Piers Morgan’s interview with Donald Trump brought little to the table. The pressing questions one might expect from Trump’s first international TV interview were so soft they hardly left an imprint; opportunities to pull newsworthy opinions from the controversialist were stopped before they got interesting (try to find a report on Trump’s ‘I’m not a feminist’ statement which offers more than just a headline).
As Morgan made sure to remind us, Trump is currently the most sought-after interviewee there is. What an opportunity: to be able to sit down, if only for one moment, to ask only one question of the President of the United States. The ideal interview would squeeze as much information in as possible. Surely there would be a question about the Russian Inquiry? Possibly, the interview might touch upon the President’s controversial business life, or delve into the tricky world of the 1980s and Trump’s Atlantic City Casinos.
It was clear that this interview would not be the slamming we might deserve to see. Morgan’s reminder that an interview with Trump is so hard to score was not intended to highlight the significance of this TV event, but was designed as more of a boast: look who I know.
A Radio Times poll indicates that 88% of viewers felt this way: that the interview was one conducted by a sycophant.
‘both interviewers, frost and morgan, had interviewed the most controversial american politician of their time.’
The comparison that most drew from the hashtag #TrumpMorgan was that Piers Morgan (and presumably ITV) had hoped to broadcast this interview in the shadow of the Frost/Nixon interviews of the late 1970s, re-popularised by the 2009 film Frost/Nixon.
Perhaps unintentional, but the way Piers Morgan frames his interview reminds us how devastating a role television, or any emerging technology, can play in constructing (or deconstructing) a politician’s reputation: in Trump’s case this would be Twitter, compared to Nixon’s television appearances.
The similarities are certainly strong; both interviewers, Frost and Morgan, had interviewed the most controversial American politician of their time. Nixon had been living in public disgrace following his involvement in and coverup of the Watergate Scandal, for which he was pardoned, facing no charge. Trump seems to amass an equal amount of controversy with every Tweet.
Of course, we know Morgan’s opportunity to interview Trump came about owing their long-standing relationship; this also let us know how the interview would inevitably pan out. Frost’s opportunity, however, came about after he paid Nixon for a series of exclusive interviews.
The 70s television presenter, known for hosting celebrity talk shows, found no support or faith from any broadcasting companies; the outcome was sure to be weak and pandering. Yet, Frost managed to pull not only a public confession from the former US President, but most famously, an apology too. It became the most viewed news story of its time, and Nixon’s words ended his political career on the moment of broadcast: “I let down our system of government: dreams of all those young people that oughta get into government but will think it’s all too corrupt, and the rest.”
Nixon’s presidency seems to be defined by television, or at least framed by it. His political career ended with his resignation as President, but it was his TV interview with Frost which acted as the nail in the coffin, ensuring he would never live down the scandal.
‘frost managed to pull not only a public confession from the former us president, but most famously, an apology too.’
His first presidential campaign, in 1960, occurred during a time of great change in media consumption. Many American households now had a television set installed. The candidate was to debate against John F. Kennedy in America’s first televised debate. Nixon’s aides failed to recognise the conditions of a television set. The heat from the focused lighting caused Nixon to sweat, easily mistaken as nervousness and panic; the close-up technique captured every uncomfortable gesture, facial movement, and infamously, the candidate’s wiping the sweat off his upper lip. Kennedy, confident and likeable, had a natural screen presence.
Allegedly, those who watched the broadcast believed Kennedy had won the debate against an uncomfortable Nixon; those who only heard it on radio had believed Nixon to be the winner.
This debate is often cited as costing the presidency for Nixon. Contrarily, Trump’s online presence, despite garnering lots of negative attention, doesn’t seem to cost him anything. By this I mean the negative press he brought about himself evidently didn’t hinder his campaign enough, and even now, as the President crops up in memes and explosive investigative journalistic pieces, he carries on about his business.
Morgan’s interview did not, most frustratingly, right any wrongs or squeeze a much-needed apology; even with his cards on the table, Morgan could not pull an apology from Trump for his Britain First Retweet.
The interview did not win Trump any affection, nor did it cost him any; it reaffirmed what we knew.
‘even with his cards on the table, morgan could not pull not pull apology from trump for his britain first retweet.’
The interview lacked any consequence. Even a week after it aired, no one seemed to be talking about it. Trump has posted Tweets which have had a longer lasting impact. Perhaps it is because Donald Trump expresses his unrequested opinions daily that the first international TV interview with the most controversial politician on the planet should leave no impact.