In late October 2020, just after United States President Donald Trump abruptly walked out of an election with longtime broadcast journalist Lesley Stahl, an older statement of his appeared:
As Trump attacks Lesley Stahl now, remember his comments to her in 2016 on why he attacks the media:
“He said, ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.’”
The quote quickly made the rounds in meme form, with one popular variation on Facebook as a post describing Trump as a “Self fulfilling asshole”; it appeared the image was originally posted by the Facebook page “The Other 98%” on October 21 2020.
On October 22 2020, CBS News reported that not long after Trump had cut an interview with Stahl short, he released it in its entirety:
President Donald Trump on [October 22 2020] released what appeared to be the full, unedited interview with “60 Minutes” that he abruptly walked out of this week because, he said, it showed the media’s bias against him.
Trump released a video of the interview — segments of which CBS was set to air [on October 25 2020] — which lasted nearly 38 minutes and showed only the angle of a White House camera that faced him, which White House officials and the network agreed would be used only for archival purposes.
The interview was contentious, with correspondent Lesley Stahl asking Trump a wide range of questions that touched on his top domestic priorities, the rise of Covid-19 case numbers in the U.S., why he doesn’t encourage people to wear masks and how he would protect people with pre-existing conditions if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act … Throughout the interview, Trump expressed frustration that the questions posed by Stahl wouldn’t be asked of former Vice President Joe Biden, his Democratic challenger.
“You wouldn’t say that to Biden, what you just said to me. If he had it, if he had it, you would never say that to Biden,” Trump said after Stahl said his claims of having the biggest economy in the history of the country weren’t true.
Trump to Lesley Stahl in 2016
In his October 21 2020 tweet, Sciutto maintained that Trump had said in 2016 of attacking journalists:
You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.
However, the statement in question is less straightforward than public memory might indicate.
It is true that Stahl claimed that Trump made the statement in 2016, but not until 2018. In a May 2018 article (“President Trump told Lesley Stahl he bashes press ‘to demean you and discredit you so … no one will believe’ negative stories about him”), CNBC reported:
The CBS reporter [Stahl] was speaking to the audience along with PBS NewsHour host Judy Woodruff.
Stahl said she and her boss met with Trump at his office in Trump Tower in Manhattan after the 2016 election in advance of a recorded sit-down interview for 60 Minutes.
“At one point, he started to attack the press,” Stahl said. “There were no cameras in there.”
“I said, ‘You know, this is getting tired. Why are you doing it over and over? It’s boring and it’s time to end that. You know, you’ve won … why do you keep hammering at this?’” Stahl recalled.
“And he said: ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.’”
On May 23 2020, CBS News addressed Stahl’s statements:
CBS “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl has revealed a candid remark made to her by then-presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016. Stahl told a group of fellow journalists at the Deadline Club Awards Dinner in New York City earlier this week that Mr. Trump had admitted his consistent attacks on the media were meant to “discredit” journalists so that negative stories about him would not be believed.
Stahl was the first television journalist to sit down with Mr. Trump for an interview following his election victory. Their wide-ranging on-camera interview did not delve into Mr. Trump’s attitude toward the press, but Stahl said [in May 2018] that in a candid, off-camera meeting earlier that year, she pressed him to explain his barrage of insults aimed at journalists, and he gave her a clear explanation:
“I said, ‘You know, that is getting tired. Why are you doing this? You’re doing it over and over. It’s boring and it’s time to end that,'” Stahl said on stage alongside “PBS Newshour anchor Judy Woodruff.
“He said, ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.’ He said that,” Stahl told the audience, adding, “So, put that in your head for a minute.”
When Stahl made the claim in 2018, she added that Trump’s remarks were not recorded and took place off camera.
After Trump began attacking Lesley Stahl in advance of the airing of a contentious 60 Minutes interview, Sciutto reminded Twitter users that in 2016, Trump admitted to attacking the press; Stahl said he explained he took aim at journalists “to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.” However, the remarks were made off-camera, and no evidence existed to prove the exchange took place exactly as described.