Dan Rather Criticizes Media's Trump Coverage: “The Lack Of … Tough Follow-Up Questions” Is Disappointing

Rather: “With Rare Exceptions, Nobody Bores In And Keeps Asking The Tough Question”

From the June 26 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources:

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BRIAN STELTER (HOST): When you look at coverage of Donald Trump back here in the United States, it's been almost exactly a year since he entered this campaign. So many journalists have had to recalibrate their expectations and their understanding of politics. What has disappointed you in the media coverage of this campaign?

DAN RATHER: Again, what's disappointed me most is the lack of tough questions and the tough follow-up questions.

STELTER: You don't think he's been asked tough questions?

RATHER: Well, he handles tough questions by doing the old side shuffle most of the time. And with rare exceptions -- I give Jake Tapper credit here on CNN -- with rare exceptions, nobody bores in and keeps asking the tough question. The other thing that's disappointed me a bit, and I do think there's been some media complicity in the rise of Trump. It's not the only factor, but it has been a factor of providing him so much airtime, and in some cases being complicit in arranging that airtime. So there's some serious questions. But for the news viewer, for the consumer of news, I think never more has it been necessary to deal with skepticism. Not cynicism, never cynicism but skepticism. Skepticism, saying OK, Trump is on for an hour and a half on this network. Why is he there? The answer, of course, is because he's very good for ratings and very good for demographics.

STELTER: But also because he's accessible, right? Think about that Friday morning seven a.m., Americans are waking up and Trump’s walking out on his lawn in Scotland. It was almost like he timed it to the morning shows perfectly. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was nowhere to be found.

RATHER: It's not the case that was like he timed it, he did time it. He's very media savvy, I give him credit for that. He's much smarter, and time after time metaphorically, while Hillary Clinton forces have been off swimming, he's stealing their underwear.

STELTER: So should we not take him live? Should we have some sort of blackout? Because I know some people at this point say just don't show him live anymore.

RATHER: No, I don't agree with that at all. Certainly show him. But the control has to stay with the journalistic entity. What I worry about is in a way that the media is a political partner, a business partner of Donald Trump. The media wants the ratings. I don't except myself from this criticism, by the way. Media wants the ratings. Trump delivers the ratings. So in a way, they're business partners, where the role of the journalist is to be an adversary. So I think the defense is make an editorial judgment, make sure you offer the same to the other side. You guys can have him on live. I'm not sure you want to have him live three times a day for an hour and a half at a time.


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