Who is Lesley Stahl, the 60 Minutes veteran being targeted by Trump

Veteran journalist who covered Watergate once revealed the president had told her why he liked to insult and demean reporters

Danielle Zoellner
Wednesday 21 October 2020 00:46
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Lesley Stahl, a veteran journalist for CBS News60 Minutes, has found herself the target of another one of President Donald Trump’s infamous Twitter attacks following an interview at the White House earlier on Tuesday.

The journalist was interviewing the president for the upcoming 60 Minutes episode, to air on Sunday, when the experience turned sour.

It was reported by CNN that Mr Trump abruptly ended the interview around the 45-minute mark. He was scheduled to attend a walk and talk session with Vice President Mike Pence for the final portion of the interview, but the president never showed. The 60 Minutes interview will also feature Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

This was not the first time that Ms Stahl has experienced a politician walking out on her during an interview.

In 2007, the journalist was interviewing then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy for a 60 Minutes episode when the politician abruptly ended the conversation and walked out, calling it “stupid” and a “big mistake". The trigger of the abrupt-walk out on that occasion was Ms Stahl asking the president about his wife, Cecilia. Mr Sarkozy and his wife announced their divorce two weeks after the interview.

Ms Stahl’s decades-long career as a broadcast journalist started with her working on Boston’s original Channel 5, WHDH-TV, as both a producer and on-air reporter. She then moved to CBS News in 1971 before becoming a correspondent in 1974.

Her career as a CBS News correspondent included working as a White House correspondent under the Carter, Reagan, and Bush Sr administrations.

Then Ms Stahl moved to working as a reporter on 60 Minutes in 1991, where she has remained.

Monumental career moments while reporting for CBS News included Ms Stahl covering Watergate, breaking at the 1980 Republican National Convention that Ronald Reagan’s negotiations with former President Gerald Ford had broken down, and interviewing Al Gore for 60 Minutes when he announced he would not run again for president in 2004.

In May, Ms Stahl revealed she, like the president, had been hospitalised for the coronavirus.

“After two weeks at home in bed, weak, fighting pneumonia, and really scared, I went to the hospital,” she said. “I found an overworked, nearly overwhelmed staff. Every one of them kind, sympathetic, gentle and caring from the moment I arrived until the moment days later when I was wheeled out through a gauntlet of cheering medical workers."

"In the face of so much death, they celebrate their triumphs,” Ms Stahl added, giving her thanks to all the frontline workers who help those diagnosed with the novel virus.  

The recent interaction with Mr Trump was not the first one Ms Stahl has experienced with the current president.

When speaking to PBS, Ms Stahl revealed that she spoke to Mr Trump off-camera during his 2016 presidential run about his frequent attacks on the media.

“He said, ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.’ He said that,” she said at the time.

CBS News has not commented on the recent interaction with the president.

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