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This interview has been edited down for print, but to hear the full half-hour-long interview with Chris Hayes in podcast form, click here.
They said it couldn’t be done, but the keys to the Oval Office have officially been handed off to Donald J. Trump, and Barack Obama is likely enjoying what is probably his first real sigh of relief the last decade.
Meanwhile, Chris Hayes, the Emmy-winning host of MSNBC’s nightly analysis of the political day, is working on the beginning of reporting on what is undoubtedly the unknown: covering the new Trump administration.
You don’t need to be told about the contentious relationship the press has had with the center of its universe for the last year and a half. You probably don’t need to be reminded of the way the new president “loathes, loves and is obsessed with the media,“ as Hayes puts it. So how does the media handle the new challenges of a president whom some see as a loose cannon?
Hayes spoke with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss.
What stays the same in the way that you cover Donald Trump as president, as opposed to how you would cover a more conventional president?
This sort of question of “what stays the same, what changes, how should we as journalists approach this administration,” it’s occupying a lot of time and energy and thought for all of us, for me, I think for everyone in the industry.
The place that I’ve come to: don’t psyche yourself out…. I think it’s important to stay focused on the first-order assessment about whether something is newsworthy, good, bad, outrageous, not outrageous, you should stay focused on reporting things that you think are important; driving that with an eye toward journalistic accountability and not think ahead of yourself on this meta level of “well no one cares about that.”
Similarly, I think it’s really important to distinguish making points about substantive observations like “the president said this, which contradicted another thing that he said,” or “the president made this promise on health care, which does not fit at all with what his own plans were during the campaign.”
There’s a lot of debate amongst journalists, in critique of media that says everything that he tweets is news and then there are people who say we don’t have to talk about everything he says on Twitter. Where do you fall on that spectrum?
I think you make independent assessments of the newsworthiness of the tweets. If you think they’re newsworthy on their own then you should cover them. I don’t feel the obligation to cover every tweet from [the president].
How do you think Congress is going to work with the new president?
The only thing I’m confident to predict is that there will be lots of conflict, and there’ll be lots of drama. How it will shake out, I have no idea. There are a lot of competing interests, we’ve already seen some of them. My rule of thumb is the normal laws of politics do not seem to apply to Donald Trump — but they DO apply to everyone else.
We saw that multiple times in the campaign, with the Access Hollywood tape [Donald Trump] and his people tried to just bull through, and they did sort of successfully, and ? they tried to launch allegations at Hillary Clinton’s husband and in some ways were successful in that, attempting to neutralize the issue — but everyone else around freaked out.
Jason Chaffetz was rushing to every microphone he could in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape to say that he could not bring himself to look his daughter in the eyes and vote for Donald Trump. Then when Trump was doing better, he came around to Donald Trump. Jason Chaffetz will do what’s good for Jason Chaffetz.
Monica Crowley is a good example [in a plagiarism scandal], had that been [Donald Trump] himself, he wouldn’t have knuckled under, he would have been like “meh,” but Monica Crowley had to resign.
There’s a lot of conversation about a big new hire at 30 Rock: Megyn Kelly coming over from Fox. Some people think it’s amazing, some act as if it’s the end of the world, but what does Kelly coming from Fox to NBC mean? How do you see that?
I’m going to be totally honest: I, like everyone else, watched Megyn Kelly’s performance during the election, particularly during the debates, and she had some amazing moments in the debates. I thought that she, rightfully, because of those debate moments and because of the way she conducted herself, and I think the way she conducted herself across the street at Fox (in terms of Roger Ailes and how that went down), her profile increased enormously and she’s obviously tremendously talented, very smart and I’m happy that she has achieved what she pretty clearly wanted to do — get out of the fairly confined restraints of Fox News.
In terms of what it means, I don’t know. To be totally honest, I focus on one thing here, which is the hour that I control. I don’t control anything else at this network except the one hour that I put on television and I basically spend all of my time thinking about it.
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