By Sara Whitman/Oct. 23, 2020 2:44 pm EDT/Updated: Oct. 23, 2020 5:54 pm EDT
President Donald Trump released a portion of his 60 Minutes interview with veteran journalist Lesley Stahl three days ahead of its set air date of Oct. 25, 2020. The footage included approximately 38 minutes of Trumps' interview with Stahl and 14 minutes of video featuring Vice President Mike Pence and Stahl's conversation. Some of the topics covered included the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, and Trump's claim that his campaign got spied on during the 2016 presidential election, according to CBS News.
In a statement, CBS, the network behind the investigative news outlet, said the 60 Minutes interview would air as planned. "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," CBS confirmed. "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."
Trump's early release of the footage is unprecedented, and his displeasure with Stahl has generated plenty of headlines. "Watch her constant interruptions & anger. Compare my full, flowing and 'magnificently brilliant' answers to their Q's," Trump tweeted amid the interview snafu. But wait — there's even more drama to talk about, like the tense exchanges the journalist had with Pence and Trump. To put it mildly, Lesley Stahl had some choice words for the president and vice president.
Lesley Stahl was 'upset' with Trump and Pence
Jemal Countess/Getty Images
President Donald Trump seemed frustrated with journalist Lesley Stahl from the jump, and during one point in the conversation, Trump complained about the "biased" press. "You're trying to discredit us [the press]," Stahl replied to the insinuation, according to USA TODAY. Trump snapped back, "You're discrediting yourself, Lesley." "No, you are," the journalist said.
The frustration boiled over post-interview, as Stahl reportedly vented about the situation during her separate chat with Vice President Mike Pence. "I feel that you both [Trump and Pence] have insulted 60 Minutes and me by not answering any of our questions and by giving set campaign speeches that we have heard both of you give at rallies without answering our questions," Stahl said after Trump had reportedly left, per Politico. Pence responded, "What question haven't I answered, what question haven't I answered right now?" Pence asked Stahl multiple times for specific examples, and Stahl shared one example of getting a speech about the president after asking about infectious disease expert, Dr. Fauci. She continuously accused him of giving "speeches" and admitted she was "upset." Pence concluded the argument, "Well, Lesley, I appreciate the speech that you just gave, but I've answered all your questions and I've spoken about things the American people care about."
The contentious back-and-forth has prompted more questions about the conversation and why Trump was seemingly so irritated throughout the interview. Keep reading to find out why the conversation went south.
Trump and Lesley Stahl fought over 'tough' questions
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
As CNN reported, President Donald Trump walked out of his 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl on Oct. 20, 2020, because he was unhappy with Stahl's questions. And after the interview, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stated during a Fox Business interview (via Fox News) that there was a "high probability" that the footage would be released early by Trump and accused Stahl of acting like "an opinion journalist."
As for the claim that Stahl is an "opinion journalist," it's unclear which of her questions inspired Meadows' opinion. But what is apparent? Trump's belief that Stahl treated him unfairly in comparison to former Vice President Joe Biden. When Stahl challenged the president to answer questions about the American economy, he shot back, "You would never say that to Biden." Trump also accused the journalist of "protecting" Biden, but, once again, it's not clear what evidence he has to back up that claim.
Trump and Lesley engaged in many heated moments during the interview, and finally, Trump had enough. In one last sour exchange before walking off set, Trump said, "Excuse me, Lesley, you started with me 'Are you ready for tough questions?' That's no way to talk."
Twitter reacts to Trump's interview with Lesley Stahl
Gary Gershoff, Win Mcnamee/Getty Images
After President Donald Trump released the 60 Minutes footage, viewers took to Twitter to share their opinions about the interview drama. "What's wrong with Lesley Stahl asking tough questions?" one person tweeted. Another commenter argued, "It is not a coincidence that every recent interview Trump has done with a real journalist (Jonathan Swan, Chris Wallace, Savannah Guthrie, Lesley Stahl) has been a total disaster for him." CNN's Jake Tapper chimed in, "I don't see bias, hatred or rudeness from Lesley Stahl, I see a dogged & polite journalist trying to get answers about the pandemic, unemployment, and other issues and a president determined to deny reality. (Ex: No respected health official thinks we're "turning the corner.")
These opinions differ from Trump's Oct. 20, 2020, tweet slamming the interview as " FAKE and BIASED." Yikes.
In light of the contentious presidential debates, there will surely be quite a lot to digest in this 60 Minutes episode. And viewers can judge for themselves whether Stahl conducted the interview fairly.