Obama Super Bowl interview: Should he expect a grilling?
On Sunday, the president will sit down with CBS News's Scott Pelley. Given that last week's '60 Minutes' interview was widely panned as a puff piece, this one may be tougher than expected.
Liz Marlantes covers politics for the Monitor and is a regular contributor to the Monitor's political blog, DC Decoder.
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Over the years, the tone of these game-day conversations has varied widely: In 2009, NBC's Matt Lauer – who also got the 2012 interview – took a lighter approach with the newly-elected president, asking Obama about living with his mother-in-law and whether he had established bedtime routines with his girls. In 2010, CBS's Katie Couric focused her questions on policy matters like health care and the economy (with one obligatory question about which team he thought would win the game). In the 2011 interview, Fox News's Bill O'Reilly asked Obama repeatedly how it felt to have so many Americans "hate" him.
So what should Obama expect this time? You never know – but we'd anticipate a serious grilling.
We say this not only because of Mr. Pelley's reputation as an aggressive journalist, but also because this just happens to be the second interview Obama has given to CBS News in a little more than a week. The other, of course, was the widely panned interview Steve Kroft conducted with Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for "60 Minutes."
The "60 Minutes" interview – which Mr. Kroft made clear had been the White House's idea, and for which he'd only been given 30 minutes – was slammed as a puff piece by Republicans, as well as by many in the mainstream media, for focusing largely on the relationship between the president and his onetime rival. A number of critics called it little more than a "Hillary 2016" ad.
Over at the conservative Breitbart website, Larry O'Connor wrote that Kroft's sole question on Benghazi was "the journalistic equivalent of 'If you were a Libyan tree, what kind of tree would you be?' " And Ben Shapiro dubbed it "a 2016 presidential announcement masquerading as a lovefest masquerading as an interview," adding: "This wasn't 60 Minutes. It was Sixty Shades of Gray."
Notably, one of the most savage critiques of that interview came from the left-leaning Atlantic, whose Conor Friedersdor wrote afterward that Obama and Clinton "benefited from 60 Minutes gravitas while answering questions better suited to Ellen."
In the same piece, Mr. Friedersdorf specifically contrasted Kroft's interview with an interview Pelley previously conducted with President George W. Bush, and called the comparison "stunning." He wrote: "I won't speculate about personal ideological bias. It's possible that Pelley is just a much better journalist than Kroft. I will say that there is a glaring double standard in the coverage that 60 Minutes has afforded the two presidents."
Given all that, we're betting that Pelley may feel some pressure to display an extra-tough, take-no-prisoners-approach in his upcoming interview. Obama had better be forewarned.