking the presidential candidate why he loves debt or why he believes he doesn’t need conservatives to win the election or about another dozen outlandish confused and contradictory policy prescriptions the man has offered in just the past few days. Yet, Cuomo rationalizes his tact by asserting that “the first thing” Trump came out with “hot and heavy” were attacks noting Hillary’s enabling of Bill’s debauchery.
For the sake of argument, let’s concede for a moment that it’s true or that Cuomo believes it to be true. It’s a perfect example of how Trump dictates coverage and how the Cuomos of cable news world allow him to do it. Perhaps from Cuomo’s perspective there is no greater difficulty facing the average voter than insults leveled at the Clinton family, but maybe someone can ask Mr. Trump what he means when he says we can avoid default because we “print the money” rather than giving him a stage for WWE diatribes.
Trump, whose egoism is so unbounded he believes disagreeing with him is a form of hate, takes the opportunity to push back in the way his fans admire:
“Well, this is a nice way to start off the interview. First of all, you should congratulate me for having won the race. I thought, you know, at least there would be a small congratulations, but I’m not surprised with CNN because that’s the way they treat Trump. You know, they call it the ‘Clinton Network,’ and I believe that.”
The idea that CNN’s coverage has hurt Trump is a joke. Granted, while this network has been far less fawning than some others I can think of, it has gone out of its way to put Trump’s campaign surrogates on its panels and it gave the billionaire a massive amount of coverage during the primaries.
But why on earth would a presidential candidate expect a journalist—a week after Trump’s apparent clinching of the nomination—to praise him on a political victory? Cuomo might have responded, “With all due respect, we’re not here to be friendly, we’re here to get answers.” Or, “We’re not here to congratulate you, we’re here to understand why you’ve changed your mind about raising taxes.” Or, “I’m not here to stroke your ego, I’m here to find out why you believe raising the minimum will help Americans find jobs.”
There is nothing wrong with offering a friendly congrats to a politician. It’s civil. Then again, demanding congratulations is a way for Trump to assert dominance over the interviewer. And this interviewer fights back by stressing that, yes, he has already congratulated the Republican:
“Wait. Hold on. Mr. Trump, I did congratulate you the last time we spoke. I said congratulations on winning the big race.”
Did you? Great job. You must feel very proud.
Should a journalist be concerned about whether a candidate feels like a network is treating him fairly? For Trump, being treated “fairly” means never being asked a probing question, never bringing up his past, and always deferring to his most shocking remarks.
And Cuomo seems exceptionally concerned about Mr. Trump’s view of him. Here they are in Nov.:
CUOMO: “You like to go to the safe harbors, where they give you a pass.”
TRUMP: “I like to go to places where they treat me fairly…”
CUOMO: “Do you think I treat you fairly?”
TRUMP: “I won’t comment on that…”
CUOMO: “Oh, come on! Do I treat you fairly on ‘New Day?’”
TRUMP: “I like you, and I like your treatment, and I do think you treat me fair. But your other people, I can tell you, do not.”
Can you imagine this kind of conversation occurring between a journalist and any ‘real’ candidate? Or a real journalist, for that matter?