“The White House’s unprecedented decision to disregard their agreement with CBS News and release their footage will not deter 60 Minutes from providing its full, fair and contextual reporting which presidents have participated in for decades,” CBS News said in a statement, adding: “Few journalists have the presidential interview experience Lesley Stahl has delivered over her decades as one of the premier correspondents in America and we look forward to audiences seeing her third interview with President Trump and subsequent interview with Vice President Pence this weekend.” CBS News had said the White House had agreed to tape the interview but only use the tape for its archives.
The White House on Thursday made available nearly 40 minutes of footage of Stahl interviewing President Trump. In the early minutes of the interview, Trump relies on economic and employment statistics from before the nation began to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic to make the case that he should win a second term in office.
The White House and the Trump campaign in recent weeks have worked to cast aspersions on various journalists involved with election-cycle interviews and debates. Trump has taken swipes at NC News journalist Kristen Welker, who is moderating a second presidential debate this evening. And his campaign criticized NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie after she moderated a town hall event with the president last week, even going so far as to cast her as a surrogate for his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.
During the interview, the president maintains that people who come to his rallies are encouraged to wear masks, even though footages shows many attendees do not. He claims a new health plan will let people continue to be insured even if they have pre-existing conditions, but wavers on whether or not he actually has a new plan ready to be adopted. And he attempts to divert Stahl’s attention to conspiracy theories the president continues to try and float regarding Biden’s family.
“Sir, can I say something? This is ’60 Minutes,’ and we can’t put on things we can’t verify,” Stahl says after Trump proceeds to speak at length about his opponent. After the president tries again, she reminds him: “All of these things have been investigated and discredited,” and asks him why other national issues aren’t of more importance to him.
The release of the footage may well serve to boost the ratings of the venerable magazine. Last Sunday’s broadcast was the ninth most-watched program on broadcast television last week, luring an average of 9.1 million viewers.