This Is the Way to Interview Trump

Margaret Sullivan: NPR host wrapped misinformation in truth, until the former president hung up
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2022 3:50 PM CST
NPR Host Shows How to Interview Trump
Former President Trump pauses while speaking in Phoenix in July 24.   (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Politicians and other newsmakers often are allowed to set the narrative when they're being interviewed, Steve Inskeep says. The NPR host points out that that narrative sometimes is skewed. When he interviewed former President Trump this week, Inskeep tweaked the form, enabling him to keep control of the information being spread instead of relinquishing control of the broadcast, Margaret Sullivan writes in the Washington Post. Until Trump hung up on Inskeep, Morning Edition presented listeners not just with Trump's statements and facts, but with a "truth sandwich."

The strategy involves wrapping falsities—like, say, the election was stolen—with truthful and factual statements, Sullivan says. That can keep a lie from just sitting there, unchallenged and echoing. "Trump kept coming with his misleading rhetoric," Sullivan writes, "offering one fleetingly plausible-sounding but utterly false idea after another about a supposedly fraud-ridden election." Each time, Inskeep would return with a truth, such as, "Your own lawyers had no evidence of fraud."

The interview, which was taped and aired Wednesday, was preceded by reporting and other interviews, putting Trump's comments in perspective before he made them, Sullivan writes. ProPublica's president called the NPR interview "a master class in contextualization." And Inskeep was prepared to contest misinformation that surfaced in an answer. Journalists have struggled to push back against Trump successfully in real time, Sullivan says, and especially with elections nearing, they need to find a way to cover him and others without spreading their misinformation. This is one way. You can read the full piece here. (More Steve Inskeep stories.)

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