Today at RCP: Republicans on CNN, MSNBC Wear ‘Kick Me’ Signs

My column today at Real Clear Politics urges Republicans and Trump administration officials to stay off CNN and MSNBC. If you need any proof of the ambush waiting to happen, the interview of Hogan Gidley by Hallie Jackson last week should have sealed the deal. Conservatives who go on these channels or talk to the New York Times or Washington Post get what they deserve.

Republicans on CNN, MSNBC Wear ‘Kick Me’ Signs

By Frank Miele

Although the Democratic National Committee has not allowed Fox News to host a Democratic primary debate since 2004, the DNC recently made a show of boycotting Fox for the 2020 presidential cycle.

Some conservatives have expressed outrage over this slight, but another question is why haven’t Republicans taken similar steps against CNN and MSNBC? In November 2015, I wrote a column, “A debate that will live in infamy,” which excoriated CNBC for its sneak attack on the top 10 Republican candidates for president at the time. That column (reprinted in “The Media Matrix”) called the debate a “blatant attempt to manipulate public opinion by insulting the standard-bearers of the Republican Party.”

I don’t think Fox News would sink quite that low if it were permitted to host a Democratic debate, but then I’m not a Democrat. It should be obvious to everyone, however, that Republicans have not learned the lesson to be wary of the left-wing media.

An interview of Hogan Gidley on “MSNBC Live With Hallie Jackson” last week was the latest case study in how stupid it is for any Republican, for any conservative, and especially for any Trump supporter to ever appear on a network like MSNBC (or, as should be obvious, CNN).

Of course, I’m not breaking news here when I say that, but as a journalist I keep hoping reporters will treat the people they interview with respect and fairness and make all their subjects feel equally at ease and/or nervous regardless of political affiliation.

Naive, huh?

That’s certainly not what I witnessed last Tuesday when Jackson mauled (er, interviewed) Gidley, deputy press secretary for President Trump (seen at 11:45 of this video). I kept hoping Gidley would push back his chair and walk off the set in disgust, but I knew that if he did, it would just be click bait for Democratic trolls and late-night hacks (er, comedians). Once you make the mistake of handing matches to the angry mob, you have no choice but to stand patiently until they finish burning you at the stake.

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Gidley probably knew he made a mistake as soon as Jackson introduced him by saying that he had “deigned to join us here on set.” He acknowledged her insult by saying dryly, “I do deign.”

Jackson began by grilling Gidley about whether the White House would turn over to Rep. Elijah Cummings information related to how security clearances were granted to 25 people. (A White House mole, er Deep Stater, had given the list to Cummings in a ploy to create a post-Russia distraction.) Although it was clear after the first time the question was answered that the White House was not going to cooperate with Cummings’ fishing expedition, for some reason Jackson could not absorb this information. She asked the question a second time, then a third, on each occasion implying that Gidley was not answering her question, which he plainly was.

“This precedent would make it possible for members of Congress, anytime they want to make a political point and play political games, to bring that [confidential] information forward. That is absolutely ridiculous and we’re not gonna play that game,” Gidley said to Jackson, who then pretended that he’d dodged the question.

It was at this point that I started to reflect on the fact that Jackson was no longer a reporter but rather a Democratic operative. Being aggressive is a good trait in a reporter. Being the devil’s advocate is a necessary tool of being a good interviewer. But I could not recall any instance in recent memory where a reporter on MSNBC had used the same tactic against a Democrat.

After moving on from the security-clearance issue, Jackson claimed that President Trump had reversed course (or “punted”) on Obamacare. The president had said he wanted Congress to replace Obamacare, which a federal judge had ruled to be unconstitutional, but he later explained that a vote would not come until after the 2020 election. This confused members of the media, including Jackson, who don’t understand that the House of Representatives is controlled by Democrats who won’t vote with the president to replace Obamacare. Gidley calmly explained the issue and said what Trump wants to accomplish, but Jackson kept arguing with him.

She also accused both Trump and Gidley of lying. She claimed the president said he was “just kidding” about health care. He didn’t. When she started talking about aid to Puerto Rico, she said the president was lying about how much aid has been pledged to that beleaguered island. “These are things that are not true,” she said, repeating Democrat talking points as if they were the gold standard for objective truth. (If you believe that, I have a secret Russian dossier I want to sell you!)

The coup de grace, though, came later when Jackson saved the final segment of the interview for shaming Gidley for having misspoken earlier by calling Puerto Rico a country rather than a territory. Generally, a good reporter will just correct an interview subject by letting them know that they had misspoken. In this case, Gidley apologized and said it was a “mistake,” which Jackson then characterized as “a slip of the tongue.” This gave her the opening she was looking for.

