Republican leaders are avoiding TV interviews as impeachment looms
Posted November 25, 2019 5:51 p.m. EST
CNN — In the months ahead, the Republican leaders of the Senate will likely determine the fate of the Trump presidency.
But good luck getting them to talk about it.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other members of GOP leadership rarely grant TV interviews other than to Fox News. And the senators who do speak, like Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy, end up stoking controversy by making false claims and echoing conspiracy theories.
A similar dynamic is in effect on the House side of the Capitol. Television transcript searches show that several top GOP lawmakers frequently say yes to Fox News interviews but say no to other networks.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has been on Fox at least 19 times in the past three months, on CBS two times, and that's about it -- transcript searches didn't turn up any other sit-downs with big national TV networks.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise has been on Fox at least 18 times, and practically nowhere else, according to three months of searches. And Liz Cheney, the House Republican Conference Chair, has been on Fox once and NBC once.
House and Senate leaders of both parties do hold weekly press conferences. And lawmakers of both parties are sometimes available for walk-and-talk interviews in the corridors of the Capitol. They also call into radio shows and speak with local media outlets.
But the reluctance to say yes to interviews with the country's highest-rated newscasts is revealing.
And it is a source of continued frustration for the hosts and bookers of political television programs.
Leading Democrats aren't as accessible as interviewers would like, either. But the issue is more palpable on the right.
For example, CNN's research found that Senate Majority Whip John Thune has been on Fox at least four times in the last three months. The search found zero sit-downs with CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, and CBS.
McConnell hasn't even been on Fox once in that time period. In August, he was recovering from shoulder surgery, but he was back at work in Washington in October. His only national TV interview since then was on CNBC.
For years now, McConnell has had a reputation for spurning almost every interview request he gets.
McConnell and other senators will be jurors if the House votes to impeach President Trump, so their views are even more newsworthy. But the likelihood of a trial also makes some senators less willing to talk.
Republican senators like Lindsey Graham typically only speak with friendly interviewers from Fox and other right-wing outlets.
Conversely, leading Democratic lawmakers of both parties continue to turn down Fox's interview requests.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, who led the televised impeachment hearings, has not appeared on Fox since April, when Chris Wallace interviewed him on "Fox News Sunday." Schiff was on CNN's "State of the Union" and NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have not granted sit-down interviews to Fox since 2017.
Pelosi is scheduled to participate in a CNN town hall next week.