We all knew that GOP frontrunner Donald Trump had been given unprecedented access and treatment when it came to the media, but I don’t know if we realized just how unfair his advantage really was.
According to Media Matters, the celebrity billionaire and real-life Biff Tannen has been allowed to call into the Sunday talk shows a total of 30 times. (He has made 65 total appearances since last year.) In the past, hosts of these shows almost never allowed a candidate or other guest to do an interview over the phone, only utilizing that option for emergency or breaking news situations. However, during the Rise of Trump, all rules were tossed out the window in order to accommodate the former reality TV star, as hosts and producers were hoping he’d say something outrageous to spike their ratings.
Meanwhile, the four remaining candidates have exactly zero phoners between them. None, Nada. Zilch. In fact, Trump has more Sunday phone interviews than Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz have actual appearances. (Of course, Cruz and Hillary have a tendency to be frugal with their media appearances.) Bernie Sanders has been interviewed 58 times, and they’ve all been live in studio or via satellite.
Recently, Chuck Todd announced that he would no longer allow Trump to call into Meet the Press. However, prior to Chuck’s announcement, he’d allowed Trump to phone in a total of six times. Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday made it clear early on that the real estate mogul would not be given that privilege, and stuck to his guns. (Trump has appeared on Fox News Sunday six times in total, his lowest total among the five shows.)
ABC’s This Week has been the biggest enabler of Trump’s call-in habit, allowing him to do it 11 times. (He’s only appeared on camera four times.) Even after media critics started excoriating the networks for allowing Trump to do phoners, host George Stephanopoulos continued to extend the privilege to The Donald. CNN’s State of the Union has let Trump call in six times while CBS’s Face the Nation has done seven phone interviews with him.
Phone interviews not only are unappealing to viewers, as they are listening to a detached voice, but it is a clear advantage to the interview subject. The interviewer has difficulty controlling the conversation as the interviewee can filibuster and speak over the questions. Also, the subject may have notes in front of them and aides assisting with answers. Viewers also cannot see facial expressions and body language.
Media Matters has launched a petition to urge the networks to stop allowing Trump to phone in.