My main takeway from Kristen Welker’s interview with Donald Trump on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday is how little commentary there’s been after the fact. Oh, there’s some, and maybe there will be more later. But, honestly, we’ve been down this road many, many times, and at this point there’s really not much to say.
The most important question is: Why? “Meet the Press” is a prestigious program, so much so that you’d think Welker’s first guest might be President Biden. Welker opened, though, by saying that Biden had in fact been invited, which suggests that the White House turned her down. Poynter media critic Tom Jones speculates that Biden didn’t want to be questioned about his son, Hunter, who last week was indicted on federal gun charges.
As he always does, Trump confronted Welker with a stream-of-consciousness gusher. For every lie she called out, she had to let another 10 go just because of the sheer volume of idiocy coming out of his mouth. In the post-debate panel, New York Times political reporter Peter Baker called Trump a “bulldozer, shoveling falsehoods and lies.” Indeed. At least Welker didn’t interview Trump in front of a howling MAGA mob, as CNN’s Kaitlan Collins did earlier this year. On the other hand, I thought Collins did a better, more aggressive job of pushing back than Welker did, even though Welker had the advantage of recording Trump ahead of time and occasionally interrupting the flow with a return to the studio, where she pointed out a few of the former president’s lies. NBC News did run an online fact-check, but who’s going to look at that?
New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen, writing on the Platform Formerly Known as Twitter, criticized Welker and NBC News for offering “a ‘zero innovations’ model,” explaining: “Everything was predictable, nothing was surprising, and new host Kristen Welker did nothing to justify going to the well again with another Trump Q&A.” Writing in The Daily Beast, Corbin Bolies added that “like those who have tried before, her inherent skills as an interviewer were no match for a chaotic interview subject like Trump.”
The argument for interviewing Trump is that, despite facing numerous federal criminal charges, he’s leading his Republican rivals for the presidential nomination and is tied with Biden. I get it. But it was a terrible way to kick off Welker’s debut at “Meet the Press,” and it opens her to the criticism that was often voiced about her predecessor, Chuck Todd — that he would rather normalize authoritarianism than stand up to Trump and his allies.