The New York Times’ Michael Schmidt got a rare one-on-one interview with Donald Trump Thursday at his resort in Florida.
The interview has been widely disseminated and discussed, for Trump’s incoherency and bragging. But the interview has also been criticized for Schmidt’s decision to act primarily as a transcriptionist and not ask
The Washington Post jumped on the transcript and compiled a list of 24 Trump false or misleading statements.
Long after the interview, but not in the account of the interview itself, the Time got around to pointing out 10 falsehoods.
Schmidt details how the interview came to be today. He explains his approach.
During our conversation in July, I learned the challenges this president poses in interviews. He can jump from an issue like the Russia investigation to a policy matter before going off on a tangent about something like his golf game. If you try to interrupt him, he often continues talking. Given this, I employed a strategy in which I asked questions about the most pressing issues of his presidency and then allowed him to talk.
Some readers criticized my approach, saying I should have asked more follow-up questions. I believed it was more important to continue to allow the president to speak and let people make their own judgments about his statements. It was the best way to learn as much as possible about the president’s mind-set and his views on issues like North Korea.
Perhaps. But giving Trump an unchallenged megaphone is of benefit to him. I think the reporter had a duty to challenge him occasionally. As Jamil Smith of the Los Angeles Times put it: “Trump is dictating the means of engagement with the media to a point where the interview loses meaning.”
Maggie Haberman, the Times’ White House correspondent, huffily defended Schmidt’s approach on Twitter. She commented at one point:
Half of Twitter thinks the Schmidt interview was revealing about the POTUS because it was his unfiltered thoughts. The other half is angry that @nytmike did not audition as an extra for the courtroom remake of “A Few Good Men” and interrupt him constantly.
This is straw man logic, as one person commented to Haberman. Schmidt had more options, including a few carefully chosen queries.
I liked what writer Elizabeth Spiers said.
I’m a Times subscriber and think it’s a great paper, but in my experience, people inside the Times think it’s far more important than people outside of the Times do. And culturally, it creates a sensibility that everything the NYT produces is above reproach. And any criticism is met with hostile dismissal.
Yes indeed. I remember the hauteur of New York Times people during the great Whitewater snipe hunt, bungled so badly by that newspaper that Gene Lyons wrote a book about it. The newspaper’s Clinton animus then continued through the Hillary Clinton candidacy. Michael Schmidt, you might know, was a lead reporter on the overplayed Hillary e-mail story that ultimately provided a key contribution to her defeat.
Would Schmidt have allowed Hillary Clinton to talk uninterrupted or unchallenged had he gotten similar time with her so that people could “make their own judgments”?