After days of repeatedly complaining about his interview with 60 Minutes, President Donald Trump made good on a threat to release the full video before it aired on CBS on Sunday.
The president published the interview to his Facebook page on Thursday, citing the “bias, hatred and rudeness” of correspondent Lesley Stahl as a reason to violate an agreement with CBS News. The president also claimed he didn’t trust the program to present his answers in a fair way.
Trump said a few fairly newsworthy things—that he hopes the Supreme Court abolishes Obamacare, that China is the United States’ biggest adversary. But he mostly did what he always does: made grandiose claims about the economy, accused the Bidens and Democrats of crimes, boasted about his popularity, and downplayed COVID’s severity and said the U.S. is handling the pandemic very well. Some of his lies were bold. Many came with pushback from Stahl. Most were familiar. But little in the back-and-forth was noteworthy. The interview did not look like last week’s lively town hall debate with Savannah Guthrie, who asked detail-oriented questions and did real-time fact-checking of the president. Instead, with a gentler tone, Stahl tried to politely but firmly direct the president to give straightforward answers to simple questions. Unlike with a live interview, the taped interview allowed Stahl to choose when to push on a follow-up or give up on a particularly pointless line of discussion.
While Trump said his purpose in posting the video was to expose Stahl’s “viciousness,” the main thing exposed was a remarkable number of complaints from the president. Trump was defensive and combative from the interview’s opening moments.
Stahl: Are you ready for some tough questions?
Trump: You’re going to be fair.
Stahl: I’m going to be fair?
Trump: Just be fair.
Stahl: But last time, I remember you saying to me, “Bring it on.”
Trump: Well, no, I’m not looking for that. I’m looking for fairness, that’s all.
Stahl: You’re going to get fairness.
Stahl: But you’re OK with some tough questions?
Trump: No, I’m not.
Stahl: [laughing] You’re not OK with tough questions?
Trump: Well, to be fair, you don’t ask Biden tough questions.
Trump: It’s terrible. It’s terrible. You know that.
He included a number of complaints in the answers that followed. “You’re so negative,” he said at one point. Then, after 35 minutes of questioning, the conversation returned to the initial exchange.
Stahl: You know, I didn’t want this kind of interview.
Trump: Of course you did.
Stahl: No, I didn’t.
Trump: Well, then you brought up a lot of subjects that were inappropriately brought up.
Stahl: Well, I said I was going to ask you tough questions.
Trump: They were inappropriately brought up. Right from the beginning. No, your first question was, “This is going to be tough questions.” Well—
Stahl: It is.
Trump: When you set up the interview, your first statement was—
Stahl: You’re the president. Don’t you think you should be accountable to the American people?
Trump: Excuse me, no, no. Listen, your first statement to me, “This is going to be tough questions.” Well, I don’t mind that. But when you set up the interview, you didn’t say that. You said, “Oh, let’s have a lovely interview.” And here’s what I do say: You don’t ask Joe Biden. I saw your interview with Joe Biden. It was a joke.
Stahl: I never did a Joe Biden interview.
Trump: The interview. 60 Minutes. I see Joe Biden getting softball after softball. I’ve seen all of his interviews. He’s never been asked a question that’s hard.
Stahl: OK, but forget him for a minute.
Trump: No, but you start with me—
Stahl: You’re the president, and—
Trump: Excuse me, Lesley, you started with me, your first statement was, “Are you ready for tough questions?”
Stahl: Are you?
Trump: That’s no way to talk. No way to talk.
At this point, a man’s voice interrupts to tell Stahl that there were five minutes left before Vice President Mike Pence would join them.
“Well, I think we have enough,” Trump said. “I think we have enough of this interview here. OK, that’s enough. Let’s go.” He then stood up and walked out.
The bookended protestations about fairness may not have made it into the 60 Minutes segment. The program planned to run the interview with Trump alongside interviews with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The program would have focused on his most newsworthy answers, and probably included some of his complaints about her “vicious” questions. But if the president hadn’t overreacted to the interview, many of his most childish moments would never have made it to air.