Mehdi Hasan’s tenacious interview with GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, which featured the MSNBC host relentlessly grilling the biotech entrepreneur on Wednesday about his past criticism of former President Donald Trump, has been widely hailed as a “masterclass” by journalists and media critics.
The praise for the unapologetically progressive Hasan has also spanned across the political spectrum, with even some conservatives openly calling for right-wing media to take notes and follow his lead.
During a marathon 25-minute sitdown with Ramaswamy that aired on NBC’s streaming service Peacock, Hasan held the 38-year-old multi-millionaire’s feet to the fire throughout, rarely giving the “anti-woke” culture warrior a chance to deflect and dodge when confronted over his past comments and behavior.
While Hasan pressed Ramaswamy on his “classic pump-and-dump scheme” related to an Alzheimer’s drug that failed clinical trials and the presidential hopeful’s flirtations with 9/11 conspiracies, it was on the subject of Trump and the Jan. 6 insurrection where the interview grew most heated.
"I want you to answer my question. Three times I've asked it. What did Donald Trump do that was 'downright abhorrent'? It's your words."
I asked @VivekGRamaswamy about his old tweets & writings, him criticizing Trump, and it got a little heated.
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) September 6, 2023
“Is Donald Trump, as you say now, the best president of the 21st century?” Hasan wondered. “Or is Trump, as you’ve said in the past, in your books, on Twitter, a ‘sore loser’ who is a ‘danger to democracy’ and who did ‘downright abhorrent' and ‘egregious things on January 6’? Which one is he, Vivek?” (Six days after the Capitol riots, Ramaswamy tweeted: “What Trump did last week was wrong. Downright abhorrent. Plain and simple. I’ve said it before and did so in my piece.”)
The candidate, who currently sits in third place in GOP primary polls, reiterated that he still believes Trump was the best president of this century while asserting he “would have made the same judgments” that Trump made “every step of the way.” The MSNBC host, however, continued to press the matter.
In an attempt to pivot, Ramaswamy pointed to a Wall Street Journal op-ed he wrote claiming “censorship was the real cause of what happened on January 6,” prompting Hasan to ask him for a second time what Trump did that he’d consider “downright abhorrent.”
“The thing that I would have done differently if I were in his shoes, I would have declared re-election on January 7,” Ramaswamy answered, repeating his previously derided position on certifying the 2020 election results.
The outspoken MSNBC host wouldn’t back down, though, repeatedly pressuring Ramaswamy to “explain to our viewers your words” on what actions Trump took that were egregious. “It’s a simple question. It’s your words, it’s onscreen. What did he do that was downright abhorrent?” Hasan directly asked.
“I believe that failing to unite this country falls short of what a true leader ought to do,” Ramaswamy finally said, still avoiding fully answering the question. “That is why I am in this race, to do things differently than any prior president has done them.”
After the video of the exchange went viral on social media, a number of reporters, media observers, and other prominent figures heaped praise on Hasan for his steadfast and unwavering effort to force the notoriously fast-talking and evasive politician to explain his flip-flops.
“A mini masterclass of keeping eyes on the ball and refusing to be spun,” New York Times reporter Jonathan Swan tweeted. Of course, Swan is also known for a famous Emmy-winning 2020 interview with Trump in which he easily demolished many of the ex-president’s favorite falsehoods by merely asking him follow-up questions.
“There are few questions better than asking someone to explain something they've already said,” KUSA anchor Kyle Clark wrote. “And few answers more telling than when they refuse.”
“Watching @mehdirhasan question @VivekGRamaswamy about his damning Trump tweet is like watching a Siamese cat bat around a 3-legged mouse,” Columbia Journalism School professor Bill Grueskin observed.
“Gonna bookmark this,” Washington Post reporter Dan Diamond noted. “Great example of an interviewer — prepared, persistent and respectful — staying focused on the question and not being satisfied by the spin.”
It wasn’t just reporters who were in awe of Hasan’s bulldozing of Ramaswamy, who has shown a growing tendency to outright deny things he’s said or done, even when they are on tape. Several conservatives also applauded the liberal journalist’s aggressive questioning of the GOP presidential contender.
“It took an MSNBC bro to expose Vivek's egregious flip flopping on Trump. Absolutely hilarious how Vivek squirms like worm on a hook while he desperately tries not to answer what exactly he meant when he said that Trump had done downright abhorrent things,” Epoch TV host Hans Mahncke tweeted.
“I wish more people in conservative media would call out Vivek’s lies to his face like this,” former The View co-host and current Daily Mail columnist Meghan McCain stated.
“It’s honestly embarrassing for conservative media that it took Mehdi Hassan, who I obviously am not a fan of, to finally and repeatedly confront Vivek with his own words,” conservative pundit AG Hamilton posted. “They do a serious disservice to Republican voters by refusing to really pressure/challenge candidates.”
This is far from the first time that Hasan has made a guest squirm during a contentious interview. Earlier this year, he grilled heterodox journalist Matt Taibbi over several errors contained within his “Twitter Files” reporting, prompting Taibbi to correct several tweets following the interview. (Taibbi and several of his Substack colleagues have since contended that Hasan was the one who got his facts wrong in the exchange.)