According to CNN Money, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump meant to hold court for the networks on live TV yesterday morning, but backed out and did phone interviews instead because he didn’t like the way he looked or sounded.
‘There were no technical malfunctions visible to viewers during the interviews, but during the Detroit interview Trump interrupted his first answer to tell an off-camera staffer, “We have, by the way, a little double sound coming out of here, so it’s a little hard to talk.”‘
‘During the 6 a.m. hour, at least two engineers from other networks emailed Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks with concerns about the lighting and audio.’
(Woe betide the lighting technician who makes Lewis Prothero angry!)
The networks, which were sharing the camera shot and audio as a pool, reportedly suggested alternatives. But Trump decided he would rather just phone it in for the rest of the morning:
‘Three network sources who insisted on anonymity said they thought the “technical issues” were an “excuse.”‘
‘”He didn’t like the shot,” said one of the people who heard Trump voice his objection on camera. “But he didn’t realize that his microphone was on for everyone to hear.”‘
Until last year, presidential candidates rarely appeared as disembodied voices. Most politicians prefer their faces to be seen, while viewers traditionally want to see how a candidate takes questions. Producers also didn’t want to let them have off-camera help in the form of talking points or fact sheets from a staffer.
Like so much else about this election that is breaking the normal rule-set, Trump has gotten away with doing phone-in interviews since he declared his candidacy. They were his preferred mode of appearing on TV before then, and he simply continued his habit without a word of protest from networks.
After all, Trump is a “YOOJ” celebrity. If there are ratings to chase, why should CNN enforce longstanding rules against letting politicians phone it in?
There have been exceptions: “CBS This Morning” refused to let Trump interview by phone yesterday, drawing some praise. But most programs seem to share the attitude of MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough that such restrictions have simply gone out of fashion.
‘”I should just point out, for all the eye rolling that I hear happening, that if Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz would like to call into the show, we would take their call at any time,” she said.’
‘Brzezinski said Trump “has proved himself to be the most accessible candidate, like it or not. But don’t blame us if the other candidates are not as accessible.”‘
‘Host Joe Scarborough, a former GOP congressman, backed her up. “We’d have [Rubio] for three hours. Any candidate that wants to pick up the phone and call us, we would love to have you on. We’re here for you.”‘
Of course, when Mika calls Trump “the most accessible,” she’s actually saying that he enjoys the most access. And in Mika’s case, he also seems to enjoy veto power over the questions that she asks him.
Reality show star Donald Trump was obsessed with his image long before he ran for president. It’s why he was a regular phone guest on “Fox & Friends.” It’s why his hair is so magical. It’s why he lies about his wealth.
It also taught the media to treat him like a TV star instead of a serious person. But now that he’s seriously contending for the most important political office on the planet, everyone is still deferring to his celebrity.