Thursday, Newsweek journalist Kurt Eichenwald appeared on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight to talk about his unsubstantiated accusations that Donald Trump was on amphetamine derivatives, and had a nervous breakdown in 1990.
Within seconds, the interview began to go off the rails. Carlson asked Eichenwald if he had any evidence to substantiate a tweet he sent on September 13, 2016, which reads:
“I believe Trump was institutionalized in a mental hospital for a nervous breakdown in 1990, which is why he won’t release his medical records.”
The tweet was deleted shortly after it was posted, but not before numerous screenshots were taken. Eichenwald never substantiated his claim regarding Trump, and on Thursday, Carlson tried to get to the bottom of it:
CARLSON: “Do you see a little irony that on one day, you’re criticizing the press for being lazy and inaccurate, and the next day, you yourself are being lazy and inaccurate.”
EICHENWALD: “Let me give you the question the journalist would ask. A journalist would ask the question: Why did you send that tweet? I will answer it for you know. I’ve been covering Trump–I stared writing about him in the late-1980s.
At that time, I obtained his medical records–from his real doctor, not 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. 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–now let me say, I’m talking about reporting process. I’m saying ‘here is what I was told’–I was told that…”
CARLSON: “Was he in a mental hospital or not 1990? You allege that he was. Was he or wasn’t he? He wasn’t, was he?”
From that point forward, the segment was an unmitigated mess, with Carlson and Eichenwald cross-talking for a solid five minutes.
Eichenwald went on to claim that his tweet about Trump was–in part–a joke because at that time, everyone was baselessly speculating about the health of Hillary Clinton following her 9/11 memorial collapse.
During Eichenwald’s attempt to explain himself, Carlson continued to ask if he had any evidence to back up his assertion about Trump having been in a mental hospital. Eichenwald never provided such evidence, and later went on a bizarre rant about a message from the CIA.
The narrative on Twitter and in much of conservative media is that Carlson slayed the beast. In part, this is true. Carlson remained fixated on a central question that he knew Eichenwald couldn’t answer. Eichenwald sent out a tweet that was journalistically irresponsible, and was unable to provide evidence to substantiate his claims.
That being said, Tucker Carlson’s habit of frequently interrupting his guests is incredibly off-putting. It tarnishes what would otherwise be a standout show for Fox News.
Carlson’s unwillingness to entertain any arguments coming from those with whom he disagrees has a chilling effect. In order to dissect and ultimately deconstruct any argument, one must first be willing to listen–no matter the aimlessness of the speaker. Without hearing an argument in its entirety, any attempt to pull it apart becomes perilous.
It’s clear to anyone watching the segment that, while long-winded and obnoxious, Eichenwald is moving toward a point, which is that his tweet was a semi-serious response to unsubstantiated allegations regarding Clinton’s health. This doesn’t make the tweet any less foolish; it doesn’t mean Eichenwald has any substantive evidence that Trump was ever in a mental hospital. However, it does help explain Eichenwald’s line of reasoning and frame of mind when he composed the tweet, which is critical if one wants to undermine his argument.
Eichenwald tried to explain himself in a series of tweets after the interview, but quickly deleted them:
— John Rust (@johnrust) December 16, 2016
Unfortunately, Carlson wasn’t interested in listening to what Eichenwald was trying to say, so viewers were treated to a nine-minute headache that ultimately accomplished very little.