President Donald Trump made good Thursday on a threat to post unfiltered footage from a “60 Minutes” interview he taped earlier this week with anchor Lesley Stahl — an interview that Trump abruptly cut short, complaining that Stahl was “negative” and biased.
In posting the 38-minute clip on Facebook, Trump urged viewers to “look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS.” But the footage shows Stahl, a “60 Minutes” correspondent since 1991, calmly and firmly asking the president about the coronavirus and other topics as Trump grows increasingly irritated.
At the start of the footage on Facebook, the president suggests that Stahl was not being “fair,” before proceeding to complain about her inquiries on the economy and the rising numbers of coronavirus cases in more than 40 states.
“You brought up a lot of questions that were inappropriately brought up, right from the beginning,” Trump says.
“Don’t you think you should be accountable to the American people?” Stahl replies.
The interview is scheduled to air on Sunday’s episode of “60 Minutes,” which will also feature an interview with Trump’s Democratic opponent, Joe Biden. CBS News called the president’s preemption “unprecedented” and a breach of its agreement with the White House.
This “will not deter ‘60 Minutes’ from providing its full, fair and contextual reporting, which presidents have participated in for decades,” the network said in a statement, noting that the White House’s recording of the interview had been intended “for archival purposes only.”
Stahl, a veteran newscaster who had interviewed Trump two other times since he won the presidency, sounds taken aback after the president stands up and ends the interview prematurely, telling his aides, “That’s enough. Let’s go. Let’s go.” In an exchange taped immediately afterward, Stahl asks Vice President Mike Pence, “So what just happened with the president?”
“Lesley, uh, President Trump is a man who speaks his mind,” Pence replies. “I think it’s one of the great strengths that he’s had as president.”
Stahl’s interview with Pence — also posted online Thursday by the White House — grows tense as she presses him on why he is evading some of her questions.
“This was not a rally, this was not just a campaign speech to the public — this was supposed to be an interview, and the same with the president,” Stahl says. “And I feel that you both have insulted ‘60 Minutes’ and me by not answering any of our questions.”
Pence objects, claiming that he did respond. Before the footage ends, Pence says: “Lesley, I appreciate the speech you just gave, and I’ve answered your questions and I’ve talked about what the American people care about.”
As a tactical matter, Trump’s decision to release the video hours before his final debate with Biden was curious, given that it could provide insight into how he might answer certain policy questions. In the interview, Trump tells Stahl that he wants the Supreme Court to abolish the Affordable Care Act, saying: “I hope that they end it; it’ll be so good if they end it.”
Pressed by Stahl on how he would handle a scenario in which millions of Americans abruptly lost their health insurance, Trump said repeatedly that he had “a plan.” When Stahl pointed out that he has not shown a plan publicly, Trump falsely claimed that he had.
Trump also said, falsely, that he had never said a version of “lock her up” about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, who was recently the target of a foiled kidnapping plot. In fact, after a crowd chanted “Lock her up” at a recent campaign rally in Michigan, Trump said, “Lock them all up.”
At another point, the president tried to raise issues about Biden’s son, Hunter, and his business dealings. When Stahl noted that it was Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and his former chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, who had pushed an unverified story to The New York Post, Trump claimed he didn’t know what the “two gentlemen” were doing.
In posting the footage Thursday, Trump referred to the interview as a “vicious attempted ‘takeout’ ” by Stahl and told his Twitter followers: “Watch her constant interruptions & anger. Compare my full, flowing and ‘magnificently brilliant’ answers to their ‘Q’s’.”
In the clip, Trump complains that “60 Minutes” had been tougher on him than on Biden. (In fact, “60 Minutes” interviewed Biden for the same program and pressed him on the sensitive issue of whether he would expand the Supreme Court.)
“I see Joe Biden getting softball after softball; I’ve seen all of his interviews, he’s never been asked a question that’s hard,” the president complains.
“Well, forget him for a minute — you’re president!” Stahl replies.
“Excuse me, Lesley, you started with me, your first statement was, ‘Are you ready for tough questions?’ ” the president interjects. “That’s no way to talk. No way to talk.”
From off-camera, a man can be heard saying that Pence will join the group in five minutes. Trump objects: “Well, I think we have enough. I think we have enough of an interview here. OK? That’s enough. Let’s go. Let’s go.”
As he stands up and removes his microphone, the president turns to Stahl and says: “I’ll see you later.”