MSNBC's Chris Matthews demonstrated the importance of face-to-face interviews by challenging Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's extreme position that women who have abortions should be punished. Matthews' interview showed firsthand how face-to-face interviews can equalize the built-in advantage Trump relies on when given phone interviews.
During an interview with Trump scheduled to air on MSNBC, Matthews challenged Trump on his anti-choice position, asking “Should woman be punished for having an abortion?” In an attempt to dodge the question, Trump responded, that “people in certain parts of the Republican Party and conservative Republicans would say yes they should be punished,” and adding “it's a very serious problem, and it's a problem we have to decide on.” Matthews pressed Trump, telling him “this is not something you can dodge,” forcing him to clarify his position on whether or not women should be punished. In total, Matthews interrupted Trump's attempts to filibuster 12 times in order to get him to answer the question.
The face-to-face interview is a stark contrast to the way Trump has been able to steamroll over interviewers who have conducted questioning over the phone. Earlier the same day, Today hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie hosted Trump over the phone, a format which allowed him to dodge questions and shout over the hosts when faced with tough questioning about the battery charge facing his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.
The phone interview with NBC's Today was one of three phone interviews granted to Trump the morning of March 30. Trump's unprecedented phone interview privileges have extended to Sunday political talk news shows, making him the only presidential candidate granted such privileges.
News outlets have faced increasing criticism for the phone privileges granted to Trump. The Baltimore Sun's media critic, David Zurawik told Media Matters that phone interviews “really shift control away from the interviewer,” and former New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt explained that when networks give Trump a phone interview, it allows him to “set ground rules that they don't for others.”
You can add your voice to Media Matters' petition for the media to end Trump's phone privilege by signing here.