What was the challenging stretch of the interview?
“This is called our lightning round, here,” Hannity continued. “Um, I’m just going to throw out a name, whatever comes to your mind.”
Hannity started with former vice president Joe Biden (“He’s sleepy”) and continued to Biden’s son Hunter Biden, a target of conservative attacks as part of the effort to reframe the impeachment inquiry of the president. Trump had 13 words to say about his potential 2020 opponent and 75 words to say about his son.
Fox News would later package Trump’s responses about the 2020 Democrats into a segment that ran on the Monday morning edition of “Fox & Friends.” The on-screen text read, “Trump calls out 2020 Dems in game day interview” — as though that hadn’t been teed up for him by Fox News’s own employee.
Teed up and then cheered on.
HANNITY: You’ve got the Democrats, they’re vying to go up against you in 275 days. Is it one candidate running more than another that you’d like to take on?TRUMP: I have to sit back and watch …HANNITY: Doesn’t matter to you?TRUMP: I mean I’m watching and I have little nicknames for all of them.HANNITY: I’m sure they love your nicknames
His last question was why Trump loved sports.
Hannity endorsed Trump in 2016. The announcement that he and not one of the network’s actual journalists would conduct the traditional Super Bowl Sunday interview with the president was offered with a near-audible sigh, the resigned relaxation of an entity that no longer has the energy to keep up the facade. But at least that was it, skeptical network executives may have felt, should any exist. At least it could move on from the Hannity-Trump interview — which aired hours before the Super Bowl — and just focus on the game. No more carrying water for the president.
Until Trump, shortly after the game, tweeted his congratulations to the victorious Kansas City Chiefs and the team’s home state of Kansas.
As you have probably heard, in case you didn’t know previously, the Chiefs play in Kansas City, Mo., the larger of the two cities that share that name. When you hear a reference to Kansas City in popular culture, it is almost always the Missouri version of the city that is the subject.
This may be something to which most Americans don’t pay much attention on a day-to-day basis, but knowing the location of major cities in the United States is sort of a low bar for the country’s president to hit. Or, at least, having some process in place to ensure that uncertainty about such subjects doesn’t seep out into public awareness. Trump either didn’t know where Kansas City was or didn’t have a process in place to catch a mistake in a late-night tweet or both.
This is not really a big deal. Presidents make little gaffes all the time. But Trump is not most presidents. Trump broadly refuses to admit when he has made a mistake, regardless of the situation, and a way to get into his good graces has been to stand with him in defending whatever claims he’s making. When Trump falsely claimed that Hurricane Dorian was bearing down on Alabama last summer, he refused to admit his mistake, forcing government agencies to offer indirect defenses of the assertion. His proxies on cable news, however, rose to his defense eagerly, using the moment as a way both to demonstrate fealty and to disparage the news media, which insisted on conveying reality to the country.
Trump’s “Kansas City” tweet was little different. Consider Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and husband of Mercedes Schlapp, who works in the White House.
Dear East coast establishment: Kansas City, Kansas is in Kansas.— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) February 3, 2020
Game, set and match. Matt Schlapp’s last foray into the public eye came last week, when he pronounced that Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) would not be invited to this year’s pro-Trump Conservative Political Action Conference (run by Schlapp’s group) because he voted to allow witness testimony in the impeachment trial of Trump.
Had Trump been a Democrat, it is extremely safe to assume that Schlapp’s response to the “Kansas City” comment would have been different. When Schlapp’s ally mistakes the team’s location, Schlapp waves it away as the media being biased against Trump in pointing out the mistake. Had it been a Democratic president from New York City who made the mistake in a tweet? It is safe to assume that Schlapp’s response would not have been as charitably misleading as the one above.
Remember when President Barack Obama misspoke during the 2008 presidential campaign and said he’d visited 57 states during his campaign, it became evidence to his critics of his deep-seated ignorance about the United States. Over the next 11 years, the gaffe was mentioned 77 times on Fox News, including nine times after Obama wasn’t even president anymore. It came up with regularity on CNN, too — generally because of pro-Trump or Republican pundits.
So how did Fox News deal with a similar gaffe from the president that the network’s coverage and opinion commentators generally support?
It showed Trump’s corrected tweet in which he congratulated Missourians. “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy then noted that it was Trump’s second tweet on the subject.
“Earlier, apparently, he had sent out a tweet that said congratulations to the people of Kansas. Kansas City is in Kansas and it is also in Missouri,” Doocy explained. “It’s like the difference between the New York Giants — I mean, the Giants are — people call them the New York Giants, but they’re in New Jersey.”
And Trump thought he got a lot of mulligans playing in the friendly confines of a Trump Organization golf course.