Kathy Sheridan: Piers Morgan’s Trump interview was toe-sucking PR

Ex-‘Daily Mirror’ editor simpers where credible journalists bring predators to account

In a preview for a full interview to be broadcast on Sunday January 28th, Piers Morgan challenges US president Donald Trump over his retweets of anti-Islam videos from UK far right group, Britain First. Video: Reuters

 

The most heart-sinking aspect of Piers Morgan’s Sunday night ITV interview with Donald Trump was the number of journalists offering him the kind of wry salute usually reserved for a Pulitzer-winning rival.

Say what you like about Piers but he got the interview everyone else was chasing, they sighed.

A generous impulse, but one that summarises everything that is wrong with the media’s conflation of entertainment and politics.

How best to describe an event where a television personality engages with a rich, powerful, president who happens to be his idol; one he describes as “a good loyal friend to me for nearly a decade and I like him very much”; one he introduces with star-struck ardour, “I’ve missed you, Mr President”?

Is that a) an interview as we know it, or b) a piece of life-sapping, toe-sucking PR? And why does it matter?

Trump’s words don’t just drive division, sexism, racism and bigotry; they also shape the law and leach into culture and the nervy emotional ether

Public attention is what gets Trump out of bed in the morning. We know many politicians like that but what probably makes Trump unique is that he is indifferent to whether the attention is good or bad. As long as he gets the coverage, the consequences of his words don’t matter. Because he is the president, those consequences don’t just drive division, sexism, racism and bigotry; they shape the law, leach into culture and the nervy emotional ether. When such a person grants a rare international interview, it matters.

Piers Morgan tweets about his Trump interview

Trump tweets about sexual assault

Promoting his show, Morgan (a former Daily Mirror editor sacked for publishing fake pictures of British troops torturing Iraqi prisoners) posted a top line : “BREAKING NEWS : President Trump has declared he is NOT a feminist. He tells me: ‘No, I wouldn’t say I’m a feminist. I mean, I think that would be, maybe, going too far. I’m for women, I’m for men, I’m for everyone’”. In the interview, Trump actually announced: “I have tremendous respect for women.” What japes.

But hey, people evolve. It’s happening before our eyes in Ireland. So let’s imagine how a serious interviewer might have established whether Trump was on a similarly epic journey. For example, how does he feel now about that “grab ’em by the pussy” chat with Billy Bush? Or the time he allowed a radio show host to call his daughter Ivanka “a piece of ass”.

Affair

Or his advice to Ivanka or any woman who was being sexually harassed to quit the job, find another career. Or his comment on sexual assaults in the military : “What did these geniuses expect when they put men and women together?” Or his response to his communications director’s distress when she watched the media going after Corey Lewandowski, with whom she had had an affair during the campaign. “Why? You’ve already done enough for him. You’re the best piece of tail he’ll ever have”.

His state of the union speech last night was followed by an interview on ABC with an adult film star called Stormy Daniels, who has claimed to have had a sexual encounter with him four months after his third wife gave birth. A few weeks ago, Daniels – real name Stephanie Clifford – chose to kick off her “Make America Horny Again” tour on the first anniversary of his #MAGA inauguration.

Like the initial reaction to the Financial Times report on the Dorchester gropefest, these stories provoke comments ranging from a jaded: “Who’s shocked by this stuff any more?” to a snappy “Honestly . . . Nobody really cares . . .”

The president’s global gag rule on US funding for NGOs offering abortion-related services in foreign countries is hitting the poorest of the poor

But this is not a matter of private morality. It relates directly to societal attitudes towards women and their intrinsic worth. Trump’s glib advice that women suffering harassment should get another job came only a few months before his election. He stands accused of sexual assault by more than 17 women. (This week, in Dublin a man who grabbed a woman’s genitals – basically what Trump admitted to doing routinely to women – got six months in jail). Trump’s global gag rule on US funding for NGOs offering abortion- related services in foreign countries is hitting the poorest of the poor.

Shocked

Change is finally crashing into spaces where it matters. The fact that it was the Financial Times that broke the Dorchester story suggests that a lot of powerful people have been shocked into caring, about themselves if no one else.

It was the highly influential Wall Street Journal that revealed, after a year-long investigation, that Trump’s New York- based lawyer had used a private Delaware company to pay $130,000 hush money to Stormy Daniels a month before the 2016 election.

And lest we forget, it was the venerable New York Times that broke the Harvey Weinstein story after another lengthy investigation.

Powerful media men and women are helping to bring predators and misogynists to account. Why would any credible journalist salute anything less?

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