Some people do not possess the particular skillset required to effectively conduct a live interview. It’s why, when I was writing Portland Communique, I didn’t do them. I know that I could not keep up with or keep track of all that’s required. Later, I realized that much of this was due to my then-undiagnosed autism and my inability to cognitively multitask exactly in the sorts of ways one must do so in order to interview someone.
I’m keenly aware, then, of when other people are similarly unskilled, even if I’ve no way of knowing the reasons for their deficiencies. So it was today when Ari Melber inexplicably interviewed Trump spokesman Marc Lotter, allowing him several times to refer to “Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election” as if that were in any way a thing that had happened, rather than the well-established interference in that election by Russia.
Melber allowing this line to escape Lotter’s mouth without impediment matters for reasons John Stoehr explained earlier today.
The whistleblower complaint suggests that there’s more at stake than a presidential election, and more involved than systemic corruption that’s rotting the administration. The president appears to be rewriting, as it were, what happened in the 2016 presidential election by writing Russia’s role out of the story. Not only that, he’s attempting to frame his enemies for Vladimir Putin’s crime, transforming himself in this story’s hero and erasing any doubt that he’s a legitimate American president.
It was bad enough that Melber tried to push Lotter into saying he would not lie in the interview the way Corey Lewandowski said he lies in interviews, only managed to get Lotter to say that he would “give the facts as I know them”, and then later bizarrely claimed Lotter in fact had said that he would not lie.
It’s far worse to let a Trump spokesman on the air without being prepared for what he was going to do. It could be argued that Melber simply had not been briefed on the clear pattern in recent days on the part of Trump associates regarding this attempt at historical revisionism, but then that’s precisely why you don’t invite people like Marc Lotter onto your show in the midst of a national security crisis where Trumpists en mass are engaged in a coverup that at the very least involves misdrection.
It’s okay to not be skilled in the art of the news interview. Not everyone engaged in acts of journalism can do all the journalisms. If journalism’s first obligation is the truth and its first loyalty to citizens, that must extend, too, to the conduct of its actors, who first must be willing to be truthful with themselves.