CNN’s Jake Tapper has been one of Donald Trump’s most persistent TV interviewers this election cycle, winning recent praise for following up 23 times as the presumptive Republican nominee defended his racist attack on a judge presiding over fraud lawsuits involving Trump University.
But Tapper balked when Bob Garfield, co-host of the weekly public radio show “On the Media,” described such dogged questioning as "hammering" Trump.
"The persistence has to come with a certain low-key respect," Tapper said of interviewing candidates like Trump or presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. "It has to come in a controlled way. It’s not a hammering. It’s a sweet hammering, a respectful hammering.”
Garfield, however, said he believes Tapper, at times, has been too respectful of Trump this election cycle. In a discussion about journalistic norms at a moment in U.S. politics that's anything but conventional, Garfield argued the press is normalizing Trump by treating him like every other major candidate, thereby legitimizing a candidacy fueled by bigotry, misogyny, and lies.
Tapper, who has fact-checked Trump's conspiracy theories, emphasized to "On the Media" that he doesn't see his role as offering personal opinions in interviews and doesn't intend to grandstand. The questions and answers should star, he said.
Some journalists, media watchers, and news outlets -- including The Huffington Post -- contend the press shouldn't take a neutral tone or adopt the “view from nowhere” when covering Trump, as IBTimes’ Brendan James wrote Thursday.
Garfield clearly falls into this camp.
“This guy, by every definition, is a demagogue,” Garfield said. “He has been caught in a thousand lies. He’s said all sorts of things that are fundamentally un-American. Is this a moment when it’s proper to put the sweet hammer back in the toolbox and say, ‘Mr. Trump, what is the matter with you?’”
“You know, Bob, you can do that, and you can say all the things you just said about Mr. Trump -- things that I have not said on my show,” Tapper responded. “And at the end of the election cycle, we can decide which one of us had had more of an impact on the election.”
Garfield asked what happens if Trump wins.
“Then the majority of the American people have voted for him,” Tapper responded. “My job is not to defeat a candidate. My job is to make sure voters have facts and have as much information as I can give them. At the end of the day, if the voters of this country pick Donald Trump to be their president, that’s their decision. I’m not rooting for him or against him.”
Listen to the full “On the Media” interview here:
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist