Savannah Guthrie has shown more than just her journalistic work at NBC News Town Hall with President Donald Trump. She changed the subject for her bosses.
NBC was on its way to Thursday’s event, amid widespread criticism for planning it at the same time as ABC City Hall and Democratic opponent Joe Biden. NBC was accused of rewarding Trump for rejecting the Debate Commission’s plan to hold the second debate virtually.
That was quickly forgotten when the President sat across from Guthrie, who specifically asked him when he last tested positive for COVID-1
The Georgetown Law School graduate had done her homework clearly and seemed ready for any answer. When the president recited statistics from a study on the effectiveness of masks in spreading COVID-19, Guthrie had read them too and contradicted him.
As the host of the “Today” show, Guthrie knows how important time is and how to prevent filibustering an interview topic. This background also teaches how to crystallize what an audience is thinking in a simple way, as shown in their most quoted moment.
She was in disbelief when, after asking why Trump retweeted a false conspiracy theory that American special forces didn’t actually kill Osama bin Laden, he said he “just brought it out” to let people decide for themselves.
“I don’t understand,” Guthrie said. “You are the president. You’re not like you’re someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet anything. “
Similarly, Guthrie described the theory advocated online by QAnon that Democrats run a satanic pedophile ring and that Trump was the savior who was supposed to stop them and asked why he wasn’t denouncing him. Trump said he didn’t know about it.
“I just told you,” she said.
Just because she says something doesn’t mean it’s true, the president retorted.
“There is no such thing as a satanic pedophile cult,” she said. “You do not know that?”
Trump is arguably the most difficult public figure to interview, said Axios reporter Jonathan Swan, who, along with Fox News’ Chris Wallace and now Guthrie, has received the greatest praise of any television journalist for including him in this election cycle.
“The biggest challenge with President Trump is that it’s never a linear conversation,” said Swan. “It’s like a bronco. The processing of the questions does not matter as he reacts to topics. “
It takes tremendous homework to know the facts and predict how Trump will react, he said. Even then, it is possible to get so involved in fact-checking that the flow of the conversation is disrupted, he said.
When Guthrie asked Trump about his personal finances and taxes, the president tried to cut the conversation off by saying what he had since 2016 that he couldn’t talk about it because it was being audited. Guthrie said there was no law preventing someone from discussing their taxes, and went on, “Who do you owe $ 421 million to?” She asked.
She stepped in when the president, during a discussion of non-masked events at the White House, mentioned being touched by people at a reception for relatives of military personnel killed on duty.
“Do you think a grieving military family gave you COVID,” she asked.
She took an unusual amount of time for head-to-head questions as the format required questions from the audience in order to dominate the event. She also followed up on audience questions: when Trump was talking about health care and maintaining protection from pre-existing conditions, Guthrie indicated that his administration was trying to fix this in court.
A look online showed the effectiveness of Guthrie. Words such as “condescending”, “badger”, “argumentative” and “tyrant” have been used by supporters of the President on social media. Memes appeared on Guthrie’s face that looked like a vampire or a devil.
“Why does anyone take Savannah Guthrie seriously?” tweeted conservative talk show host Buck Sexton. “She was clownish and shrill last night. Just awful.”
Before appearing in Florida on Friday, Trump called his Guthrie experience “little potatoes”.
“If you can’t handle Savannah, you can’t handle Putin, President Xi and Kim Jong Un either,” he said.
But it clearly stayed with him. He brought up the interview again at a second rally in Macon, Georgia: “Last night I thought she was out of line. She was out of line. “
The Nielsen company announced that Biden City Hall reached 14.1 million people on ABC between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Friday afternoon and Trump 13.5 million on NBC, CNBC and MSNBC.
Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for Trump’s campaign, said even though the commission-sponsored debate was canceled Thursday, “one has occurred anyway.” He said Guthrie was playing the role of the adversary in the debate and Biden’s replacement.
When she declared Guthrie a winner on Thursday’s Politics Night TV, the Vox website said her quick series of questions, setbacks, and fact-checking “probably made the White House wish they had straight the debate conducted “.
Guthrie not only gave NBC News executives a break from online critics’ calls for a boycott, but he helped restore the honor of the “Today” show. Her former partner, Matt Lauer, was heavily criticized in 2016 for questioning him in consecutive interviews with Trump and Hillary Clinton.
NBC News said it wouldn’t make Guthrie or network managers available to speak about the performance on Friday.
Axios’ Swan understands, more than anyone, the high stakes involved in interviewing Trump.
“No question about it, because the scrutiny of every interview he conducts is so intense that you can inflict enormous harm on yourself if you are not well prepared,” he said.