“Fox & Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt pronounced her journalistic credo to Elle magazine: “All I really worry about is my little world,” she said. “I do want everyone to be happy and safe.” Especially folks in the Trump White House, as she has shown in her very safe interviews with them.
This being 2018, it was Earhardt sitting just outside the White House with President Trump on Thursday morning. It was an opportunity to grill him on the events of Aug. 21, when Paul Manafort, a former campaign aide, was found guilty of tax and bank fraud charges and Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to tax and campaign finance violations. Though these events may not have been as consequential as some media outlets portrayed them on Tuesday, they’re still a big deal.
The best that can be said of Earhardt’s performance is that she asked questions, some of them real. Some not:
EARHARDT: What grade do you give yourself so far?
TRUMP: So I give myself an A plus. I don’t think any president has ever done what I’ve done in this short — we haven’t even been two years, biggest tax cuts in history. Soon to be two unbelievable Supreme Court justices.
After Trump complained that Cohen had pleaded guilty to charges of campaign finance violations that weren’t even crimes, Earhardt asked why. A smart president might have responded, “I don’t know — you’d have to ask him about that.” A dumb president, however, runs his mouth:
Because he — because he makes a better deal when he uses me. Like everybody else. And one of the reasons I respect Paul Manafort so much is he went through that trial — you know they make up stories. People make up stories. This whole thing about flipping, they call it, I know all about flipping. For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they — they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go.
It — it almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair. Because if somebody’s going to give — spend five years like Michael Cohen or 10 years or 15 years in jail because of a taxi cab industry, because he defrauded some bank — the last two were the tiny ones. You know, campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly. But if somebody defrauded a bank and he’s going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made.
In all fairness to him, most people are going to do that, and I’ve seen it many times. I’ve had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal.
You get 10 years in jail, but if you say bad things about somebody — in other words, make up stories if you don’t know. Make up they just make up lies. … They make up lies. I’ve seen it many times.
They make up things and now they go from 10 years to they’re a national hero. They have a statue erected in their honor. It’s not a fair thing, but that’s why he did it.
Bolding added to highlight a stunning statement by the president: attacking a staple of criminal proceedings in which prosecutors collect evidence needed to convict drug kingpins, mob bosses and other high-level felons. That’s news — news that the president made all on his own, with only the slightest of provocation.
Elsewhere, Trump told Earhardt that he learned about hush payments to women “later on” — a statement that contradicted a tape recording of Trump discussing a payment with Cohen before it was issued. That quote — which Fox News publicized Wednesday ahead of the interview’s airing — prompted a question at that day’s White House briefing, to which press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded, “Once again, I’ve commented on this pretty extensively. What I can tell you about this is that the president did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him. There is no collusion for anything beyond that. I would refer you to the president’s outside counsel.”
CNN, MSNBC and other outlets are feasting on Earhardt’s interview with the president, analyzing the comments about flipping, about impeachment and about his knowledge of the hush money. The headline bounty is proof that Trump is either too clueless or too reckless to understand the implications of his own words. Another possibility is that he wants to see his interview with his old pals at “Fox & Friends” to do well in the ratings.
Whatever the case, his interviewer needs only to place topics before him, and let the tape roll.