Footage of the US president abruptly walking out of a CBS 60 Minutes interview has been released by the network, in a row that has been rumbling since the interview was taped on Tuesday.
Donald Trump had already posted clips on his own social media, in an effort to show he had been mistreated by the interviewer, Lesley Stahl. He had called the segment “fake” and “biased” in advance.
Trump had told Stahl: “You brought up a lot of subjects that were inappropriately brought up.” She replied: “Well, I said, I’m going to ask you tough questions.”
After a question about whether his use of social media and name-calling was “turning people off”, Trump brought the recording to an end. He answered: “No, I think I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have social media. The media is fake. And frankly, if I didn’t have social media, I’d have no way of getting out my voice.”
A few moments later, he told his aide Hope Hicks: “I think we have enough of an interview here, Hope. OK? That’s enough. Let’s go.”
The 60 Minutes interviews with both Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, drew a total of 16.8 million viewers, the biggest audience for the show since an interview two years ago with Stormy Daniels, the adult film actor and producer who claims an affair with Trump in the past, which the president denies, and was paid hush money during the 2016 election, Variety reported.
Trump had also tweeted during the week complaining that Stahl had not been wearing a mask in the White House. CBS said Stahl wore a mask at all times except during and for a few moments after the interview, and had tested negative for coronavirus before arriving to interview the president.
For many, though, the clips did not give the impression that Trump was trying to convey – that he had been treated unfairly by CBS.
Jon Favreau, a former speechwriter for Barack Obama, said Trump came across as “weak and pathetic” and “a whiny, aggrieved baby”.
“He’s no longer even pretending to fight for his supporters against liberals, immigrants, the media, elites, the establishment. Donald Trump is fighting for Donald Trump. That’s it.”
And Amy Siskind, who wrote a book on Trump’s first year in office, said: “All he did was lie and obfuscate, and when he was called on it he got up and sulked out.”
There was also criticism in some quarters that Stahl had avoided some of the more difficult questions she could have asked the president about his finances, the treatment of immigrant children separated from their parents at the US border by his administration, and the number of people involved in his campaign who have subsequently been charged with crimes.
A CNN factcheck of the president’s contribution showed he made at least 16 false or misleading claims during the interview.
In another segment of the CBS 60 Minutes special before the election, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, went on record to say she believed Trump was racist.
Asked: “Do you think the president is racist?” by the host, Norah O’Donnell, the California senator replied: “Yes, I do. You can look at a pattern that goes back to him questioning the identity of the first black president of the United States. You can look at Charlottesville, when there were peaceful protesters, and on the other side, neo-Nazis, and he talks about fine people on either side. Calling Mexicans rapists and criminals. His first order of business was to institute a Muslim ban. It all speaks for itself.”