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Why Obama, Romney gravitate to '60 Minutes' and 'The View' (+video)

Audiences don't trust the news media in general, polls show, but do trust the coverage of shows they like. That is steering Obama and Romney toward softer, 'friendlier' shows to a level unprecedented in a presidential campaign.

By Staff writer / September 24, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Obama, shown in these photos, have both steered toward 'friendlier' television shows to a level unprecedented in a presidential campaign.

Charles Dharapak/AP, Carolyn Kaster/AP


It wasn't that long ago that candidate Bill Clinton's appearance on "The Arsenio Hall Show" set pundits' tongues to wagging. Stepping outside the confines of press conferences and serious news programs was considered risky, possibly trivializing the aspirant to the office of the presidency. Suffice it to say that such qualms, if any had lingered, have been definitively laid to rest during the 2012 election, a campaign during which President Obama and GOP rival Mitt Romney have tapped such "free media" – of both the hard and soft varieties – at unprecedented levels. 

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The most recent exhibit came Sunday night, when "60 Minutes," the long-running CBS news show, aired back-to-back interviews with Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney. Next, both the president and first lady Michelle Obama will show up on the daytime talk show “The View” on Tuesday.

Romney, meanwhile, has promised to sit on the sofas of the “sharp-tongued” women, as he dubbed them, in October. And, of course, appearances with the late-night denizens, David Letterman and Jay Leno, continue, with both the candidates and their wives showing up there with regularity. Mrs. Obama read Mr. Letterman’s Top Ten List heading into the Democratic National Convention. Romney has been on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" four times, and his wife, Ann, is set to chat with Mr. Leno Tuesday night.

What gives? It's not as if the campaigns, which are rolling in dough, can't afford to buy airtime. Some two-thirds of a billion dollars have already been spent on TV ads, according to the National Journal. 

No, such media appearances serve the interests of today's candidates in many ways – and can actually build audience trust amid a climate in which, according to a new Gallup poll, 60 percent of Americans don't trust media coverage in general.

“People tend to trust the media they choose,” whether it’s blogs or social media or a favorite daytime talk show, says Barbara O’Connor, director emeritus of the Institute for Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento. By appearing on someone's favorite show, a candidate helps to bridge that trust gap, she says. 


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