Ego v ego: Piers Morgan’s Trump interview was toe-curlingly fawning and offered nothing new

We were watching them hang out, like eavesdropping on them having dinner but without the burgers

Sean O'Grady
Monday 29 January 2018 00:46 GMT
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In case it passed you by, yes ITV did trail the best bits of the Trump interview, and the rest of it was astonishingly dull given the circumstances and personalities involved.

I can then summarise the exercise as a series of fairly straight mostly perfectly good questions from Piers Morgan, such as on the Britain First retweets, albeit a bit too chummy and “sympathetic” for comfort. So Trump, yes, ran with a string of his familiar sound bites and favourite phrases: “fake news... very much wanted to win presidency... stock market 84 highs... deregulation... tax cuts... tweets... record low black unemployment... tremendous respect for women... mother from Stornaway... Turnberry... great trade deal with UK... Macron a great guy... love for all people... great support from Muslims... a stable genius...”

So this was a special relationship, and not special journalism.

In his seminal work Think Big and Kick Ass (HarperCollins, 2007), Donald Trump offers this piece of advice to the ambitious: “Hang out with other big thinkers. Hang out with people who truly want to be successful. Drop all friends who are negative and think small.”

That, I think explains the essential context of the “first international TV interview” with the 45th President conducted by Piers Morgan.

We were watching them hang out, like eavesdropping on them having dinner but without the burgers. Both are sworn enemies of fake news, amply demonstrated by Piers’ career at the Daily Mirror, Sun and News of the World. Both despise “hysterical” liberals.

Morgan won the US Celebrity Apprentice show hosted by Trump in 2008, by demonstrating Trump-style ruthlessness. In 2016 the American people recognised Piers-Morgan-style virtues in The Donald and made him their leader. Ever since they met on the reality TV show, Trump has called him “Champion”; Piers calls Trump “Mr President, Sir”. So special!

Theirs is a muscular, manly kind of relationship. I can almost imagine them oiled up, wrestling naked in front of an open fire on a grizzly bear rug in the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House, mano a mano, ego v ego.

Such is modern bromance.

I have to say however that their exchanges during President Trump: The Piers Morgan Interview were, in reality, rather more gentle affairs. Not even Donald Trump’s supernatural levels of chutzpah could bring him to call himself a feminist, and it’d be a surprise if he thought he couldn’t make a better job of the EU deal than Theresa May and her Brexit bulldog, David Davis. It wasn’t that big a story.

There were no specific questions about – and forgive the bad language – grabbing pussy, sleeping with scores of famous married women, hush money for porn star Stormy Daniels, shithole countries, mocking a disabled reporter, Mexican drug dealers and rapists, Barack Obama’s forged birth certificate, collusion with Vladimir Putin, or his Secretary of State calling him a moron.

Only Meghan Markle got her quotes – “divisive misogynist” – thrown at Donald, and he diplomatically swerved taking the bait.

That business about Russia? The Mueller probe? The supposed treasonous meeting at Trump Tower between the President’s son and the Russians as revealed by Steve Bannon? Not a word.

The geopolitical stuff? Korea? China? Russia? Not a word. Syria? Nope.

Climate change? Paris Accord? Relegated to the “quick fire” round, and with a bit more challenge from Trump’s ex-apprentice – but hardly forensic.

For the US audience, Piers was hostile and brave on American gun law, but that was no novelty either, and neither were Trump’s well-rehearsed answers (“sickos”).

One of the global media’s many dirty secrets is that Donald Trump is very good for business. His Twitterfeed is a reliable source of stories, if not truth. TVs are turned on, and the volume cranked up every time he appears on the screens, each hack anticipating he’ll say something stupid, outrageous, insulting. When he sticks to the script, that’s BORING! as he might put it. Well, this interview was BORING!

Journalism is about getting a politician to answer the question. To be fair to Piers Morgan I doubt Trump would agree to be grilled by anyone he thought would be unfair to him and pursue so-called fake news. The minute the word “pussy” was uttered by, say Andrew Marr, or Jeremy Paxman, Trump would have walked out. End of interview.

A dismissive Tweet would follow about fake reporting. I have to say too, in fairness, that the valedictory interview Jon Sopel conducted with President Obama, like Prince Harry’s recent one with the 44th president, was just as toe-curlingly embarrassing in its fawning – not the BBC at its balanced best.

So Piers did what he could in a world where social media and the web and newsbots and the likes of Breitbart have radically altered the balance of power between politicians and the “mainstream” media.

Trump, who probably does think big, may have realised this reality rather better and earlier than all those clever journalists who look down their noses at him. He kicks ass. Piers kisses it. Get used to it.

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