POLITICO: How Donald Trump destroyed the interview
Jack Shafer details how Trump evades, but the fault really lies with interviewers.
Over the past 12 months of the presidential campaign, Donald Trump has dulled its power with his systematic evasions, contradictions and deceptions, making a general mockery of the form. Thanks to his skills at quibbling, his talent for the nonsequitur, and his willingness to reverse himself inside a single sentence, Trump has figured out how to soften rather than sharpen public discourse every time he is interviewed, blurring it into yet another form of meaningless PR, and—if he continues—destroying a journalistic institution in the process…
Trump has defeated the interview by ignoring the impersonal social control it thrusts upon its subjects. Adopting a policy of maximum self-contradiction, he made a practice of reversing himself when expressing something as fact, frustrating his monitors. For example, one day in March he told ABC’s Good Morning America that he had seen a TV ad criticizing him. Minutes later he told NBC’s Today program that he hadn’t seen the ad. One day he says he’ll pay for the legal fees of supporters who punch protesters, the next day he says, “I didn’t say that.”
One day he tells Fox and Friends that Ted Cruz’s father was somehow implicated in the assassination of John F. Kennedy—”I mean, what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald, shortly before the death—before the shooting? It’s horrible.” The next he’s denying that implication to a reporter: “Of course I don’t believe that [about Cruz’s father]. I don’t believe it, but I did say ‘Let people read it.’ Speaking about the use of nuclear weapons at an MSNBC town hall in March, Trump set some sort of record in contradicting himself in one screwy sentence, saying, “I’m not going to use nuclear, but I’m not taking any cards off the table.”