U.S. President Donald Trump complained about being asked “tough questions” during a recent sit-down with CBS News reporter Lesley Stahl in a contentious interview that he deliberately leaked ahead of its agreed broadcast date on 60 Minutes.
The president painted himself as a victim in the interview, claiming that it was unfair for Stahl to ask him questions about some of the country’s most pressing issues, including the coronavirus pandemic and Trump’s suggestions that his Democratic opponents should be prosecuted. He repeatedly denied some of his past comments and frequently compared his interview to ones conducted with Joe Biden, his Democratic opponent.
“You wouldn’t ask Biden those questions,” he said at one point in the interview.
Biden, who has not been running the country for the last four years, spoke to CBS in a separate interview. The network had planned to release both interviews on Sunday, but Trump broke the interview agreement amid claims of unfairness.
“Look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS,” Trump claimed in his link to the video. He also preemptively attacked the moderator in the presidential debate slated for Thursday night.
Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes not wearing a mask in the White House after her interview with me. Much more to come. pic.twitter.com/0plZG6a4fH
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 20, 2020
The president cried foul about the interview on Tuesday, then teased the full conversation before releasing it on Facebook Thursday. The nearly 38-minute, seemingly unedited video appears to have been shot by one camera focused on Trump.
Stahl asked Trump about his record in office, the economy, his attempts to get rid of Obamacare and his leadership on the coronavirus.
Trump frequently tried to steer the conversation toward unsubstantiated allegations in a recent New York Post story about Biden and his son, Hunter. He also repeated his unverified claims that former president Barack Obama and former vice president Biden had spied on him.
After several testy exchanges, Stahl asked Trump why he encouraged a “lock her up” chant targeting Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was recently the subject of a kidnapping plot.
“So you don’t want to lock up Gov. Whitmer,” Stahl says at the end of the interview, before Trump interrupts with repeated denials.
“Leslie, it’s such a vicious thing you just said. I never said lock up the governor of Michigan. I would never say that. Why would I say that? Because she’s doing lockdowns.”
Stahl tries to settle the interview down toward the end, but Trump interrupts her.
She says: “You know, I didn’t want to have this kind of angry —”
“Of course you did,” Trump breaks in. “You brought up a lot of subjects that were inappropriately brought up.”
“I said I’d ask you tough questions,” Stahl says.
Trump then affects a different voice to quote Stahl’s interview setup. “Your first statement to me: ‘This is going to be tough questions,'” he says. “I don’t mind that, but when you set up the interview you didn’t say that. You said oh, let’s have a lovely interview.”
An aide breaks in to give Stahl a five-minute warning, but Trump seizes on the interruption and says: “I think we have enough.” He then gets up and says: “I’ll see you. Thanks.”
The video Trump leaked includes the opening moments when Stahl actually mentioned her tough questions.
“Are you ready for some tough questions?” Stahl says to Trump at the start of the video, in moments not meant for the broadcast.
“You’re gonna be fair,” Trump says. “Just be fair.”
“I’m going to be fair, but last time I remember you saying to me, ‘Bring it on,’” Stahl says.
“I’m not looking for that, I’m looking for fairness,” Trump says.
“You’re going to get fairness, but you’re OK with some tough questions,” Stahl says.
“No I’m not,” Trump says. “You don’t ask Biden tough questions.”
Trump often calls into Fox News shows for unscripted chats in which he is rarely challenged over his false or misleading claims. He has also sat down for several friendly interviews with Fox personalities during his tenure in the White House.
CBS condemned the White House for releasing the video ahead of schedule.
“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,” the network said in a statement.
“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.”
— With files from The Associated Press
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