My column this week at Real Clear Politics urges Republicans and Trump administration officials to stay off CNN and MSNBC. If you need any proof of the ambush waiting to happen, the interview of Hogan Gidley by Hallie Jackson last week should have sealed the deal. Conservatives who go on these channels or talk to the New York Times or Washington Post get what they deserve.
Although the Democratic National Committee has not allowed Fox News to host a Democratic primary debate since 2004, the DNC recently made a show of boycotting Fox for the 2020 presidential cycle.
Some conservatives have expressed outrage over this slight, but another question is why haven’t Republicans taken similar steps against CNN and MSNBC? In November 2015, I wrote a column, “A debate that will live in infamy,” which excoriated CNBC for its sneak attack on the top 10 Republican candidates for president at the time. That column (reprinted in “The Media Matrix”) called the debate a “blatant attempt to manipulate public opinion by insulting the standard-bearers of the Republican Party.”
I don’t think Fox News would sink quite that low if it were permitted to host a Democratic debate, but then I’m not a Democrat. It should be obvious to everyone, however, that Republicans have not learned the lesson to be wary of the left-wing media.
An interview of Hogan Gidley on “MSNBC Live With Hallie Jackson” last week was the latest case study in how stupid it is for any Republican, for any conservative, and especially for any Trump supporter to ever appear on a network like MSNBC (or, as should be obvious, CNN).
Of course, I’m not breaking news here when I say that, but as a journalist I keep hoping reporters will treat the people they interview with respect and fairness and make all their subjects feel equally at ease and/or nervous regardless of political affiliation.
That’s certainly not what I witnessed last Tuesday when Jackson mauled (er, interviewed) Gidley, deputy press secretary for President Trump. I kept hoping Gidley would push back his chair and walk off the set in disgust, but I knew that if he did, it would just be click bait for Democratic trolls and late-night hacks (er, comedians). Once you make the mistake of handing matches to the angry mob, you have no choice but to stand patiently until they finish burning you at the stake.
Gidley probably knew he made a mistake as soon as Jackson introduced him by saying that he had “deigned to join us here on set.” He acknowledged her insult by saying dryly, “I do deign.”
Jackson began by grilling Gidley about whether the White House would turn over to Rep. Elijah Cummings information related to how security clearances were granted to 25 people. (A White House mole, er Deep Stater, had given the list to Cummings in a ploy to create a post-Russia distraction.) Although it was clear after the first time the question was answered that the White House was not going to cooperate with Cummings’ fishing expedition, for some reason Jackson could not absorb this information. She asked the question a second time, then a third, on each occasion implying that Gidley was not answering her question, which he plainly was.
“This precedent would make it possible for members of Congress, anytime they want to make a political point and play political games, to bring that [confidential] information forward. That is absolutely ridiculous and we’re not gonna play that game,” Gidley said to Jackson, who then pretended that he’d dodged the question.
It was at this point that I started to reflect on the fact that Jackson was no longer a reporter but rather a Democratic operative. Being aggressive is a good trait in a reporter. Being the devil’s advocate is a necessary tool of being a good interviewer. But I could not recall any instance in recent memory where a reporter on MSNBC had used the same tactic against a Democrat.
After moving on from the security-clearance issue, Jackson claimed that President Trump had reversed course (or “punted”) on Obamacare. The president had said he wanted Congress to replace Obamacare, which a federal judge had ruled to be unconstitutional, but he later explained that a vote would not come until after the 2020 election. This confused members of the media, including Jackson, who don’t understand that the House of Representatives is controlled by Democrats who won’t vote with the president to replace Obamacare. Gidley calmly explained the issue and said what Trump wants to accomplish, but Jackson kept arguing with him.
She also accused both Trump and Gidley of lying. She claimed the president said he was “just kidding” about health care. He didn’t. When she started talking about aid to Puerto Rico, she said the president was lying about how much aid has been pledged to that beleaguered island. “These are things that are not true,” she said, repeating Democrat talking points as if they were the gold standard for objective truth. (If you believe that, I have a secret Russian dossier I want to sell you!)
The coup de grace, though, came later when Jackson saved the final segment of the interview for shaming Gidley for having misspoken earlier by calling Puerto Rico a country rather than a territory. Generally, a good reporter will just correct an interview subject by letting them know that they had misspoken. In this case, Gidley apologized and said it was a “mistake,” which Jackson then characterized as “a slip of the tongue.” This gave her the opening she was looking for.
“Do you think that’s a concern that there is that kind of slip of the tongue inside the White House?” she said.
“No, that was a slip of the tongue,” Gidley patiently explained. “It’s not on purpose, Hallie. That would by definition be a slip of the tongue.”
As the interview ended, I hoped that Gidley had learned his lesson — a lesson that Steve Bannon tried to instill in the Trump White House two years ago when he called the mainstream media “the opposition party.” But unfortunately, this is apparently a hard lesson to learn. The president continues to allow himself to be interviewed by the New York Times, and Hogan Gidley will probably be back on MSNBC within the month.
Rhetoric about the “dishonest media” aside, as long as Republicans show endless patience with the left-wing media, they will continue to “deign” to be made to look like fools.
HeartlandDiaryUSA.com hosts the commentary of Frank Miele, former editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana. Your support for this blog is appreciated. Please consider purchasing one of my books at Amazon. My new book is “The Media Matrix: What If Everything You Know Is Fake?” — a look at Fake News from the perspective of a small-town newspaper editor. In addition, my “Why We Needed Trump” trilogy documents the downward spiral of the USA that made Trump’s presidency so important. The books are available at Amazon in paperback or Kindle editions. Go here for a free sample of “The Media Matrix”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/sitb/B07PDQBJM4