41 F
Fort Worth
Thursday, October 29, 2020
Entertainment For grateful NBC, Guthrie’s grilling of Trump changes the subject

For grateful NBC, Guthrie’s grilling of Trump changes the subject

Other News

NBC’s Welker sharp in first turn as debate moderator

By DAVID BAUDER AP Media Writer NEW YORK (AP) — Moderator Kristen Welker — with the help of an...

Trump posts unedited ’60 Minutes’ interview before it airs

By DAVID BAUDER and JILL COLVIN The Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump posted full, unedited...

Viewers’ Guide: After chaotic debate, Trump, Biden try again

By MICHELLE L. PRICE Associated Press After meeting last month in perhaps the most chaotic debate in modern history,...

Debate countdown: Trump holds rally, Biden hunkers down

By ZEKE MILLER, WILL WEISSERT and JONATHAN LEMIRE Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump shunned formal debate...

By DAVID BAUDER AP Media Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Savannah Guthrie did more than just display her journalistic chops at NBC News’ town hall with President Donald Trump. She changed the subject for her bosses.

NBC was reeling heading into Thursday’s event, under widespread criticism for scheduling it at the same time as ABC’s town hall with Democratic opponent Joe Biden. NBC was accused of rewarding Trump for rejecting the debate commission’s plan to do the second debate virtually.

That was quickly forgotten when the president sat opposite Guthrie, who questioned him specifically on when he last tested positive for COVID-19 (he said he didn’t remember), whether he had pneumonia (didn’t say) and his personal finances.

The Georgetown Law School graduate had clearly done her homework, seemingly prepared for each response. When the president recited a statistic from a study on the effectiveness of masks in spreading COVID-19, Guthrie had read it, too, and countered him.

As host of the “Today” show, Guthrie knows the importance of time and how to stop an interview subject from filibustering. That background also teaches how to crystallize what an audience is thinking in a plain-spoken way, as evidenced in her most-quoted moment.

She was incredulous when, after asking why Trump had retweeted a false conspiracy theory that American special forces didn’t really kill Osama bin Laden, he said that he “just put it out there” to let people decide for themselves.

“I don’t get that,” Guthrie said. “You’re the president. You’re not like you’re somebody’s crazy uncle who can just retweet anything.”

Similarly, Guthrie described the theory promoted online by QAnon that Democrats are running a satanic pedophile ring and that Trump was the savior meant to stop them, and asked why he didn’t denounce it. Trump said he knew nothing about it.

“I just told you,” she said.

Just because she says something doesn’t mean it’s true, the president retorted.

“There’s not a satanic pedophile cult,” she said. “You don’t know that?”

Trump is “hands down” the most difficult public figure to interview, said Axios reporter Jonathan Swan, who with Fox News’ Chris Wallace and now Guthrie have received the most praise of any TV journalists to take him on this election cycle.

“The biggest challenge with President Trump is that it’s never a linear conversation,” Swan said. “It’s like riding a bronco. The crafting of the questions doesn’t really matter because he responds to topics.”

It requires enormous homework, both to know the facts and anticipate how Trump will respond, he said. Even then, it’s possible to become so absorbed in fact-checking that it disrupts the flow of conversation, he said.

When Guthrie asked Trump about his personal finances and taxes, the president tried to cut off the conversation by saying what he has since 2016, that he couldn’t talk about it because he was under audit. Guthrie said there was no law that prevented someone being audited from discussing his taxes, and pressed on: “Who do you owe $421 million to?” she asked.

She jumped in when, during a discussion about White House events where masks were not worn, the president mentioned how he was touched by people at a reception for relatives of military members killed in service.

“Do you believe a grieving military family gave you COVID,” she asked.

She took an unusual amount of time for head-to-head questioning, given that the format called for questions from the audience to dominate the event. She followed up audience questions, too: When Trump talked about health care and maintaining protection for preexisting conditions, Guthrie pointed out that his administration was trying in court to eliminate that.

One look online provided an illustration of Guthrie’s effectiveness. Words like “condescending,” “badgering,” “argumentative” and “bully” were used on social media by supporters of the president. Memes popped up with Guthrie’s face made to seem like a vampire or devil.

“Why does anyone take Savannah Guthrie seriously?” tweeted conservative talk show host Buck Sexton. “She was clownish and shrill last night. Just awful.”

Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for Trump’s campaign, said even though the commission-sponsored debate was canceled on Thursday, “one occurred anyway.” He said Guthrie played the role of debate opponent and Biden surrogate.

Yet in declaring Guthrie one of the winners in Thursday’s night of politics on television, the Vox website said her quick line of questioning, pushbacks and fact checks “probably made the White House wish they had just done the debate.”

Besides giving NBC News executives a reprieve from dealing with online critics’ call for a boycott, Guthrie helped restore the honor of the “Today” show. Her former partner, Matt Lauer, received wide criticism in 2016 for his questioning during back-to-back interviews with Trump and Hillary Clinton.

NBC News said it wouldn’t make Guthrie or network executives available to speak about the performance on Friday.

More than anyone, Axios’ Swan understands the high stakes involved when interviewing Trump.

“There’s no question, because the scrutiny of every interview he does is so intense, that you can do enormous damage to yourself if you’re not well-prepared,” he said.

Latest News

Fort Worth Film Commission & Lone Star Film Festival panels and film talks

Lone Star Film Festival (LSFF) and the Fort Worth Film Commission (FWFC) announce eight virtual panels and eight...

Corsicana-born outlaw country artist Billy Joe Shaver dead at 81

By KRISTIN M. HALL AP Entertainment WriterNASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Outlaw country singer songwriter Billy Joe Shaver, who wrote songs like "Honky...

Election 2020: landslide for documentaries

By JAKE COYLE AP Film Writer Election 2020 has unleashed an avalanche of documentaries like no season before it.

Theatre Wesleyan presents Portraits In Black

Portraits In Black, a collection of scenes and monologues on the Black experience by Gus Edwards, will conclude...

Dickies partners with artist on ‘Vote’ mural

Fort Worth-based workwear brand Dickies, a longtime member of the Near Southside, is supporting the local ARTober initiative by partnering with local artist Mariell...