MSNBC Journalist Admits Network Doesn't Play Hardball With Trump

On Monday's Last Word, MSNBC's Tony Dokoupil inadvertently revealed that his network restrains itself from pressing Donald Trump too hard. Dokoupil reported on conservative radio host Charlie Sykes's "incredibly blistering" interview of Trump earlier in the day, and underlined that the personality "knew it was going to be a one and done. He does not have to go back to Donald Trump ever again. People who are on the beat, people who work for our network — they have to keep that relationship going for a long, long time. Charlie did not have that burden." [video below]

Host Lawrence O'Donnell turned to the correspondent near the end of his program. O'Donnell revealed that he was "struck by Charlie's reaction there — that he was surprised that there haven't been more interviews like his with Donald Trump. I am, too. And he was a little bit surprised that Donald Trump showed up for this interview, wasn't he?"

Dokoupil confirmed the Wisconsin conservative host's reaction, and added, "Before we beat ourselves up too much for not challenging Donald Trump in the same way that Charlie Sykes did, we have to remember that Charlie did a one and done. That's a term of art here in the journalism world. He knew he had one shot at Donald Trump." The MSNBC journalist continued by pointing out Sykes's year-long opposition to the billionaire presidential candidate, and summarized what took place during the interview.

When Dokoupil made his revelation about "people who are on the beat" and those with MSNBC holding back with Trump, O'Donnell tried to paper over what the correspondent had just let out of the bag: "Well, I don't think the fact that you have to cover Donald Trump means that you then play softball with him, so that you can guarantee he will speak to you another time. Once the mission of an interview is to get the next interview with the same person, we know how soft that interview's going to be."

The transcript of the relevant portion of Tony Dokoupil's report from MSNBC's The Last Word on March 28, 2016:

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: Joining us now from Janesville, Wisconsin is MSNBC national reporter Tony Dokoupil, who interviewed Charlie Sykes this afternoon. And Tony, I was struck by Charlie's reaction there — that he was surprised that there haven't been more interviews like his with Donald Trump. I am, too. And he was a little bit surprised that Donald Trump showed up for this interview, wasn't he?

[MSNBC Graphic: "Trump Clashes With Conservative Radio Host: Charlie Sykes Compares Trump To '12-Year-Old Bully;' Radio Host Surprised Trump Interview Happened"]

TONY DOKOUPIL: Indeed, he was. I mean, before we beat ourselves up too much for not challenging Donald Trump in the same way that Charlie Sykes did, we have to remember that Charlie did a one and done. That's a term of art here in the journalism world. He knew he had one shot at Donald Trump. He didn't even think he was going to get it, because he assumed somebody from the Trump campaign would Google 'Charlie Sykes;' and see for almost a year now, Charlie's been calling trump a 'vulgar buffoon' — saying that he needs to build a firewall here in Wisconsin to stop the Trump train, as it moves through toward November; doing everything he can to block that man's nomination. He didn't think he was going to get the interview. He got it. He pushed it as much as he could. He started off very polite: 'Happy Easter; congratulations on the new grandchild. But oh, by the way, here in Wisconsin, we value civility and decorum and truth telling — conservative principles — and we don't really think you have them.' And then, calls him a bully. He reminds him multiple times that your answers remind me of a playground, not a campaign for the president of the United States.

So Charlie Sykes — he took his opportunity. He knew it was going to be a one and done. He does not have to go back to Donald Trump ever again. People who are on the beat, people who work for our network — they have to keep that relationship going for a long, long time. Charlie did not have that burden; and, as a result, he had the luxury of being incredibly blistering.

O'DONNELL: Well, I don't think the fact that you have to cover Donald Trump means that you then play softball with him, so that you can guarantee he will speak to you another time. Once the mission of an interview is to get the next interview with the same person, we know how soft that interview's going to be.

[H/t: J.D. Durkin's Tuesday post on Mediaite]

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan was a news analyst at Media Research Center