Not too long ago, Donald Trump mocked those broadcast outlets that deigned to do phoner interviews with him. “It’s always good when they take you by phone, that means you’re hot! You know, if you can do it by phone, when you start getting asked — I say, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t be able to do it, I’m on a plane, I’m going to North Carolina’ — “How about by phone?’” said Trump at a rally in North Carolina. “They don’t do phones, right? You ever see anybody call in to Bill O’Reilly? … We do phoners to “Meet the Press,” we do phoners to “Face the Nation,” “This Week”! It’s so much easier, folks!”
Following that blast, the Erik Wemple Blog checked around with a few outlets to see whether they’d change their policies, given that Trump had essentially chided them for allowing him to get away with phoning it in. CBS News, home of “Face the Nation,” responded with this statement from spokeswoman Caitlin Conant: “We always want to do interviews in person, but we always want to be on the news, too. We try to find a way to do both. We’ve done 11 interviews with Trump this year, and two of them were over the phone. When determining whether or not to do a phone interview, John Dickerson asks whether or not the news warrants that questions be asked at that time.”
Seems a similar policy holds sway with Bill O’Reilly, who last night did phone interviews with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the immediate aftermath of the horrific truck attack in Nice, France. Both call-ins were quite good. Via questioning from the King of Cable News, Trump showed, again, that he has no ideas or insights, merely hollowed-out machoism. Asked whether he’d seek a declaration of war from Congress, Trump responded, “I would. I would. This is war.” He went on to talk about letting people into the country, criticizing President Obama for not using the term “radical Islamic terror” and so on.
When O’Reilly mentioned the war declaration to Clinton, she initially made some mushy comments about alliances and the like — the stuff you might expect to hear from a former secretary of state. As the interview wore on, though, she came up with some specifics. Citing the need for an international “intelligence surge,” she said:
Well, I’ll tell you in part because there has been a reluctance on the part of some of our friends in Europe to be as forthcoming in sharing information. For example, like airline passenger lists. I negotiated very hard with the Europeans to get much more information. We’ve gotten some. I’ve give them that. But we don’t yet have enough. In fact, in Europe, one of their problems has been — and they’d better address this, and it affects us too.
They don’t share enough information even across their borders. So I think that we need strong, tough diplomacy starting with our friends to do on a bilateral basis with individual countries, collectively with the EU, with NATO and others, to do everything we need to be prepared to work with each other to ferret out these terrorists and to prevent future attacks.
Quite a contrast emerged over the two phoners: In the first, O’Reilly and Trump appeared to be taking turns beating their chests; in the second, the Fox News host appeared to be learning new things from the former secretary of state. On the cross-border intelligence crisis, O’Reilly even said to Clinton, “I didn’t know that.” Those are four words that are rarely said to Donald Trump.
Note to Clinton campaign: Do more Fox News.
Gray-bearders frown on phoner TV interviews because, well — for the very same reasons that Trump cited to his followers in North Carolina: They’re easy for the candidate, they hide important facial and body language from viewers, and so on. Whatever. As O’Reilly showed, they convey information and they’re on the record. Do ’em.