CBS “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl got the first interview with then-President-elect Donald Trump after the 2016 election, which was a huge coup at the time.
Speaking at last night’s Deadline Club Awards dinner, she revealed that what stood out to her the most from that experience was the insight Trump shared into how calculated and cynical he is when he attacks the press for bad reporting or “false news,” as he does frequently.
Stahl recalled that before the cameras rolled she was sitting in Trump’s huge Trump Tower office in New York City with him and her “60 Minutes” producer.
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She realized in speaking with him, Trump was very much alike in person or in front of the camera and said what was on his mind.
She recounted her off-camera conversation with Trump:
“And I said, ‘You know that is getting tired, why are you doing this? You are doing it over and over, it’s boring, it’s time to end that. You won the nomination, why do you keep hammering at this?’ ”
Of course, Trump has gone on using this same cynical ploy ever since, not just to discredit the media who cover him, but also because it plays well to his political base, many of whom share his distrust, even dislike, for the mainstream print and electronic media.
The Failing New York Times purposely wrote a false story stating that I am unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case and am going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong. I am VERY happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow. They are doing a great job and…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 11, 2018
Only two weeks later Dowd was out as his chief lawyer for the Russia probe and Trump knew in advance there would be a change made.
“Despite public claims that he was happy with him,” reported CNN on March 22, “Trump complained privately in recent days that he thought Dowd was falling short of his duties, a source familiar with his thinking said.”
At times the White House has forced news organizations to run corrections or bullied them into holding back a story or some information, all of which as Stahl said was just part of a strategy to keep the press off balance and use that leverage to its advantage, if only for a short time.
There have been president’s who have lied to the press – and thus to the American people – about sensitive subjects, but it is hard to recall any chief executive who lied as often or for such petty reasons as Trump.
Thanks to Stahl we have some insight into the game Trump is playing, but that doesn’t make his practice of lying for his own purposes any less of a horrendous and unfair act.