NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News is President Donald Trump’s favorite venue for interviews. But one of its most prominent anchors, Neil Cavuto, says to count him out as a presidential interrogator.
He doesn’t think it’s worth the time.
“We’re always going to report on the president,” said Cavuto, Fox’s senior vice president and managing editor of business news. “You can’t NOT report on the president. But my goal is not to curry favor so I can get an interview with the president.”
There’s no indication that Trump is anxious to sit down with him. Yet Cavuto’s stance sets him apart at Fox, the venue for 20 Trump interviews since he’s been president, by far the most of any news organization. Within Fox, Trump has spoken primarily to opinion anchors like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Jesse Watters and Jeanine Pirro.
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Fox Sunday host Chris Wallace and Washington anchor Bret Baier haven’t interviewed Trump as president, and have campaigned for the time. In August, Baier used his show to tell Trump he had “nothing to fear” from his questions. He renews his interview request weekly to no avail, Fox said.
Cavuto, who anchors one hour each weekday on Fox News Channel and two on the Fox Business Network, revealed in an on-air commentary that he won’t ask for an interview. He said he spoke publicly after some viewers and administration officials remarked that things he had done weren’t helping his chances of speaking to the president. The Trump campaign had not appreciated a Cavuto interview with Mitt Romney attacking Trump. Cavuto has criticized Trump’s use of Twitter and suggested he needs to show loyalty in order to receive it.
He said he’s been called an “Obama toady” for saying that former President Barack Obama improved the economy.
“I’m a numbers nerd,” Cavuto said in an interview. “He came into a meltdown and a mess, and the numbers when he got out were a lot better. You can credit him, or you can say he got lucky. But did it happen under his watch? Yeah. These are the numbers we use as business journalists to judge the success or failure of a presidency.”
Presidential interviews are often unproductive because they have a limited amount of time and are skilled at filibustering when there are subjects they want to avoid, Cavuto said.
Trump adds other complications. A study in The New York Times on Sunday said Trump had made 103 “demonstrably and substantially false statements” during his first 10 months in office, compared with 18 by Obama during his eight-year presidency.
“Any interview would require me to get clarifications on many of the president’s own statements,” Cavuto said. “I could conceivably be spending half the allotted time just trying to have him explain his saying this is the largest tax cut in history when it isn’t or that he inherited the biggest economic mess ever when he didn’t. Just trying to set the record straight, I’d run straight into a wall and the interview would be over.”
Jane Hall, a communications professor at American University in Washington, said it’s a sad commentary when a journalist of Cavuto’s stature takes this stand.
“Personally, I think it’s still worth trying to interview Donald Trump because he so rarely gives an interview,” said Hall, once a commentator on a weekly Fox show on the media. “But I can understand Neil Cavuto making that call.”
Cavuto said he was not criticizing Trump interviews conducted by his Fox colleagues or anyone else.
“They always make news, no matter what the exchange with the president,” he said. “Whether soft or hard, you get news. I just feel there’s no added value in me doing it.”
Cavuto occupies an unusual space at Fox, where he’s been since its launch more than two decades ago. He’s not considered a part of the network’s stable of virtually all Trump-friendly opinion journalists, yet he isn’t afraid to give his opinion. He said he’s neither an apologist for Trump nor an opponent; he believes Trump has an economic agenda that could be promising but that he hurts himself with antics.
Cavuto, 59, keeps a cane in his office because his multiple sclerosis sometimes makes walking difficult, and he’s less than two years removed from a heart bypass. Still, he just signed up for a six-day workweek with a two-hour live program on Fox News Channel on Saturday mornings.
He said recent visits to presidential libraries for John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan reminded him that all presidents, even popular ones, chafe at media coverage. Trump is right to say he gets a disproportionate amount of negative press, Cavuto said, although he’s no fan of his attacks on the media.
“When (Trump) came out with debating the crowd size at the inauguration, that’s like me saying it’s fake news that I’m overweight,” he said. “No, it’s not. I’m overweight. Any scale on the planet can confirm it. It’s human nature for presidents to bristle at criticism. It’s a whole ‘nother level of, I think, craziness to start saying it’s ‘fake’ because it doesn’t go your way.”