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President Trump Returns to Super Bowl Pre-Game Coverage

President Donald Trump will make an appearance during CBS’ pre-game coverage of Super Bowl LIII, reviving a tradition he skipped in 2018 when the White House and NBC News could not come to terms on an interview.

CBS News said Trump will pre-tape an interview that will appear on “Face The Nation” on Sunday, February 3 – game day – with anchor Margaret Brennan. A portion will air at 3:30 p.m. eastern during CBS’ pre-game programming. A CBS News spokesperson did not respond immediately to a query about negotiations with the White House over the parameters of the meeting.

The pre-game POTUS appearance is a tradition started by President Barack Obama, who took part in exchanges with everyone from CBS’ Scott Pelley to Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly.  After talking to O’Reilly for Fox’s coverage of Super Bowl LI after his inauguration in 2017, Trump declined to take part in a similar set-up for Super Bowl LII.

He has yet to agree to a live interview during pre-game programming. Obama did live segments during his time in office, and the TV-news outlet conducting the interview would often tape more conversation with him after the Super Bowl portion was complete.

The exchange will put a spotlight on Brennan, who took over as anchor of “Nation” in February of last year, as well as Mary Hager, the veteran Washington producer at CBS News who oversees the program. The assignment is not an easy one, although having it taped takes off some of the pressure.

There will be no shortage of topics to discuss. Trump is in the midst of a battle to get a wall at the southern border financed by Congress. After shutting down the government in an effort to make Congress capitulate, he is no closer to the goal – but many observers wonder if he will close offices again after a three-week funding agreement lapses. Viewers would no doubt be interested in Trump’s view of recent charges against Trump associate Roger Stone brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Or his take on the state of NFL football, something he went out of his way to criticize last year as various players protested racial injustice during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The pre-game interview segment poses a challenge to even the most seasoned TV-news team. Viewers have tuned in for features on their favorite players and ads touting pizza and chicken wings, not an interview about the nuances of national security. “The last thing everyone is thinking about or wanting to talk about is politics,” NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie told Variety in 2016.  The year before, she interviewed President Obama in a White House kitchen, where some home-brewed “honey ale” using honey from the First Lady’s garden was on display.The assignment, Guthrie added, “is striking the right balance, having the right tone for the context of the day, but you want to do an interview that is helpful, asks some important questions.”

The sit-down is “like a prize fight,” O’Reilly told Variety that same year. “You’re sitting across from him and here we go. The bell rings.” When he was preparing for his talk with Trump in 2017, he told Variety that the exchange was “the most important interview of my life.”

CBS News has snared interviews with Trump in the recent past. “CBS Evening News” anchor Jeff Glor sat down with the President on two separate occasions in July of last year. Trump has during his time in office cast aspersions on many TV-news outlets, particularly AT&T’s CNN, and occasionally NBCUniversal’s NBC News.

The interview will take place as CBS News is on the cusp of a new era. Susan Zirinsky, a longtime producer at the CBS Corp. unit, is expected to become its president in the next few weeks.

 

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