Last night, Newsweek writer Kurt Eichenwald appeared on Fox News ostensibly to defend his tweets, most notably one saying he believes Donald Trump had a nervous breakdown in the 1990s and that’s why he won’t release his medical records. Unfortunately, the interview went way off the rails and we never did get the full story. Much worse than that, a vengeful Trump supporter sent Eichenwald, a known epileptic, a tweet designed to cause him a seizure. It succeeded.
In September, Eichenwald tweeted, but later deleted, a tweet saying, “I believe Trump was institutionalized in a mental hospital for a nervous breakdown in 1990, which is why he won’t release medical records.”
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson hosted Eichenwald last night in a segment that was designed to discredit him. “Do you believe that you’re practicing journalism?” was Carlson’s first question. Carlson cited Eichenwald’s tweets as some kind of proof that he probably isn’t.
“My only point is that you ought to label yourself as what you are, which is an advocate,” Carlson claimed, innocently enough. But it was clear from the whole framing of the segment that his goal was not better journalism but to discredit Eichenwald via a barrage of biased-sounding tweets whose contexts were never given.
Eichenwald knew what was going on. Instead of going on defense (always a good move for a liberal guest on Fox) he interrupted Carlson, saying, “Let’s play the game another way.” Eichenwald pulled out a huge book labeled, “Tucker Carlson Falsehoods.”
To Carlson’s credit, he found it hilarious. “That’s pretty good,” he said.
The rest of the interview was entertaining as political theater but there was potential news there that got lost.
Eichenwald had asked Carlson to hone in on a single tweet in order to be able to discuss it. So Carlson chose the one about Trump’s alleged nervous breakdown. Unfortunately, Eichenwald could not discuss it pithily.
EICHENWALD: I’ve been covering Donald Trump, I started writing about him in the late 1980s. At that time, I obtained his medical records from his real doctor, not from this guy who sent out a medical report then. It showed that in 1982, he was given a very heavy prescription for an amphetamine derivative and he remained on that prescription for many years. I knew from people inside the Trump organization that they were deeply concerned about his condition, that he was getting reckless, that he was getting impulsive, that he wasn’t sleeping, that he was speaking with these sort of great variations of grandeur, that he could do anything and in 1990, because he did so many deals that were so reckless, his whole empire was going into bankruptcy. And he was going through a divorce and I was told that there was an – now, let me say, I’m talking about reporting process so I’m saying here is what I was told.
CARLSON: Was he in a mental hospital or not in 1990? You allege that he was. Was he or wasn’t he?
EICHENWALD: Can I? I mean, Tucker, if you don’t want me to answer the question … In 1990, I was told that there was essentially a breakdown. I’m giving reporting process here, OK? Clearly, I didn’t print it. I also thought Trump was a private individual and that it didn’t matter … and this was a result of the amphetamine derivatives that he was taking. Many, many years pass and we have now the election. Now up until that point, prior to the election –
Carlson interrupted to complain that Eichenwald was telling “a very long story.” Carlson said, “You said that he was in a mental hospital in 1990. Was he or wasn’t he? It’s a really simple question.”
Eichenwald turned combative but he never answered yes or no or even something like “I have good evidence that he was but my then-editor didn’t want to run the story.” And, frankly, I don’t think Carlson was wrong in asking for a yes or no answer. Eichenwald is no stranger to cable news so it surprises me that he was unable to relay this big news succinctly and then go on offense when Carlson inevitably would try to change the subject. Eichenwald apparently had at the ready a number of Carlson falsehoods that he never really had the chance to lob. It would have been a perfect opportunity to turn the tables instead of getting caught up in demanding to be able to complete a complicated answer. Not even conservatives get that kind of airtime on Fox.
Eichenwald was right to be cynical of Carlson’s motives. No decent news anchor would have turned his back on this potential bombshell just because Eichenwald didn't answer "yes" or "no." But it’s just so frustrating to me, as a long-time observer of Fox, to see yet another liberal fail to adequately prevail in the political theater that is what Fox News really produces.
Nevertheless, NOTHING excuses the horrible attacks leveled at Eichenwald on Twitter afterward. Not only did one tweeter deliberately cause him to have a seizure but others celebrated it.
Literal nazis congratulating each other on here for reportedly triggering a seizure in someone, also on here. Spectacular.— Brandon Wall (@Walldo) December 16, 2016
Last night, Eichenwald said his kids have been targeted, too:
As expected, Fox News viewers going after my kids online because of my confrontation with @TuckerCarlson. Classy bunch of fans u have.— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) December 16, 2016
If Carlson has any class, he’ll denounce this attack on his guest during tonight’s show.
Watch the segment that prompted such maliciousness below, from the December 15, 2016 Tucker Carlson Tonight.
Milquetoasts of the world unite!! Your leader is Tucker Carlson.
Twitter in rapid succession? I have never heard of that before.
It’s a bullying move – for Carlson to verbally attack the man, and then for the Trump supporters to essentially mount a physical attack on him. Get ready for a LOT more of this behavior over the next four years. The Year Of The Bully is getting underway sooner than the 1st of January, I see.