By Stephen Battaglio
Los Angeles Times
President Donald Trump made good on his threat to release his own tape of his “60 Minutes” interview with Lesley Stahl.
The White House on Thursday leaked an unedited tape of Trump’s talk with Stahl conducted at the White House two days ago. The conversation ended earlier than planned after Trump grew impatient with the CBS News correspondent’s persistent questions and follow-ups.
The White House taped the entire interview using its own camera for what it called “archival purposes.” But an agitated Trump threatened to have the interview released before the scheduled broadcast on Sunday to back up his claims that Stahl was unfair to him.
On Twitter, Trump described the interview as a “vicious attempted takeout” and continued to complain in the post of the video on his official Facebook page.
“Look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS,” Trump wrote.
Trump also took a shot at NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker in his Facebook post. Welker is the moderator of Thursday night’s final presidential debate between Trump and his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Tonight’s anchor, Kristen Welker, is far worse!” the president wrote.
CBS News issued a statement saying the actions of the White House would not alter its plans to air the interview on Sunday’s “60 Minutes” alongside a conversation with Biden. “60 Minutes” is typically the most-watched non-sports prime-time program of the week.
“The White House’s unprecedented decision to disregard their agreement with CBS News and release their footage will not deter ’60 Minutes’ from providing its full, fair and contextual reporting which presidents have participated in for decades,” the news division said in a statement. “60 Minutes, the most-watched news program on television, is widely respected for bringing its hallmark fairness, deep reporting and informative context to viewers each week. Few journalists have the presidential interview experience Lesley Stahl has delivered over her decades as one of the premier correspondents in America and we look forward to audiences seeing her third interview with President Trump and subsequent interview with Vice President Pence this weekend.”
In the 37-minute video of the interview, Trump delivers his standard campaign bromides on how he’s guided the greatest economy in American history until the coronavirus pandemic hit, his grievances against the media, and accusations of corruption against Biden over his son Hunter’s work for a Ukrainian energy company while Biden was vice president.
The president and Stahl tangle over his economic claims, the size of his rallies during the 2020 campaign, and Trump’s shifting stances on the use of face masks during the pandemic. Stahl also presses Trump for details on his administration’s healthcare plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, which he has promised since taking office, and pushes back on his campaign’s allegations against Biden.
“For you, nothing I say would be any good, Lesley,” Trump says half an hour into the conversation. He also complains about her opening line of their conversation, when she asks the president if he is “ready for some tough questions.”
While the interview is combative, it is no more contentious than other sit-downs Trump has done with journalists outside of the friendly confines of the opinion programs on Fox News.
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