Friday night Don Lemon invited Donald Trump on CNN’s air, and the fallout from Trump’s volley of personal attacks on Megyn Kelly (and others) is still reverberating tonight. What was going on with the invite, the interview, and the fallout? And how did half of a quote vanish?
Friday morning it was already known that Trump was embarking on a jihad against Fox News and Megyn Kelly in particular.
Trump was booked with Don Lemon at 9:00 pm (opposite The Kelly File). Naturally the Fox News angle is on the table—a dig at the competition is always welcome in Zuckertown. And in case you think zinging Fox wasn’t behind this booking, look how quickly that topic came up. After a preliminary “how did it go?” opening, Don Lemon’s very next question was:
LEMON: Do you think, because you mentioned Fox, do you think there was an agenda on the part of Fox News to target you? And if you do, why is that?
There it is, at the very top of Don Lemon’s to-do list. And in The Cable Game that order is never random. Trump delivered the expected insults of Megyn Kelly:
TRUMP: I don’t have a lot of respect for Megyn Kelly, she’s a lightweight and, you know, she came out there reading her little script and trying to, you know, be tough and be sharp. And when you meet her, you realize she is not very tough and she is not very sharp. She is zippo. But she came out and, you know, I’m sitting there. I’m standing there. I knew there it was going to be a big crowd because I always have.
TRUMP: I mean NBC renewed The Apprentice but I wasn’t able to do it because I’m running for President. But as you know, they renewed it. I’m one of the few people in the history of television to turn down a renewal. Mark Burnett said…
Yada yada yada, and Trump was wandering off-topic. So Don Lemon swooped in:
LEMON: Well, let’s talk about Megyn Kelly because you brought her up. She did push you, pushed a lot of people, but what is it with you and Megyn Kelly?
Back on track. Trump came through. After how he doesn’t respect her as a journalist (“highly overrated”) came the money quote:
TRUMP: …she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions, and you know, you can see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her—wherever, but she was, in my opinion, she was off base.
We’ll come back to this. After more Trump insights about Ms. Kelly, Lemon decided this would be a good time to quote the slurs Trump had tweeted earlier, because this stuff “might drive some women voters away.” That Don Lemon: he’s a latter-day Sun Tzu. And then, an especially brilliant follow-up:
LEMON: I have to ask you and I’m wondering if you think that Fox stacked the deck against you?
Fox again! And there was even more:
LEMON: Would you do another Fox debate again?
LEMON: So then would you do another Fox debate or would you drop out if there is another Fox debate?
Yes, CNN would love to see that happen. Do we have to explain why? The conversation got into the debate itself and some of the issues raised, but Lemon couldn’t wait forever, so eventually we’re back at Fox News again:
LEMON: You say the media treats you unfairly you had some very angry words for Frank Luntz who with oppose for being focus group asking a lot of questions…
Like Domino’s, Trump delivered. A little further down Mr. Lemon decided to ask Trump if he’s thin-skinned, phrasing it as if he’s almost sorry he has to be so impertinent as to even ask such a thing:
LEMON: Do you worry that it undermines you’re a tough guy and there’s a I’m going to stand up to Putin, to China, to Mexico et cetera yet your demeanor might suggest, it might suggest, to people that you are thin-skinned?
There was another detour to Fox News and Megyn Kelly before Lemon closed the interview:
LEMON: Donald Trump, you’re welcome to come co-host with me any time and we thank you for joining us.
The question The Cable Game asks is: faced with the misogynist and ugly “blood from whatever” comment made on CNN’s air concerning a female journalist, what was the appropriate reaction from Don Lemon? Just let it hang there and leave it to social media? Or should he have done more, at minimum a disclaimer that CNN does not approve of such smears? One writer on journalism thinks so:
Trump went deep into the gutter attacking Kelly when he talked to CNN… Journalism organizations should condemn such a personal attack on a journalist who is doing her job… It is not political correctness that should push us to demand an apology, it is decency.
Don Lemon certainly did none of that. He instigated Trump, but didn’t push back. (Lemon’s weak reference to Megyn Kelly as “respected” late in the interview was ineffectual and was without reference to Trump’s ugly slur.) He made no statement of support for Megyn Kelly either for himself or on behalf of CNN.
Then, in a lengthy post-interview chat with several guests, the “blood from whatever” comment was utterly avoided. Twice reference was made to “blood coming out of her eyes,” and twice nobody mentioned the inflammatory second half of the quote: “blood coming out of her—whatever.” That too is something that doesn’t happen by accident in The Cable Game. And if you doubt that, look at the headline for CNN’s story by media guy Brian Stelter
Heaven forbid CNN gets on Trump’s bad side; he might not phone in his Sunday show appearance. Maybe if we’re lucky by tomorrow morning Brian Stelter will restore the rest of Trump’s quote.