According to a poll done in September, media distrust in the United States is at an all-time high. (Of course, polls also indicated that Hillary Clinton would be the president-elect) Yesterday, the New York Times, after some drama about a cancellation, interviewed Trump. They released the transcript today.
After an off-the-record portion, the Times went on the record. During the interview, laughter enveloped the room fifteen times. FIFTEEN.
The purportedly super liberal NY Times editors and reporters who are supposed to be investigating and evaluating policies and politicians, especially the one who is on his way to becoming the most powerful person in the world, managed to laugh with Trump fifteen times during a short interview with a man famous for his lack of a sense of humor. That means that the most important NY Times editors and reporters found Donald Trump funnier and more charming than Dumb and Dumber To, Zoolander 2, and all of the Hangover Sequels combined.
What was so funny? The first “[laughter]” notation came early, when NY Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said, “I thought maybe I’d start this off by asking if you have anything you would like to start this off with before we move to the easiest questions you’re going to get this administration.” It’s unclear if the joke was about the media’s lack of access to Trump to the media or the NY Times’ perceived bias and tough questions. Given that Trump skirted many of the questions and wasn’t asked about Russia influencing the election, why his “disavowal” of Neo-Nazis is so much less emphatic and detailed than his attacks on the gold star Khan family, or many other important things, it seems the joke is more on the American public than anyone else and explains the mistrust of the media.
Other things that cause a roomful of politicians and journalists to laugh? Trump disliking the electoral college until it propelled him to victory despite losing the popular vote by more than 2 million votes (and counting!). Trump helping the NY Times sell lots of newspapers. (Again, the joke is on us) Thomas Friedman being on Squawk Box. A reporter asking for an exclusive when Trump decides if he’ll formally separate himself from his businesses while running the most important country in the world. (Again, the joke is on us).
There was apparently a lot of laughter when Friedman asked a climate change question that included “You own some of the most beautiful links golf courses in the world…” Sigh. *It’s hard to imagine why Americans don’t trust the media* Ass kissing isn’t a surprise in a puff piece on a celebrity. But it’s pretty damn gross in political media coverage, especially after such a divisive, hate-filled campaign. And it’s apparently so common that the NY Times is fine with publishing this embarrassing transcript (perhaps the most embarrassing part occurred later when Friedman told Trump, “I came here thinking you’d be awed and overwhelmed by this job, but I feel like you are getting very comfortable with it” (notwithstanding the fact that Trump isn’t even in office yet, but, sure, he’s very comfortable with the job). If this is the on-the-record discussion, it’s nauseating to imagine what happened during the off-the-record discussion. Friedman also said, “I’d hate to see Royal Aberdeen underwater.” The only person at the NY Times who brought up climate change to the president-elect said he’d hate to see a golf course be ruined. Who cares about the people of the Maldives or Miami or other low-lying areas? What would be really tragic is if we lost a golf course.
Spoiler alert if you haven’t already read the transcript: there are almost zero relevant follow-up questions. Towards the end, for example, Trump replies to a question about a role for Jared Kusher, his son-in-law, with: “Oh. Maybe nothing. Because I don’t want to have people saying ‘conflict.’ Even though the president of the United States — I hope whoever is writing this story, it’s written fairly — the president of the United States is allowed to have whatever conflicts he wants — he or she wants. But I don’t want to go by that. Jared’s a very smart guy. He’s a very good guy. The people that know him, he’s a quality person and I think he can be very helpful. I would love to be able to be the one that made peace with Israel and the Palestinians. I would love that, that would be such a great achievement. Because nobody’s been able to do it.” (emphasis added). Rather than ask a follow up on the incredible claim that presidents can have whatever conflicts they want, the follow up question is: “Do you think he can be part of that?” I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. The president-elect says that he can do whatever he wants with his large, opaque business and large, opaque family and that he’d like to make peace with Israel and the Palestinians (good goal tbh) and the follow up is whether Trump thinks Kushner could be a part of “that”? (It’s unclear if the questioner, Maggie Habberman, was referring to the conflicts or the peace process, but who the fuck cares?) Ask about the conflicts! Ask about how he’d try to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians! Don’t do a followup on Kushner when Trump has already declined to say if he’ll have a formal role in the administration.
Anyway, 2016 has been a horrible year for celebrities (RIP Prince, David Bowie, the Saint Pablo Tour), goat curses (Go Cubs Go!), and journalism. But don’t worry, First Amendment, Trump says you’ll be okay BECAUSE SOMEONE TOLD HIM HE’D LIKELY BE SUED IF LIBEL LAWS WERE CHANGED (which he would have no authority to do as president despite his campaign promises): “Oh, I was hoping he wasn’t going to say that. I think you’ll be happy. I think you’ll be happy. Actually, somebody said to me on that, they said, ‘You know, it’s a great idea, softening up those laws, but you may get sued a lot more.’ I said, ‘You know, you’re right, I never thought about that.’ I said, ‘You know, I have to start thinking about that.’ So, I, I think you’ll be O.K. I think you’re going to be fine.”
Now, if we can only get someone to whisper in his ear that Baron and Tiffany might need Planned Parenthood so he shouldn’t defund it.