2020 Trump Spokesman Tim Murtaugh Recalls ICY Interviews with CNN, MSNBC Partisans

News & Politics

Brian Flood at FoxNews.com reports on how Trump 2020 campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh discusses his scrapping with CNN and MSNBC hosts in his new book, Swing Hard in Case You Hit It.

First came CNN host Brianna Keilar, who in June 2020 pressed Murtaugh on Trump’s remark that they should slow down COVID testing to get fewer positive results. “I think it would be accurate to conclude that Keilar had decided that she didn’t like me before I ever appeared on her show.”

Murtaugh claimed Trump was joking, and he said Keilar responded that over 120,000 Americans had died from COVID before asking, “I do not think that is funny. Do you think that is funny?”

Murtaugh wrote that “Keilar decided that she would claim moral superiority and declare humor off limits, while dishonestly suggesting that the president and his campaign were laughing at the people who were dying of COVID-19.”

“The whole thing was a reminder that I needed to anticipate their partisanship more and treat them as though they were the political opposition, because they clearly were,” Murtaugh concluded.

Then there was CNN anchor Jim Sciutto, a former Obama administration official, a fact Murtaugh liked to remind CNN viewers about. ”Every time I appeared on his show, he attacked aggressively from the very first word. He quite clearly viewed me as a political adversary and conducted interviews in what I felt was a condescending and accusatory manner.” (Alex Christy captured it for NewsBusters.)

“One day in August 2020, I appeared on his show, and he repeatedly asked me if President Trump accepted responsibility for all the American deaths attributable to COVID-19. This, obviously, was an unanswerable question in a political sense, which is exactly why he asked it,” he recalled.

“If I said that the president did accept responsibility, then I would have agreed with the false narrative that Trump was responsible for the effects of a virus that came from China. Additionally, I’d have handed CNN the very soundbite it was looking for,” he wrote. “If I said he did not accept responsibility, it might sound callous and inconsistent, because we were simultaneously looking for credit for the president’s overall response to the pandemic, and so we would be wanting the good without taking the bad.”

Murtaugh explained that “any observer could see clearly that CNN’s goal was not to be a mere journalistic outlet covering current events, but that it wanted to be an active participant in the political campaign.”

In October of 2020, Murtaugh wrote, he was scheduled to do an interview with MSNBC’s Katy Tur, but they “demanded” he wear a mask during the live shot.

“Mind you, it was a bright and sunny day, and I was standing outside, easily more than six feet away from any crew the network could have been concerned about. Tur herself was in a studio somewhere else. After it was confirmed that the mask was a condition of the live shot, I huddled over the phone with some of the campaign team back in Virginia to discuss whether I should proceed. As a group we decided that it was better to participate in the hit than to skip it, so I went through with it,” he wrote.

Murtaugh recounted that Tur cited the names of people who had recently died from COVID in order to criticize a tweet Trump had sent that said, “Don’t be afraid of COVID. Don’t let it dominate your life.” (She started with video of Amanda Kloots, whose husband died from the disease, calling Trump “beyond hurtful.”)

“That wasn’t journalism. It was the ghoulish exploitation of the deaths of real people so that Katy Tur could thrill the MSNBC audience by attacking someone from the Trump campaign. It was juvenile and a bad-faith effort to specifically blame one person—President Trump—for deaths caused by a global pandemic that began in China,” Murtaugh wrote.

Not every cable-news host was thoroughly hostile. Murtaugh said then-CNN host Chris Cuomo came across as sincere when he told the Trump spokesperson, “I respect your effort because that’s the game,” after a fiery interview in which Murtaugh mocked the anchor’s infamous on-air COVID antics with his brother Andrew, then governor of New York. Nick Fondacaro wrote about one of those interactions.

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