In the interrogation room, questioning can go on for hours to weed out the lies. But cops, unlike morning show anchors on network TV, don’t have to cut to commercial; their time in the spotlight doesn’t expire after a couple hours to hand it off to Kathie Lee and Hoda. In Donald Trump’s America, morning show anchors now say the rules have changed — even the simplest questions or presentation of facts that contradict the administration’s alternative ones require enough time to fill the whole show. Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos says that ABC has now allotted more time for interviews with government officials on its morning show so the network can get to the truth. “You have to log far more time now in order to get anything done over the course of the interview. We usually do two to four minutes on Good Morning America. We’ve had to double that,” Stephanopoulos says in a Hollywood Reporter roundtable discussion with several other anchors. “And you can still maybe not get anything done.” Today Show host Savannah Guthrie notes that NBC had to implement the same interview strategy to get officials off script.
For Stephanopoulos and other anchors, the president’s often distorted reality has forced an ethical debate in the newsroom about when to stop interviewing officials who habitually lie. “It’s not serving our viewers to allow people to come on and say things that are not true. We’re all dealing with it,” Stephanopoulos says. “We put them on, we challenge them, but then you’re also facing the question of: Is this really helping people by allowing falsehoods to propagate?” CNN’s Jake Tapper, sounding like a cup of tea tipping over, had this to add:
“We all know members of the House and Senate — especially the House — who are just crazy and say things that aren’t true, Democrats and Republicans. I’m sure we’re probably all thinking of some of the same people … And typically we don’t have them on our shows. But there’s a difference when it’s the White House or somebody who is definitely a big player.”