Leslie Stahl

Tags ››› Leslie Stahl
  • 60 Minutes Is Already Helping Normalize Trump’s Presidency

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    60 Minutes gave a master class in normalizing a dangerous demagogue -- inviting President-elect  Donald Trump to reintroduce himself as a reasonable politician while glossing over the most dangerous features and promises of his recent campaign, including his reliance on the chief of the white nationalist “alt-right” website Breitbart News, Stephen Bannon, who has just been named White House senior counselor.

    During the November 13 edition of CBS’s 60 Minutes, Donald Trump gave correspondent Lesley Stahl his first extensive interview since winning the presidential election. The interview was a disturbing start for journalism in a Trump presidency -- asking softball questions, fixating on Trump’s personal feelings about becoming president, and repeatedly minimizing Trump’s most dangerous promises as mere campaign talk.

    Do You Mean What You Said?

    Throughout the interview, Stahl repeatedly invited Trump to distance himself from the extreme positions he took during the campaign. Stahl introduced the interview by telling viewers that 60 Minutes had discovered many of Trump’s signature campaign promises were, in fact, “not meant to be taken literally, but as opening bids for negotiation.” (A sentiment Trump himself did not express during the taped interview.)

    That framing continued throughout the interview. “Are people going to be surprised about how you conduct yourself as president?,” Stahl asked, suggesting that the Trump Americans had come to know on the campaign trail might have been an act. Asking about Trump’s campaign rhetoric, Stahl wondered if the president-elect would “have that same rhetoric you had on the stump or are you going to rein it in?”

    The bulk of Stahl’s policy questions focused on whether Trump was going to follow through on a given campaign position or “change it in any way.”

    That approach -- essentially asking Trump ‘did you really mean what you said?’ rather than holding him accountable for the platform he ran on -- allowed Trump to reintroduce himself as a reasonable politician, distance himself from positions like putting his political opponent in prison or reversing marriage equality, and avoid having to answer substantive questions about how he planned to implement proposals like building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border or repealing and replacing Obamacare.

    Fixating On The Personal

    Stahl also focused on Trump’s personal reaction to being elected president, asking if he was surprised by his victory, if he realized the enormity of his victory, if he was “intimidated” or “scared” by the burden of the presidency, if it was awkward meeting with President Obama, etc. Asking about Trump’s first meeting with the president, Stahl wondered “You looked pretty sober sitting there in the Oval Office. Did something wash over you?”

    In a 60 Minutes Overtime segment, Stahl explained that she believed Trump had become “much more subdued, much more serious” in the days since winning the presidency:

    “I really did have the feeling that the sense of gravity, and how big the problems are — it was sinking in, washing over him,” she says. “I think he wanted the public to know that he understood that he had to shift gears and pay attention to the responsibilities now.”

    Again, Stahl’s framing assumes that the Trump who will soon be leading the country is not going to be the same Trump who ran one of the most divisive, undisciplined, and dangerous presidential campaigns in modern American history.

    And those questions about Trump’s personal feelings came at the expense of more serious questions about what he actually plans to do as president, especially in light of his shameful positions as a candidate: his pledge to ban Muslims from entering the country or engage in war crimes, for example. They also came at the expense of questions about ongoing controversies, lawsuits, and conflicts of interest surrounding the president-elect, including  charges of fraud over Trump University, his promise to sue the many women who accused him of sexual harassment and assault, the anti-semitic positions of his campaign and reports of the same surrounding his new senior counselor, and Trump’s ties to white nationalists at home and Russian interests abroad.

    Is this how major news networks will spend the next four years normalizing Trump’s extremism? Treat it like an act, assume he doesn’t mean what he says, fixate on the sensationalism of his ascendancy, and play nice in order to maintain access? The same thing happened during the campaign, when journalists spent months predicting a Trump “pivot” that never came.

    It is the responsibility of news networks to describe the world as it is, not as they hope it turns out. 60 Minutes’ apparent blind faith or unwillingness to take Trump’s campaign promises seriously -- to acknowledge that the most powerful office in the country is about to be occupied by someone who demonstrates no regard for basic democratic norms -- highlights the frightening possibility that many news networks simply aren’t prepared to  speak truth to power during a Trump presidency.

  • The 6 Most Ridiculous Attacks on Clean Energy In 2014

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS & KEVIN KALHOEFER

    This year saw clean energy technologies become cost-competitive with fossil fuels and gain prominence worldwide. The fossil fuel industry, desperate to stymie clean energy's continuing expansion, enlisted conservative media to do their bidding and attack clean technologies in every shape and form. From stoking fears about public transit being a form of "government control," to providing one-sided stories falsely predicting clean energy's downfall, here are the media's six most absurd attacks on clean energy this year.

    1. 60 Minutes Produces "Poor Piece Of Journalism" To Attack Clean Energy

    In January, CBS' 60 Minutes aired a report titled, "The Cleantech Crash," which attempted to label clean energy a "dirty word." The report was widely criticized by reportersgovernment officials, and clean energy advocates alike for offering a one-sided look at renewable energy and narrowly focusing on a few failures while ignoring the majority of clean energy's success. Two of the guests interviewed in the report later criticized it for selectively airing their comments to provide an overly negative portrait of the industy and for "fail[ing] to do the most elementary fact checking and source qualification."

    Further, the report made no mention of climate change, which as energy reporter Dana Hull pointed out is "the whole point of cleantech, after all: using the promise of technology and innovation to try to wean our economy off of fossil fuels."

    60 minutes

  • 60 Minutes' Glaring Omission On Groundwater Scarcity

    CBS Ignores Connection Between Water Scarcity And Climate Change

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    60 minutes

    A 60 Minutes report on groundwater depletion brought attention to a critical issue that many regard as a national security threat, but failed to mention the inherent connection between water scarcity and climate change.

    The November 16 edition of 60 Minutes featured a segment on the threat of groundwater scarcity titled "Depleting the Water." In it, host Leslie Stahl covered the severe droughts around the world that are leading people to extract fresh water from the ground at unsustainable rates, warning that "the wars of the 21st century may well be fought over water."

    But Stahl completely ignored climate change, which is projected to increase the severity and frequency of such droughts and is inherently linked to groundwater scarcity. A United Nations climate science report concluded earlier this year that manmade climate change will reduce groundwater resources "significantly in most dry subtropical regions," and a 2013 study from Simon Fraser University determined that climate change may already be exacerbating water shortages in many areas around the globe.

    The 60 Minutes segment highlighted that California's "record-breaking drought" is inducing farmers to drill for water in underwater aquifers at unsustainable rates -- without mentioning that this drought that has been directly linked by scientists multiple times to manmade climate change. Stahl also highlighted severe droughts across southern Asia and in the Middle East, regions that the National Center for Atmospheric Research and other scientific institutions have projected will experience worsening droughts as the planet warms.

    Stahl's comment that groundwater shortages may lead to political unrest also has roots in global warming. As Stahl pointed out, many aquifers that are being severely depleted are in "volatile regions" such as in Iraq and Syria. Many military officials have warned that unabated global warming could exacerbate wars and terrorism and pose a national security threat.

    The segment ended by asserting that if no action is taken, California's aquifers could end up completely depleted. But the only responses to the drought that the news magazine covered were a process in which sewage water is recycled into freshwater and a recently enacted law that regulates groundwater. 60 Minutes didn't discuss ways to combat climate change, which would work to prevent catastrophic droughts from happening in the first place.

    60 Minutes' failure to mention global warming -- in a segment focused on a problem related to manmade climate change -- follows the news magazine's widely panned report on clean energy, which also made no mention of climate change.