White House violated agreement with CBS by posting Trump and Pence interviews, network says

Alex Woodward
 (Donald Trump/Facebook)
(Donald Trump/Facebook)

CBS News denounced Donald Trump’s violation of an agreement with the network to withhold releasing footage from interviews with the president and Mike Pence after he repeatedly refused to answer questions from correspondent Lesley Stahl and accused the network of “bias, hatred and rudeness.”

“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.

In a 30-minute interview with Mr Trump, the president grew combative and restless with Ms Stahl, who calmly pressed him on several subjects while he accused her of not being “fair" before he abruptly ended the interview.

His preemptive airing of the interviews – which is set to air on 60 Minutes alongside interviews with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris– has sought to further undermine media scrutiny in the days leading up to Election Day on 3 November.

The interviews also were posted hours before Mr Trump and Mr Biden are set to appear in their final debate, moderated by another female journalist, NBC's Kristen Welker.

CBS said the White House and network agreed that it would be recorded for archival purposes.

“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 added.

In her separate 15-minute interview with Mr Pence, which the president also posted to Facebook on Thursday, the vice president refused to answer why Mr Trump left the interview and whether he believes it's safe to send children back to school or have families congregate during Thanksgiving amid growing infections during the pandemic.

Following the interview, she told Mr Pence: "You didn't answer any of my questions. You just gave speeches."

“This was not a rally," she said. "This was supposed to be an interview, and the same with the president. I feel that you both have insulted 60 Minutes and me by not answering many of our questions and by giving set campaign speeches that we've heard both of you give at rallies without answering our questions.”

“There is this anticipation that people in power are held accountable and they answer questions for the public, not for me," she added. "And I feel that we didn’t do that.”

Before he ended his interview, Mr Trump chafed at Ms Stahl’s questions about the economy, the public health crisis, mask guidance and threats against his political opponents.

“You brought up a lot of subjects that were inappropriately brought up … right from the beginning,” he told Ms Stahl. “Your first statement to me, ‘This is going to be tough questions.' … That’s no way to talk."

Ms Stahl replied: “You’re the president. Don’t you think you should be accountable to the American people?”

Mr Trump said “I think we have enough” before abruptly leaving the interview.

In her interview with Mr Pence, which followed, she asked him: “So what just happened with the president?”

“President Trump is a man who speaks his mind,” he said. “I think it’s one of the great strengths that he’s had as president.”

The president also was challenged about his promise to reveal a healthcare plan in the event he dismantles the Affordable Care Act, although he has not unveiled any such plans. “We will come up with a plan,” he said in the interview.

“I hope that they end it,” he said of the US Supreme Court’s looming decision to review the law that his administration aims to overturn. He said the administration will reveal a plan following a court decision.

“It will be so good if they end it,” he said.

He said “people with pre-existing conditions will always be protected” but could not provide an answer when Ms Stahl asked several times how he intends to do so.

At one point, Ms Stahl reminded Mr Trump that he once told her he attempts to discredit members of the media so people don’t believe them.

“I don’t have to discredit you, you’ve discredited yourself,” he said.

After the president brought up his allegations against his opponent and son Hunter Biden, Ms Stahl pressed him about the legitimacy of recent reporting about the contents of a recovered laptop that allegedly belonged to Hunter, claims promoted by Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon.

“I don’t know anything about that, I just know it’s a laptop,” Mr Trump said. “I don’t know about the two gentlemen you mentioned.”

Journalists on social media defended Ms Stahl’s line of questioning.

“I don’t see bias, hatred or rudeness from Lesley Stahl, I see a dogged [and] polite journalist trying to get answers about the pandemic, unemployment, and other issues and a president determined to deny reality,” said CNN’s Jake Tapper.

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