Kristen Welker’s Trump Interview Is a ‘Red Flag’ for Her Tenure – but the Problem Goes Beyond ‘Meet The Press’ | Analysis

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Kristen Welker received a cacophony of criticism for the execution of her “Meet the Press” debut interview with former President Donald Trump. But media analysts say while the interview was a failure for Welker, it also doesn’t bode well for future media coverage of Trump as he runs for president once again.

The interview on Sunday morning was full of lies from the former president, which was anticipated. What was surprising to many was the lack of effort by Welker and NBC to effectively fact-check Trump and his egregious attempts to avoid the truth, something experts say needs to be rectified to avoid media mistakes from coverage of Trump’s run for president in 2016.

“It’s not even that they’re making the same mistakes as the 2016 election,” Media Matters for America news director John Whitehouse told TheWrap. “It’s that they don’t even seem to have understood that the 2016 election happened and what we could have learned from that. It’s just bizarre.”

Whitehouse said he was “incredibly disappointed” by the execution of the interview. “Sunday shows have been on a slow decline for a number of years in terms of their influence,” Whitehouse continued. “This was just like a new low.”

Press Watch editor Dan Froomkin told TheWrap, “There’s absolutely no point in interviewing Donald Trump unless you’re going to confront him with his lies and hold him accountable for all the things he has said that are not true. The alternative is just to have him on and have him lie all the time, which is not exactly a service to the public.”

An NBC representative declined to comment for this article.

What “Meet the Press” could’ve done

During the airing on Sunday, Welker provided fact-checks throughout the show to combat Trump’s aversion to the truth. NBC additionally published an online fact-check which featured 11 lies debunked, including “Was the 2020 election ‘rigged,’ ‘so rigged’ and ‘crooked?’” and “Did the U.S. give $85 billion worth of equipment to the Taliban?”

But media analysts told TheWrap that the efforts to mitigate Trump’s misinformation by NBC weren’t nearly enough.

“At the very least they should have stopped rolling the tape every time he said something that wasn’t true and rebutted it with facts or put it in the proper context,” suggested Froomkin. “Because what’s the value of letting him just go on and on?”

Welker “let him filibuster and fill up this amazing amount of time just saying thing after thing that wasn’t true,” the Press Watch editor said.

Trump’s interview on “Meet the Press” reminded many of CNN’s controversial town hall with the former president, which led to the dramatic ouster of the network’s CEO Chris Licht in June. But NBC learned one lesson: opting to prerecord the interview, something CNN was repeatedly slammed for not doing after their live town hall.

“No single question with Donald Trump is going to be the silver bullet.”

Dan Froomkin

The Media Matters news director expected more from a prerecorded format because it offers additional opportunities to contextualize the former president’s lies, “but there was none of that,” Whitehouse said. He was “bewildered” that CNN’s Kaitlan Collins did much more to fact-check Trump in real-time, while Welker simply tried to “keep it on track.”

“She wanted to have this particular interview with these particular things and was just dumbfounded that Trump would ramble over her when that is his entire brand,” Whitehouse said.

Whitehouse likened Welker’s lack of Trump challenges to what “you would see on any given day in right-wing media.”

If Trump says that the election is rigged, which he always does, Froomkin says a response should already be prepared.

Donald Trump (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Donald Trump (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“The response is, there was zero evidence, not one shred of evidence that the election was rigged,” Froomkin continued. “So do you have secret evidence? Or if you don’t have any evidence, then why do you keep saying this thing, which you must know is a lie? What’s the point of having Trump on if you aren’t prepared to ask him that question?”

“No single question with Donald Trump is going to be the silver bullet,” asserted Froomkin. “You have to keep telling him that he didn’t answer the question. Then when he lies, you have to argue and tell him what he lied about.”

Why take the Trump risk?

Media analysts also questioned NBC’s motive for hosting a Trump interview of this nature, which was timed to Welker’s debut at “Meet the Press” host as she took over for Chuck Todd. “Maybe they think it’s better television but for who?” Whitehouse said.

Froomkin speculated that NBC hosted this interview to “boost up their ratings and the excitement about Welker,” while making a concerted effort “not to be argumentative or provocative to such an extent that he would not be willing to be interviewed by them again,” the Press Watch editor said. “Which is a pretty lousy reason to interview the guy.”

But Whitehouse stressed that viewers are going to return to a program or its specific host for “the rigor that you put into the work and how good you are at doing it.”

Should this worry those who were hoping for a fresh start with Welker hosting “Meet the Press?”

CNN’s Oliver Darcy says yes, writing in his Reliable Sources newsletter that the “Welker era of ‘Meet the Press’ is off to a bleak start.”

“When there’s a new host that comes in, you’re always hopeful that it’s going to take the show to bigger and better things,” said Whitehouse. “And to see the exact opposite of that. Instead of a roadmap to relevance, it was a roadmap away from it.”

Whitehouse views the Trump interview and subsequent segments as a “red flag,” for Welker’s tenure as host of the news program, adding that the network seemed to be in “denial” over “how bad it was.”

“I think it’s a bad sign to me that the first episode continued in the recent history of ‘Meet the Press,’” assessed Whitehouse, comparing Welker’s debut negatively to Todd’s run.

“It bodes very ill for her,” Froomkin said of Welker. “The problem historically with ‘Meet the Press’ has been that the host will ask a tough question and then doesn’t follow up. It really becomes a tremendous platform for people like Dick Cheney and Donald Trump to just go out there and lie.”

Beyond “Meet the Press”

But ultimately, analysts agree that this is a much bigger issue than just “Meet the Press.”

“This is absolutely a problem beyond Kristen Welker and it certainly is a problem for NBC management,” the Press Watch editor said. Froomkin believes NBC has proved that they are “not ready to take on the challenge” of interviewing the former president, who faces multiple indictments during his run for president.

“There is a power dynamic at work here. To get an interview with Trump, if you’re CBS, ABC, or CNN, you have to beg the guy to talk to you. You’re sort of beholden to him,” Froomkin said. “It’s very hard to imagine broadcast news getting Donald Trump to sit down for an interview where he knows he’s not going to be able to get away with stuff.”

“But when he’s going on your network and lying, if you’re not opposing him with the truth, you’re doing a terrible disservice to your audience,” the Press Watch editor continued.

“As for broadcast news in general, one can still hope that somebody at some point will confront him the way he needs to be confronted,” Froomkin told TheWrap.

The post Kristen Welker’s Trump Interview Is a ‘Red Flag’ for Her Tenure – but the Problem Goes Beyond ‘Meet The Press’ | Analysis appeared first on TheWrap.