President Donald Trump repeatedly threatened to release his entire, unedited interview with 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl before an edited version aired on Sunday’s episode. When he finally did so, it seemed to have the exact opposite effect he was hoping for.
“Look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS,” Trump posted on Facebook the morning of his final debate with Joe Biden. He then added, for good measure, “Tonight’s anchor, Kristen Welker, is far worse!”
But what anyone who watches all 38 minutes will see is that the president spent the bulk of his time openly whining about how “tough” the questions were while refusing to actually answer any of them in a coherent manner.
In the first few seconds, Stahl, who has been with 60 Minutes for close to three decades, calmly asks Trump if he’s ready for some “tough questions.”
“No, I’m not,” he replies glumly.
“You’re not OK with tough questions?” Stahl laughs in response, seeming to think at first that he might be joking.
Instead, the president immediately starts accusing her of bias, saying, “You don’t ask Biden tough questions. It’s terrible.” On multiple occasions, she has to remind him that she’s not the one interviewing Biden and Kamala Harris for the same episode.
Her first “tough” question? “Why do you want to be president again?”
Again and again, Trump declines to say what he would do in a second term and instead boasts about the “great job” he’s done in his first. Asked what his “biggest domestic priority” is, Trump instead claims he “created the greatest economy in the history of our country.” Stahl shoots back, “You know that’s not true!”
There is a deep defensiveness on Trump’s part throughout, including when Stahl suggests his rallies aren’t as big as they used to be due to the pandemic. “You’re so negative!” he tells her. “You come in with this negative attitude.”
Ultimately, Trump reaches a breaking point when Stahl pushes back on the unsubstantiated allegations surrounding Hunter Biden. “It’s never been verified!” she tells him.
Later, Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller confirmed that one of the reasons they released the full video is so that viewers could see Trump rant about Biden’s supposed “foreign corruption.”
Sensing his frustration, Stahl tells him that she didn’t want their interview to get so contentious.
“Yes, you did,” Trump replies, reminding her that she told him she was going to ask some “tough questions.”
“You’re the president,” Stahl says in response. “Don’t you think you should be accountable to the American people?”
Trump claims he doesn’t “mind” tough questions. “But when you set up the interview, you didn’t say that,” he adds. “You said, ‘Oh, let’s have a lovely interview.’”
The president is openly admitting that he expected friendly treatment from a news program well known for its serious investigative journalism.
As he continues to whine about the media asking Biden “softball” questions, a White House aide interrupts with a five-minute warning before a scheduled “walk-and-talk” interview with both Trump and Vice President Pence. “Well, I think we have enough,” Trump tells his staff. “I think we have enough of an interview. That’s enough, let’s go.”
President Trump posted the full interview with the expectation that it would reflect more favorably on him than the edited version that aired Sunday. It’s unclear how that’s possible.
After Trump released the video, CBS released the following statement that accused the administration of violating its agreement with the network:
“The White House’s unprecedented decision to disregard their agreement with CBS News and release their footage will not deter 60 MINUTES from providing its full, fair and contextual reporting which presidents have participated in for decades. 60 MINUTES, the most-watched news program on television, is widely respected for bringing its hallmark fairness, deep reporting and informative context to viewers each week. Few journalists have the presidential interview experience Lesley Stahl has delivered over her decades as one of the premier correspondents in America and we look forward to audiences seeing her third interview with President Trump and subsequent interview with Vice President Pence this weekend.”
CBS aired its edit of the Trump interview on Sunday night, along with fact-checks of his responses and a separate Biden-Harris segment. “We had prepared to talk about the many issues and questions facing the president, but in what has become an all-too-public dust-up, the conversation was cut short,” Stahl said in a voiceover during the Trump segment. “It began politely, but ended regrettably, contentiously.”