Last week, the president of Barstool Sports interviewed the President of the United States, and the internet kind of broke.
Two cultural icons and masters of media collided in a way that none of us saw coming. But then again, 2020 is a never ending combination of Cards Against Humanity, MadLibs, and Jumanji, so I guess we probably should have.
Liberal journalists went into anaphylactic shock, and some of the network’s more left leaning fans were beside themselves. They were livid because Dave took the interview in the first place. They were also enraged that a man famous for rating pizza wasn’t grilling Trump like he was on 60 Minutes.
If media members are going to be mad at anyone, they should be mad at themselves. Dave Portnoy did a better job interviewing the President and asking compelling questions than 90% of the White House Press Corps.
For literally years on end we’ve watched CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post, and the New York Times let (and even encourage) their pundits and reporters to behave like deranged children. They use every opportunity they have to interact with the President to push their agendas instead of do their jobs. I could probably count every relevant question the President or Press Secretary was asked in the last year and still have fingers and toes to spare. Mainstream media journalists and reporters clearly don’t take their positions seriously, so it should come as no surprise that the President doesn’t take them seriously. Portnoy has more clout and credibility than anyone in DC, and whoever suggested that interview clearly had the right idea.
You don’t have to closely follow Dave Portnoy to know that he’s probably going to vote for Trump in November and that he’s probably admired him for years on end. He approached the President amicably and with respect. I really don’t see how that’s an issue. People in the media get chummy with politicians all the time, but I usually only see this disproportionate outrage reserved for Republicans. And since Dave isn’t a journalist and doesn’t claim to be, his warm reception of the President seems even less consequential.
Thinking more about it, I wonder if Dave’s buddy buddy demeanor helped him get better answers. Obviously, it’s not a reporter or journalist’s job to stroke the President’s ego, or make him feel comfortable. Their job is to uncover the truth. But I wonder if their combative dispositions actually interfere with that objective more than they help. How much actual, substantive information is shared when Trump is playing on defense with the media? Sure, being rude to the President is great for Twitter traction and the Beltway circle jerk, but how often does it reveal anything worthwhile, or do anything in the public’s interest?
The thing is, while Dave was accused of “lobbing softballs” he did actually ask interesting questions, and press the President for answers even if he did it in jest. He asked the President about his prior condemnation of Kaepernick, admitting that while he had been critical of Kaepernick in the past, what Kaepernick did was peaceful and seemed like a preferred alternative to what we’ve seen the last few months. Trump gave a short answer about “running for office” and quickly transitioned to his law and order talking points, touting his action against destruction of monuments and statues. Dave then asked a question about unity, and bringing the country together. After Trump answered with the economic success we were seeing right up until the pandemic hit us, Dave revisited his question about kneeling, saying that he didn’t think the economy would necessarily quell concerns for Black Lives Matter activists, and that kneeling seemed like a small concession to make. Trump then answered the question directly. His haters at WaPo and NYT could honestly learn a thing or two.
It wasn’t a perfect interview. Dave got sidetracked on more than one occasion, jumping to new questions before the one he’d just asked could be answered. But Dave Portnoy and Barstool Sports got the opportunity of a lifetime, and I’m glad they took it. They did a great job, and I pity anyone too blinded by their hatred of Trump or Barstool to recognize this accomplishment or give credit where it’s due.