After withering criticism from right-wing media figures, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt now says that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump “legitimately misunderstood” the foreign policy questions Hewitt asked him during a recent interview, which he initially defended as “fair.” Hewitt's backtracking comes just before the second Republican presidential debate, at which Hewitt will join a question-and-answer session that he insists will not be affected by the blowback from his interview with Trump.
Hugh Hewitt Will Participate In Second Republican Presidential Debate
Hugh Hewitt Will Participate In Second Republican Presidential Debate On CNN. Conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt will “participate in the second Republican presidential debate as part of a partnership between Salem Media Group and CNN” on September 16, according to Politico, which reported that Hewitt “will not moderate the debate” but will “participate in a question-and-answer session.” [Politico, 2/24/15]
On Morning Joe, Hewitt Blames Himself For Trump's Stumble During Interview
Hugh Hewitt Drew Criticism From Trump After Asking Him About Terrorism During Radio Interview. On his September 3 show, Hewitt questioned Trump about foreign policy, appearing to test his knowledge of terror groups. After giving a stumbling and defensive response, Trump lashed out at Hewitt, claiming he had asked a “gotcha question” that was “ridiculous.” As reported by CNN:
Donald Trump stumbled when asked about the heads of major terrorist organizations on Thursday and then lashed out at what he called a “gotcha question.”
Trump, the front-runner for the GOP nomination, blasted conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in an interview and said it is “ridiculous” to be questioned about who leads Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Nusra and ISIS.
“I think it's ridiculous. I'll have, I'm a delegator. I find great people. I find absolutely great people, and I'll find them in our armed services, and I find absolutely great people,” Trump said.
Trump sought to downplay the importance of knowing who controls the terror groups. He suggested that those leaders -- some of whom have led their groups for years -- would likely no longer be in power by the time he would reach the White House.
“As far as the individual players, of course I don't know them. I've never met them. I haven't been, you know, in a position to meet them. If, if they're still there, which is unlikely in many cases, but if they're still there, I will know them better than I know you,” Trump told Hewitt.
During the interview, Hewitt said he didn't mean to be asking Trump “gotcha questions” - but the front-running Republican candidate was having none of it. [CNN, 9/3/15]
Hewitt: Trump “Legitimately Misunderstood” My Question, “It Was My Fault.” On the September 14 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Hewitt said “the bump” with Donald Trump “was my fault. I framed the question wrong” and Trump “legitimately misunderstood” it:
HEWITT: I've done 40 interviews with Republican presidential candidates since the last debate, and the only bump was with Donald Trump and that's because it was my fault. I framed the question wrong. I said 'you're familiar with General Soleimani and the Quds Force.' I should have said, 'As you know, General Soleimani, runs the Quds Force in Iran,' and then gone on to my question, which is, what is the impact of giving him $100 billion? So I think it's important never to play jeopardy with names and I never do. I always give the predicate. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 9/14/15]
Hewitt Previously Defended His Questioning, Calling The Interview “Fair.” On the September 6 edition of NBC's Meet The Press, Hewitt said his interview of Trump was “fair,” and added, “If I was unfair, you know, I'll take criticism.” [NBC News, 9/6/15]
Hewitt's Walkback Follows Criticism From Fellow Right-Wing Media Figures
Fox's Geraldo Rivera: Hewitt Asked Trump “Gotcha Questions.” On the September 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, senior correspondent Geraldo Rivera stood up for Trump for failing to answer Hewitt's questions, parroting the billionaire candidate's assertion that Hewitt was posing a “gotcha question”:
CLAYTON MORRIS: Okay, our viewers this morning weighed in and said they're on Trump's side on this. They think it was a 'gotcha question.'
GERLADO RIVERA: 99.9 percent of the people watching this program or any morning show, or I would venture to say--or anything other than a class about the Middle East, would not be able to answer most of those questions. The Quds Forces. I mean, how many people in this studio knew what the Quds Forces were before this Hugh Hewitt? This reminds me...
ANNA KOOIMAN: Isn't he held to a different standard though, Geraldo? If they're running for President of the United States -- Carly Fiorina got asked the same question, she answered it.
RIVERA: Well, at what point and after what kind of briefing? If you give me thirty seconds, I can give you the formula for a nuclear weapon as construed in World War II. I think the -- the point is this: Karen Hughes, remember Karen Hughes? She represented George W. Bush press but, in 1999 when George W. Bush was asked similar kinds of 'gotcha questions,' she said 'running for president is not being a contestant on celebrity Jeopardy.' These are gotcha questions, these are briefing -- al-Zawahiri, you know al-Zam -- you know these are all things that you learn and you are briefed on. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/4/15]
Fox's Eric Bolling: Hewitt “Could Be Perceived As A Hostile Questioner.” On the September 4 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Eric Bolling asked whether Trump deserves “credit for sitting down with, maybe, what could be perceived as a hostile questioner?” [Fox News, The Five, 9/4/15]
Rush Limbaugh: Hewitt's Questions Were “Designed To Further The Narrative That Republicans Are Just Not Bright.” During the September 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, host Rush Limbaugh defended Trump, claiming that the questions he was asked were “designed to further the narrative that Republicans are just not bright” (emphasis added):
LIMBAUGH: This was even done to Reagan, folks. Reagan was running for president, he and the other candidates were asked if they knew the names of various obscure heads of state -- these questions are never ever asked of Democrats, by the way. Make note of this. The question that Trump got, Democrats will never get those questions in the normal ebb and flow of things. Hillary will never get them. Clinton will never get them, never did. It's just they are questions that are designed to further the narrative that Republicans are just not bright, they're just not hip, they're just, and when it works on one of them, then every other Republican is going to get the same treatment. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/4/15]
Laura Ingraham: “Meet The New Katie Couric!” Fellow conservative radio host Laura Ingraham mocked Hewitt in a September 3 tweet, referring to him as “the new Katie Couric”:
Meet the new Katie Couric! http://t.co/bAyXpJuJ73
-- Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) September 4, 2015
Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft: “Anti-Trump Talker Hugh Hewitt Grills Trump On Islamist Terror Leaders.” In a September 3 post, Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft complained that Hewitt “grilled” Trump “on international terror leaders,” and asked the radio host, “Whose side are you on?”:
Conservative talker and Trump-basher Hugh Hewitt invited him on his radio show today and then grilled him on international terror leaders including the heads of Hezbollah, ISIS, and Al-Qaeda.
Did Obama EVER have to answer a question like this. Think, Hugh, Think! Whose side are you on? [Gateway Pundit, 9/3/15]
Hewitt Insists That Criticism Of Interview Will Not Impact His Questions At CNN Debate
Hewitt Says Trump's Criticism Won't “Change My Debate Questions Or Prep.” Speaking to The Huffington Post on September 4, Hewitt said Trump's “critique” of his interview “won't change my debate questions or prep,”:
Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt said Friday that Donald Trump's dismissal of him as a “third-rate radio announcer” won't affect his plans for the Sept. 16 Republican debate on CNN.
“His critique won't change my debate questions or prep,” Hewitt told The Huffington Post.
Hewitt's employer, Salem Media Group, is partnering with CNN on the debate and he'll be asking a few questions along with CNN correspondent Dana Bash. CNN anchor Jake Tapper will moderate the debate, which is broken up among first and second-tier candidates. Trump, the front-runner, will of course be a major prime-time attraction for a network hoping to break all-time ratings records. [The Huffington Post, 9/4/15]