“Do you think that’s a concern that there is that kind of slip of the tongue inside the White House?” she said.

“No, that was a slip of the tongue,” Gidley patiently explained. “It’s not on purpose, Hallie. That would by definition be a slip of the tongue.”

As the interview ended, I hoped that Gidley had learned his lesson  — a lesson that Steve Bannon tried to instill in the Trump White House two years ago when he called the mainstream media “the opposition party.” But unfortunately, this is apparently a hard lesson to learn. The president continues to allow himself to be interviewed by the New York Times, and Hogan Gidley will probably be back on MSNBC within the month.

Rhetoric about the “dishonest media” aside, as long as Republicans show endless patience with the left-wing media, they will continue to “deign” to be made to look like fools. hosts the commentary of Frank Miele, former editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana. Your support for this blog is appreciated. Please consider purchasing one of my books at Amazon. My new book is “The Media Matrix: What If Everything You Know Is Fake?” — a look at Fake News from the perspective of a small-town newspaper editor. In addition, my “Why We Needed Trump” trilogy documents the downward spiral of the USA that made Trump’s presidency so important. The books are available at Amazon in paperback or Kindle editions. Go here for a free sample of “The Media Matrix”:

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6 Replies to “Today at RCP: Republicans on CNN, MSNBC Wear ‘Kick Me’ Signs”

  1. OK. You’ve probably written the most important article of your career. So what are you going to do with it? What are your fans going to do with it?

    I’m serious! How do we get you on Townhall? Who do we write to demand that your work appear on the smaller papers that are less daring about Left-Wing bigotry? Do you have a list that we can write to on your behalf? Spokesman Review. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Oregon Live?

    1. I’m afraid self-promotion is not one of my best skills. Not sure what you can do, but I would like some of my readers to leave reviews on Amazon for my books. That might help encourage people to read them.

  2. How about supplying a list of key words and phrases that Republicans, Conservatives, TEA Party activists and Patriots could use to control any interview. Here’s my point; Many yaran ago, when I was a reporter/editor/janitor, candidates came to me for their interviews prepared. The best were people who had practiced in advance of the meetings. Governors Don Samuelson, Cecil Andrus and Phil Batt knew in advance what needed discussion and they did not swerve. Their focus made it impossible for me to change subjects. Senator Frank Church did the same. Steve Symms walked into my office with “TANSTAAFL” and the word stayed in my listeners minds for years. (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.)

    Those fellows looked at me out of the eyes of innocent dachshund puppies and claimed that I could ask anything I wanted. Then they idly mentioned key, unavoidable things like flooding, law enforcement, National Guard, claims against officials… Things I could not possibly avoid.

    Reporters, especially the crooked ones, take time in advance to wonder what questions might be asked. Every competent guest knows that there will be many interviews and he/she/it/they prepares once for every long season of answers. Live interview is a field of innocent chatter until it is not. Thus, a phrase in response that takes control can be something like, “As you know …” How about, “Excellent question! Law requires that [the subject] be handled only by the officer in charge.” It is the lead-in to an answer that counts much as in, “I hoped that you would ask that.” A guest can startle any young reporter with a “Hillary Clinton Get Out Of Jail Free” card and thus control discussion until time is up. The cards remind you to “tell authorities to just give you a Hillary on it.” Let me know if you would like a few to share.

    There was once a time when a new Senator could sign up for a few classes in being the interviewee. Not now?

    Frank, you are correct in that honest politicians are naive and far too gullible to be ready for crooked reporters with crooked questions. I think your next book might be, “Advice For Public Appearance” or, “Control Any Interview.”

    I am the scoundrel who wrote the ideas above without a name, “OK. You’ve probably …”

    1. All good ideas. Thanks. Sadly I don’t have much confidence in the ability of Republicans to deflect biased or stupid questions. They just don’t like to be confrontational.

      1. C’mon, Frank. I understand that you have a magnificently intelligent and marvelously attractive wife. Did you not win her by asking some really stupid questions? Somewhere you learned to ask those questions. Then, before she could say, “No,” you supplied some stupid answers.

        Remember; We’re asking that you promote yourself by teaching Republicans to be the leaders in the question business.

  3. Other that Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Newt Gingrich, I’ve seen few Republicans who were willing to cross the left-wing Media… and even Trump isn’t always on point in responding to fake questions.

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