ABC’s Jon Karl: ‘Legitimate Debate’ Over Covering Trump's Corona Briefings Live

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The journalistic hand wringing over whether to stop carrying Donald Trump’s corona briefings live continued on MSNBC, Wednesday. Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski and ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl fretted over the dilemma. Karl, the network’s chief White House correspondent, insisted there is a “legitimate debate” over carrying the virus updates live.

Brzezinski worried, “We are at the point where The Washington Post, I think, keeps a running tally on the President's lies, and we have seen many times the President deliver incorrect information during these briefings…. So how do we cover these? Is the choice as stark as not to take the President's press briefings live?”

Karl pondered dropping the briefing: “Well, I think there are two questions. One, do we carry them live and how do we actually cover them? In terms of carrying them live, I think there's a legitimate debate about that.

 

 

In a break from some of her other MSNBC colleagues, Brzezinski said it would be a “mistake” to not air the briefing live. But she called for live fact checking. Karl agreed saying, “As a reporter, you’ve got to cover these things.” He added, “There's been an avalanche of misstatements, exaggerations, incorrect information that has come out and it's got to be fact checked.”

Now, ABC News hasn’t nationally carried a coronavirus briefing since Sunday. So despite his protestations, the network doesn’t seem to be listening to Karl's call to regularly carry them live. On Tuesday, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd offered an obnoxious disclaimer before Trump’s briefing. MSNBC's Chris Hayes called it “crazy” and “dangerous” to continue to air the briefings live. 

Earlier in the segment, Karl lamented that the President has turned the press into the “villains in the Trump show.”

This is a president who relishes news media coverage more than I’ve ever witnessed. He is a president who, he knows all of us. He knows all of us personally in some cases, and as you said, very charming away from the camera, sometimes charming in front of the camera, but we are the villains in the Trump show. 

A partial transcript of the segment is below. Click "expand" to read more. 

Morning Joe

4/1/2020

8:41 AM ET

Joe SCARBOROUGH: You know, Jonathan, it’s interesting, again, I'm just trying to figure out what the triggers at the press conferences. Almost like he's looking for a fight and reminded me, of course, he goes after Yamiche every time Yamiche asks him questions, it seems. It was a little better last press conference. Peter Alexander a week ago asked what he could say to reassure Americans and that’s when he went on a rant and tirade against Peter Alexander. Do you think at this point the President is just looking for an excuse to bash the press? Because he thinks that's what his people, his supporters want him to do and these are substituting for these rallies?

JON KARL: Yes. That's his playbook. I describe a scene in the book in Florida. I was in Fort Myers at the Hertz Arena for a Trump rally I had an interview with him backstage before the rally got started. It was a pretty contentious interview but it was a good interview. After it was over, he brought me out, you know, still backstage, to see Ron DeSantis, who was campaigning with him. To see Rick Scott and their wives, and he introduces me, brings me into the room and says, “Meet the great Jonathan Karl,” and all he’s complementary. And then he asks me, Joe, three times, if I was going to go out and watch his speech. “Are you going to go? Are you going to be out there? I got a good one.” Of course, I'm a reporter. I'm covering what he's doing and I went out there and within three minutes of him taking the stage, he had that, the 10,000 or so people in that arena screaming and taunting me and the fellow reporters in that press pen in the middle of the floor calling us horrible, nasty people.

KARL: This is a president who relishes news media coverage more than I’ve ever witnessed. He is a president who, he knows all of us. He knows all of us personally in some cases, and as you said, very charming away from the camera, sometimes charming in front of the camera, but we are the villains in the Trump show. And his supporters love it.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Let’s now look at these press briefings, and you know, we are at the point where the Washington Post I think keeps a running tally on the President's lies, and we have seen many times the President deliver incorrect information during these briefings and, also, worked to, you know, give coverage in the podium to people that he wants to amplify in a branding type of way. So how do we cover these? Is the choice as stark as not to take the President's press briefings live? Which I actually think would be a mistake, or is the answer to live fact check them?

KARL: Well, I think there are two questions. One, do we carry them live and how do we actually cover them? In terms of carrying them live, I think there's a legitimate debate about that. I do think that the interest and the, it's off the charts because people want to know what the federal government is doing, what it isn't doing, what it shouldn't be doing. They want to know what the nation's top experts at the federal level are telling them should be done what they should do until their own lives and that's why so many people are watching these briefings. I mean, the President was boasting about the ratings. That's -- that was a strange thing to do, but people are tuning in. They want to know what's happening.

And as a reporter, you've got to cover these things. I mean, they're incredibly you know, important. It's a chance to put questions not just to the President but the Vice President who's running this task force, to people like Fauci and Birx, and occasionally the FEMA director is there. The treasury secretary. You've got to -- got to cover these things. They're incredibly important, but you're right.

There's been an avalanche of misstatements, exaggerations, incorrect information that has come out, and it's got to be fact checked. It's got to be fact checked in real time I believe, and there are different kinds of misstatements here, Mika. I mean, you know, if the president is -- is talking about how great he handled things back in January and February, I mean, that's one kind of fact check. To me, that's like a little less relevant. That's like a political question that may be important going forward. People want to know what's happening now. Are we going to be in a position to be crowding into churches on Easter? Well, no. And he backtracked from that very quickly. Do we really have a cure around the corner? Well, there's no evidence of that at all. That's important to point out. Those are the things that need to be fact checked in real time.

 

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