It might be unreasonable to expect a daughter to throw tough questions at her father in an interview. But let's not pretend that a teary-eyed, kiss-on-the-forehead conversation is something it's not.
Fox News host Abby Huntsman interviewed her dad, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr., for a two-part piece that aired Friday on “Fox & Friends.” The segments were genuinely sweet, and opened a window to the personal side of a top diplomat's life of globe-trotting public service.
Abby Huntsman's mother, Mary Kaye Huntsman, joined the second segment and talked about her decades-long commitment to supporting Jon Huntsman's work around the world.
“The night before Dad asked me to marry him,” Mary Kaye Huntsman recalled, “he said, 'I hope you're ready for an exciting life.' . . . So when this job came up, I really didn't even bat an eye.”
The chat ended with a family embrace and a peck from Jon Huntsman to Abby Huntsman. It was the kind of feel-good moment for which morning television was invented.
“Fox & Friends” billed it as something more, however — an “exclusive” sit-down with the ambassador, as if scoring the interview were some kind of accomplishment.
After the first, pretaped segment concluded, Abby suggested to viewers that they had just witnessed a serious talk.
“The producers in my ear were like, 'Why are you grilling your dad?' Kind of laughing about it,” Abby said. “This was like our dinner conversation growing up every single night. He would come home from work, and I would have about 20 questions that I wanted my dad to answer for me,” Abby continued, chopping her hand up and down to emphasize her doggedness. “And that was just shown on camera.”
Come on, now. These were the questions posed during the Huntsmans' one-on-one:
- Let’s start with the question you get all the time: Why do you want to do this? It’s not an easy role.
- Russia is so politically divisive; you know that. How do you rise above that and focus on the issues at hand?
- You’ve had meetings with the president, with [Secretary of State] Rex Tillerson, with [Defense Secretary] Jim Mattis. Are you all on the same page?
- Someone you won't always be on the same page with is Russian President Vladimir Putin. Talk about the morale in Russia right now because over 700 employees have now been sent home, punished by the Russians.
- What’s going to be your greatest challenge?
- I love what you say about our military and my brothers. They’re serving this country. And they’re proud to do so. Do you worry where the country is right now that we are losing that sense of service?
- All right, I’m going to put you on the spot now: You speak good Mandarin; we know that. How is your Russian coming? Both of the toughest languages you could probably ever try to learn.
Abby Huntsman did not ask how, or whether, her dad plans to confront his counterparts in Moscow about Russian-funded Facebook ads that appeared online during the last election cycle — a major, current news story.
She made only the most oblique of references to this week's reports of serious tension between Tillerson and President Trump. When her father gave the most generic of answers, saying Trump and Tillerson are “problem solvers” who “understand the realities inherent in a difficult U.S.-Russia relationship,” Abby Huntsman let him off the hook and did not follow up.
And she essentially dismissed congressional and law enforcement investigations of Russian election meddling — and possible involvement by the Trump campaign — as “politically divisive” distractions that her father must “rise above” so that he can “focus on the issues at hand.”
This was not a “grilling.” Not even close. That's not necessarily a problem, on its face. Let's just be real about what it was.