George Stephanopoulos’ overly-hyped interview with President Trump did not deliver in the ratings. The interview generated only 3.91 million viewers on Sunday night, finishing in third place behind the U.S. Open and “60 Minutes.”
The heavily-promoted “20/20” special called “President Trump – 30 hours,” which the president touted on his Twitter feed to his more than 61 million followers, was the product of Stephanopoulos spending more than 30 hours with the president over a two-day stretch.
To put that 3.91 million figure in perspective, “Celebrity Family Feud” had 6.1 viewers in the same time slot on the previous Sunday.
The real purpose of the interview wasn’t to get ratings, it was to get some sound bytes to replay over and over again on the cable news shows and the late night court jester performances. And Trump, who speaks more candidly and colloquially than he should, delivered the goods.
The viral moment came when Stephanopoulos was pressing the president on not answering questions in person from special counsel Robert Mueller‘s team.
“Wait a minute. I did answer questions. I answered them in writing,” Trump said
“Not on obstruction,” Stephanopoulos replied.
“George, you’re being a little wise guy, OK, which is, you know, typical for you,” Trump hit back.
But the big one, the real get, was Trump telling Stephanopoulos that he would both listen and call the FBI if a foreign power came to him with political dirt.
“I think you might want to listen. There’s nothing wrong with listening,” he told ABC. “It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go, maybe, to the FBI.” I can’t imagine why Trump would be hesitant to go the FBI. He should have responded that he would have his campaign’s law firm deal with any foreign entities that came forward with information on an opponent.
Many Republicans came forward to wag their finger at the president for his response.
“It would be totally inappropriate and it would strike at the heart of our democracy,” said Romney, the losing 2012 GOP nominee for president. “I’ve run for Senate twice, I’ve run for governor once, I’ve run for president twice, so far as I know we never received any information from any foreign government … We would have immediately informed the FBI,” Romney said.
Despite the media’s predictable freakout, Trump plans to do more interviews.
“Think I will do many more Network Interviews, as I did in 2016, in order to get the word out that no President has done what I have in the first 2 1/2 years of his Presidency, including the fact that we have one of the best Economies in the history of our Country,” he tweeted. “It is called Earned Media. In any event, enjoy the show!”
Stephanopoulos is a former Bill Clinton staffer and donor to the defunct Clinton Foundation.