Chetry: “You can’t get out of the gate!…I’m not embarrassed!” Must-see TV! American Morning co-anchor Kiran Chetry treated her viewers to ten minutes of the most compelling American Morning ever on the “birther” issue as she and co-anchor Ali Velshi interviewed surprise call-in guest Donald Trump this morning. Although Kiran feverishly tried to get a bumptious Trump to recant his “birther” message, her efforts were for naught even with the aid of Ali.
During a segment entitled “Trump Nation? Donald Trump is ‘seriously considering’ running for president [sic],” Kiran and Ali interviewed Chris Byron, a former Time and New York editor who had followed and interviewed Trump for several years. Less than flatteringly, Bryon portrayed Trump as a “joke candidate” who was interested in raising the ratings of his Celebrity Apprentice but was not willing to reveal “what he’s really worth.” Derisively, Byron laughed, “He brags incessantly about it but the reality is nobody knows whether he’s got cross-town bus money.” Scoffing further, Byron remarked that most of the buildings that Trump had in the neighbor (Manhattan) were merely licensed and then described Trump as mainly a “licensing guy like Pierre Cardin…[with]…his name on socks and underpants” with real estate holdings much less than he claimed.
Not surprisingly, AM producers were able to get Trump on the phone forthwith while Byron was still on the air. When Kiran introduced Trump and asked him for his response to Byron, an irate Trump rattled off some of his Manhattan properties and said that Byron “really has no idea” about his financial statement. Further, he stated that he was worth far more than the $2.7 billion that Forbes had reported. Subsequently, after Byron questioned Trump’s worth and challenged him to put out a net worth statement and Ali asked what relevance his wealth was to the voter, the real fun began.
When Trump had answered the queries of Byron and Ali, Kiran somberly said, “Alright, listen. I want to ask you one question.” Subsequently, she cited his lead (alongside Huckabee) in the GOP 2012 Presidential field in the CNN Opinion Research poll and asserted that many people had said that he gained his position by wading into the “birther” debate. Then, Kiran asked, “Do you wish that you–do you take back the questions of whether Obama was born in the United States?”
Countering Kiran’s claim, a recalcitrant Trump replied, “I think the reason I’m doing so well in the polls is because people know that I’m a smart guy, I’m a good business.” Before he could finish, Kiran excitedly exclaimed, “Yes, but you can’t get out of the gate! You can’t get out of the gate in a general election if you say that Barack, you’re questioning whether Obama was born in America. You won’t, you won’t win!”
Unpersuaded by Kiran’s fervent postulation, Trump replied, “Oh, I don’t think that at all. I think there’s a real question as to whether or not [Obama was born in the United States]. And, frankly, 75% of the people in the Republican Party are really doubting whether or not he [was]….I don’t know why he doesn’t just show his birth certificate.” Confidently, he continued, “But, the reason I’m up in the polls isn’t that: the reason I’m up is because I’ll protect this country from China and OPEC and all the others who are ripping us off.”
Subsequently, Ali interrogated Trump about his investigation into Obama’s birth certificate in Hawaii before Kiran could continue. When they were finished, Kiran remarked, “This is the other thing, though. Why wade into that debate if you do have a good argument about our country being lost, about questioning our foreign policy, about questioning our fiscal policy? Why not run on that? Why bring it in?”
Remorseless, Trump responded, “That’s a good question. I think my strength is jobs, the economy, and protecting our nation from OPEC, China, and all these other countries that are ripping us off. That’s my strength. The problem is every time I go on a show like, as an example, this morning the first question you asked me is about the birth certificate. So, I go a show, I want to talk about how we’re going to salvage ourself [sic] from losing 300 billion this year from China and the person always asks, ‘Mr. Trump, let’s talk about the birth certificate.'”
Before he could finish, an almost apoplectic Kiran interposed, “Because it’s a non-starter! It’s a non-starter!” In chorus, a highly agitated Ali stammered, “It’s ludicrous, Mr. Trump! It’s, it’s, no, that, it’s just a ludicrous discussion.”
At Kiran shook her head vigorously, Ali pointed his pen at Trump though the camera, saying, “So, if you don’t want it handled, let’s get it on the record right now that you believe Barack Obama was born in the United States and I promise you, after this, that no one at CNN will ever ask you this question again.”
Sounding almost contrite, Trump responded, “I wish I could say that. I wish I could say that with certainty. It’s possible that he was but there’s a big question as to whether or not he was. There are too many things.” Elaborating, he declared, “When I started this two month ago I thought he was. And, every day that goes by…I think less and less that he was born in the United States. He possibly was but I want to get rid of the word “possibly.”
Almost as an intermission, Byron inserted a few questions about a tariff on Chinese. When Trump had answered Byron’s interrogatories, Ali acerbically commented, “Look, those are the conversations we’d rather be having with you so if at some point you’d like to come on and settle the birther issue, we’d get down and talk about business which I always enjoy.”
Trump riposted, “Well, I’d love to have those conversations. You have to stop asking me about a birth certificate.”
As Kiran vainly tried to cut in, Ali retorted, “Well, then, you better stop talking about, you gotta stop talking about where the President was born if you don’t want us to ask you, Donald Trump.”
Trump persisted, “You have to stop asking me the question.”
Ali testily answered, “We’ll stop asking you the questions when you stop saying that President Obama can’t prove that he’s born in the United States. Deal? Is that a deal?”
Tired of the exchange, Trump sighed, “That’s fine with me.”
Not ready to call it quits quite yet, Kiran declared, “Already, one other quick question before we go: Do you know when this investigation in Hawaii is going to wrap up? When can you give a definitive answer, yes or no?”
Noticeably irritated, Trump retorted, “Why don’t you ask me about OPEC?…Here we go again! I can’t believe you just asked another question on the “birther.”
Softly, Kiran answered, “Well, what I was trying to explain to you. Well, I, I just don’t understand how you think you’re gonna get out of the gate.”
Interrupting, Trump taunted, “That’s okay. Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t be embarrassed.”
Kiran protested, “I’m not embarrassed! I don’t know how you think you can get out of the gate, get anyone to vote for you even if you have every single Republican who you claim doesn’t believe [then a click sounded as if her mike had been cut].
As Kiran when silent, Trump retorted, “Excuse me, you just said I’m leading in the polls!”
Bringing that lively exchange to an end, Ali remarked, “Alright, well…we can put this all behind us and we’re able to talk about all those other things which are what Americans are very interesting in talking about.” To his guests, he concluded, “Donald Trump, thank you for calling in….[And,]…Chris Byron, thank you for coming in, and, I think, causing Donald Trump to call us.”
Thanks, indeed to guests and hosts alike. “Out of the gate” or not, an AM to remember!
*American Morning – 04/21/11 (@ 7:31 a.m. ET)