As the first presidential debate approaches, Republican nominee Donald Trump has almost entirely avoided potentially critical and challenging interviews on the broadcast networks and the major cable news channels in favor of being lobbed softballs by his friends at Fox News.
CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter noted this week that Trump has recently been “retreat[ing]” to “friendly media ground.” Stelter explained, “Trump is saying ‘yes’ to Fox News almost every day but saying ‘no’ to most other major networks and news organizations -- a highly unusual strategy for a presidential nominee,” adding, “If nothing else, it limits the candidate's exposure to hard-hitting questions.”
Indeed, according to a Media Matters analysis, since NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum on September 7, Trump has given seven interviews to Fox News, totaling more than 1 hour and 40 minutes of airtime. During the same time frame, he has not appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, or MSNBC. (Trump has appeared on the friendly CNBC show Squawk Box and on Trump supporter Lou Dobbs’ Fox Business program during this time period, but appearances on CNBC and rival Fox Business Network are not included in this analysis.)
Trump was last interviewed by CNN on August 25, in a discussion with Anderson Cooper that ran under 15 minutes. Following that interview, Trump has given 13 interviews to Fox News totaling over 4 hours and 16 minutes of airtime. (Trump's Fox News interview airtime totals include his multiple townhalls with Trump cheerleader Sean Hannity.) Other than his appearance at the NBC forum -- which was moderated by Matt Lauer, who has since been harshly criticized for going easy on Trump -- and a 6 and a half minute interview with ABC’s David Muir on September 6, Trump has not given any interviews to the broadcast networks or Fox News’ cable rivals CNN and MSNBC following his appearance with Cooper.
Trump’s total interview time on Fox News would be even greater if a planned town hall scheduled to air on Hannity this week had not been postponed. A previous Media Matters study found that the roughly 22 hours of airtime Hannity devoted to airing interviews with Trump between when Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015 and August 23, 2016, was worth more than $31 million in free publicity.
Trump’s attempt to avoid being subjected to rigorous fact-checking extends to his (and his campaign’s) attempts to work the refs in advance of the debates. While numerous media figures have highlighted the need for moderators to fact-check the candidates, Trump and his allies have argued the opposite. Trump has lashed out about the debates being “rigged” and incorrectly claimed all of the moderators are Democrats.
Trump has also not given a press conference in nearly two months.
From August 25 through September 22, Media Matters tracked every interview of Donald Trump on the three cable networks from 6 a.m. through midnight and tracked interviews on ABC's Good Morning America, World News Tonight with David Muir, 20/20, and This Week with George Stephanopoulos; CBS' CBS This Morning, CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, 60 Minutes, and Face the Nation with John Dickerson; and NBC's Today, Nightly News with Lester Holt, Dateline, and Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. We included all original interviews only. Interviews were timed from the moment the guest was introduced to the moment the guest left the show. Trump’s recent interviews with the syndicated Dr. Oz Show and The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon were not included in this study.