Thursday evening, Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald appeared on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show.
In a disgraceful performance which has to be seen to be believed, the obviously battle-prepped Eichenwald made an utter fool of himself. Apparently aware (or made aware) of how awful he was, he attempted to defend himself later Thursday in a 40-plus tweetstorm. It didn't help matters; the tweets were gone by 10 p.m.
TUCKER CARLSON: (On) September 12 of this year, you said, this is a tweet, "I tweet so many attacks on the bad, lazy work of the press, I doubt I'll ever be voted to win a journalism award again," which is also a humble brag by the way.
But the next day you say, quite ironically, and I'm quoting, "I believe Trump was institutionalized in a mental hospital for a nervous breakdown in 1990, which is why he won't release medical records."
Do you see a little irony that on one day you're criticizing the press for being lazy and inaccurate, and the next day you yourself are being lazy and inaccurate?
KURT EICHENWALD (after laughing at the question): Let me give you what the question is that a journalist would ask.
EICHENWALD: A journalist would ask the question, "Why did you send that tweet?" I will answer it for you now.
I've been covering Donald Trump. I started writing about him in the mid- to late-1980s. At that time, I obtained his medical records, from his real doctor, not from this guy he sent (this year) with a medical report then (Question: Wasn't getting someone else's medical records illegal even back in the 1980s? — Ed.).
It showed that in 1982, he was given a very heavy prescription for an amphetamine derivative, and he remained on that prescription for many years. I knew from people inside the Trump organization that they were deeply concerned about his condition, that he was getting reckless, that he was getting impulsive, that he wasn't sleeping, that he was speaking with these sort of great variations of grandeur that he could do anything.
And in 1990, because he did so many deals that were so reckless, his whole empire was going into bankruptcy. And he was going through a divorce, and I was told that there was an — now, let me say, I'm talking about reporting process. So I'm saying here is what I was told.
CARLSON: Was he in a mental hospital or not in 1990? You allege that he was. Was he or wasn't he? He wasn't, was he?
EICHENWALD: Can I, Can I, I mean, Tucker, if you don't want me to answer the question, tell me so —
CARLSON: I'm asking you the question. Was he in a mental hospital in 1990 or not?
EICHENWALD: — and then we can move on. But I would like to answer the question. You've made an accusation. Let me answer it.
CARLSON: No, I read your tweet.
EICHENWALD: So in 1990, I was told that there was, essentially a breakdown — I'm giving reporting process here, okay? — Clearly I didn't print it. I also thought Trump was a private individual, and that it didn't matter, you know.
CARLSON: Well, you said it right here.
EICHENWALD: And this was as a result of the, uh, amphetamine derivatives (note that "derivatives" is now plural — Ed.) that he was taking.
Many many years passed, and we have now the election. Now up until that point —
CARLSON: This is a very long story. You said he was in a mental hospital in 1990. Was he or wasn't he?
EICHENWALD: Can I finish, Tucker? If you don't like the answer —
CARLSON: It's a really simple question. I'm asking you to please answer the question.
EICHENWALD: If you don't like the answer, don't have guests.
Four and a half minutes later, Eichenwald still didn't answer the question. In the course of that painful exchange, he betrayed the fact that he had prepared for a hostile interview by showing the audience a booklet entitled "Tucker Carlson's Falsehoods," offering to go over such falsehoods one at a time. Eichenwald also supposedly had a special message from CIA agents concerning how they feel about Trump's interest in national security briefings. Time mercifully ran out before the audience got to hear it.
Eichenwald's ensuing tweetstorm of what apparently ended up being 46 separate tweets before they were all deleted revealed the depth of his disdain for the fundamentals of human conversation and communication, Fox News, and Carlson.
The conversational failure, which was either deliberate or incredibly tone-deaf, should have been obvious to any experienced reporter. When someone asks you a closed question, there are only three possible answers: "Yes," "No," or "I don't know." Going into a riff about "reporting process" like you're the professor in the first week of Journalism 101 is deliberate obfuscation, insulting to both the host and his audience. Eichenwald was not interested in genuine engagement. If he was, he would have said, "I don't know, but here's why I tweeted that 'I believe' he was."
This gets to the second problem. A layman tweeting that he or she "believes" something is clearly expressing an opinion. A reporter who says he "believes" something as specific as what Eichenwald tweeted about Trump having been "institutionalized in a mental hospital in 1990" needs to have specific, presentable, verifiable documented evidence. That's because the public rightfully expects reporters acting in their roles as reporters to back up such "beliefs."
Eichenwald hasn't shown any such evidence. It would appear that the furthest he can possibly go with what he claims to know would be to say that "I have some reason to believe, etc., but I can't prove it." But then, if he was honest with himself and acting responsibly, he would see that he doesn't have anything firm to report, and would step away from the keyboard and keep his trap shut. Right now, he only has a hunch that Trump's current campaign and post-election behaviors represent a relapse into the kinds of behaviors seen that led to his alleged breakdown in 1990 — and with all due respect, dude, based on how you're acting these days, you're the last person anyone should trust in making such an evaluation.
In Eichenwald's Thursday night tweetstorm, he claimed that the words "I believe" in the offending September 12 tweet were aimed at ridiculing how Fox News handled Hillary Clinton's medical incident during the previous weekend: "my 'I believe' tweet that was sent in a way I thought ppl would think was a play on Fox." Sorry, Kurt, if we are to "believe" you, I guess "ppl" just aren't as clever or as obsessed with the supposedly serious flaws at Fox News as you are, and they failed to discern the deep genius of your sarcasm. Your well-established pattern of hostility towards anything and everything related to Donald Trump would clearly have distracted anyone familiar with your tweets.
As to Carlson, Eichenwald promised (now deleted) to post one entry each day "from the '@TuckerCarlson Falsehoods" notebook."
Here's some unsolicited advice, Kurt. First, get over your obsessions with Fox and Carlson. Second, fix or get rid of the still-present tweet about how you "think" a Trump rally crowd booed John Glenn last week because he "was a Democrat." Then, start working on becoming a mature adult. Finally, as to your "belief" that Trump was institutionalized in 1990, either bring proof — or apologize for having brought it up.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.