By flirting with Donald Trump, Piers Morgan is trashing his reputation
‘Are you having fun, Donald?’
This week Piers Morgan landed an interview with Donald Trump – a massive journalistic coup. It went out on ITV last night.
Morgan billed it as “the interview which may or may not change your mind about Donald Trump” – maybe it would rehabilitate Trump’s reputation, he seemed to be saying. In fact it may end up staining Morgan’s reputation very badly.
Those who only know Morgan from Britain’s Got Talent might not realise that he has a reputation to trash.
He does. In the two big jobs of his career – editing the Daily Mirror and presenting his own show on CNN – he has taken noisy stands on matters of principle, first opposing the Iraq War, then aggressively going after the gun lobby in the US.
Both positions took guts and – in roundabout ways – both probably cost Morgan his job.
Trump, the sensational frontrunner for the Republican nomination, is the biggest interview around right now. British journalists rarely get to ask questions to big names in US politics, but Morgan’s past relationship with Trump must have helped him get a wide-ranging 40 minute interview.
It was a rare opportunity to subject the ringleader of the maddest election year in memory to a bit of outside scrutiny, but that’s not how it turned out. (You can watch it in full here).
“Are you having fun, Donald?” came Morgan’s first question, “Are you actually enjoying yourself?”
“I am, because the results are good,” Trump replied, and proceeded to ramble on about immigrants, the military and his primary successes for a couple of minutes.
After Trump described his hellish vision of Europe, where police in many major cities fear to enter Muslim neighbourhoods, which are on the brink of implementing Sharia law, Morgan disgracefully left those remarks unchallenged. The best the interviewer could muster was a narrated segment in which he said that Trump’s views “might be unpopular with some”.
Morgan told us that on the subject of gun control, he and Trump “fiercely disagree”, and Trump described it as “one of the very few issues on which we disagree” – not a phrase any right-thinking person wants to hear from Trump.
And yet there was nothing approaching a fierce disagreement on screen. Instead of a short factual rebuttal of Trump’s explanation of US gun-crime rates (he thinks it’s all about mental health facilities closing and their patients going on the rampage), Morgan could have skewered Trump, asking him the same question over and over until the stupidity of his position was exposed. That clip would have gone viral and told us something new about Trump – which is the point of an interview.
Instead the show moved on.
“Are you anti-Muslim?” Morgan asked Trump. The billionaire said he’s just common sense, and then the rambling resumed. Stopping interview subjects when they are digressing in order to avoid answering a question is one of the most important skills of an interviewer, and Morgan is well known as one of the best interviewers around.
“What is your message to British Muslims?” Morgan asked Trump. Trump said he liked them, but they needed to start shopping in the baddies in their community, which he said they aren’t doing.
No skewering there either. On we went. “You also have another asset in this race, your lovely wife Melania…”
@piersmorgan Yes hop off his dick
— Ibrahim Hanna (@IbrahimHanna21) March 25, 2016
Morgan’s soft advocacy for Trump in his columns for the Mail and on Twitter hasn’t rebounded on him yet, but it’s been noticed by the billionaire’s camp. Wayne Allyn Root, the Fox columnist who claims to have been the first member of “Team Trump” welcomed Morgan aboard this week:
…even I was surprised to read bleeding-heart, anti-gun, ultra-liberal British media personality Piers Morgan join Team Trump. That’s a journey of a million miles. That’s a journey even ancient Chinese philosophers could never have seen coming. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read Piers Morgan’s UK Daily Mail commentary celebrating Trump titled, “When it comes to terror, isn’t it time we started listening seriously to Trump?”
Quite how close Morgan is to Trump is hard to say. They might be friends, or they might be celeb-friends, in the same way that very well connected newspaper editors are often ‘friends’ with lots of celebrities who flatter them with the occasional meeting in order to dramatically improve their press.
What we do know is that last night’s interview was shamefully soft. If Piers Morgan can’t ask proper questions to important interview subjects, and if he won’t stand up for the positions he’s put his career on the line for before, what’s the point in him?