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I think it might be the only time I’ve agreed with Donald J Trump. After Piers Morgan shared a clip of his supposedly “EXPLOSIVE” interview with the former president last week, which appeared to show Trump storming out after a few minutes, The Donald was quick to correct the record. Morgan “unlawfully and deceptively edited his long and tedious interview with me,” he said, adding that he’d promised the TV host 20 minutes and had instead stayed for an hour and a half before leaving in a much less dramatic way than was implied.
A minor flurry of right-wing celebrity responses ensued, with Caitlyn Jenner pulling out of her own scheduled interview with Morgan because of the perceived unfairness of Trump’s treatment (Morgan, somewhat embarrassingly, wheedled on Twitter: “Why don’t you actually watch it before deciding how I behaved?”) But none of this could make the interview itself — which Morgan announced would be cut up into two separate episodes not long after the Twitterstorm, presumably because now they had a Caitlyn Jenner-free slot to fill — interesting in any real way. Because, for God’s sake, who actually wants to hear two aging men who used to be relevant in the 90s rant on about cancel culture in 2022? It certainly feels like stretching the phrase “world exclusive interview” to its semantic limits when you’re talking to the most over-exposed man on the planet, but sure.
Well, I watched it so you didn’t have to, and I can confirm that the Piers/Donald interview is the most toe-curlingly embarrassing TV you’ll ever see in your life. If you’re the kind of person who has to turn away during the worst parts of Borat, you won’t even get through the opening sequence. It opens with “white man railing against liberals” bingo: Winston Churchill quotes, “this is a no-cancel zone”, a clip from recently deceased cricketer Shane Warne talking about the usual “PC gone mad” thing that ended with Morgan yelling into the camera: “You heard the man, fun police — get stuffed!” (Apparently I’m a paid-up constable in the fun police, because while I was writing this piece Morgan tweeted from his official account that when he says he wants to “annoy all the right people,” he means to include me personally. He knows how to make a gal feel special!)
Then there was a healthy abundance of straw men (“It’s okay to go for a beer with someone” you disagree with! “Vegan virtue signalers” shouldn’t get to turn people into “mincemeat,” ho ho!), a manipulated image of Meghan Markle done up as “Princess Pinocchio” with her nose growing, and another jab at Prince Harry for good measure. Most offensive, perhaps — even more offensive than the part where he unironically called liberals “modern-day fascists” before launching into a description of his 15-year friendship with Donald Trump, a far-right agitator who recently tried to overturn a democratic election — was the terrible wordplay, that included the unholy phrases “Banish Inquisition” and “waving their digital snitchforks”. And finally, there was a repeat of that tired, erroneous claim beloved of right-wingers that Mr Potato Head has been de-sexed (he’s “had his actual nuts removed,” in the words of Morgan, which does beg the question: What kind of creepy Mr Potato Heads were in your toy box, Piers?)
If you’re wondering why I’m spending so long on the first 10 minutes of this horrendous show, it’s because the actual content of the interview was mind-numbingly boring. There was equivocating about Ukraine, where Trump got to say what he’s already said (he thought Putin was “smart” at the beginning; he now doesn’t think the invasion is a good idea.) Trump got the chance to call Democrats “phoneys” who collude with Russia, and to repeat that “our country’s in trouble”. He said Angela Merkel shouldn’t have taken in so many refugees. He talked about “crooked, corrupt elections” and, of course, referred to modern-day America as “like a communist country”. The scintillating kind of political commentary we’re used to from Donald J included “Mitch McConnell is stupid” and “Mike Pence is weak”. So far, so expected.
In one of the only mildly interesting moments, Morgan asked him whether he’d run again in 2024, and Trump responded that “for reasons of campaign finance I’m not allowed to say but let me just say this: a lot of people are gonna be happy.” Again, not a huge difference in position — and the real question is how the Republican Party would respond to him choosing to run again — but somewhat noteworthy.
Then there was a little bit of flirting with conspiracy. The “suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal,” Morgan said, “could lead all the way to the top with Joe Biden,” before suggesting that if more of the media had gone hard on the story then Trump might’ve won the election. And, echoing Nigel Farage, who recently spoke at the far-right Conservative Political Action Conference and made the same exact point, he urged Trump to stop talking about the 2020 election being rigged and to start concentrating on the future.
There was a lot of inside baseball, too, with Piers talking about a pre-scheduled interview he had with Trump being canceled in 2019. It was a painful few seconds where Morgan tried to imply to Trump, in a buddy-buddy kind of way, that “together” they could have “cooked up” something that would somehow scupper Boris Johnson’s chances in the election that year, and that Johnson had therefore asked Trump to pull out. Donald didn’t seem very enthused, and they moved on before he could really commit to anything. After all, as Trump reminded Morgan, he is very fond of Boris.
Addressing the storming out/non-storming-out, Morgan told us that we’d all see the full clip in the second half of the interview, but the answer was “a little more complicated than that”. Apparently, the former president “did indisputably leave the room in a stinking temper”. Wowee.
In a teaser clip for the second half of the interview, which will air tomorrow night, we were treated to Trump saying of Prince Harry: “Harry is whipped — I won’t use the whole expression, but he’s whipped” (I guess he only says that word on Access Hollywood.) “Ha ha!” Piers responded, delighted as a naughty little schoolboy. “The most whipped man in the world!” Oh, what japes! What’ll they say next, lads?!
To be clear about where this free speech revolution is happening, TalkTV is a Murdoch-owned channel that hopes to bring the kind of divisive, poisonous Fox News-esque discourse popular on American television to the UK (if you’re thinking: Wait a second! Didn’t someone already do this with GB News? The answer is: Yes, yes they did, and we all saw how that went — but this time they’re trying it with different backers and more money! What could go wrong?!) The channel’s launch is being overseen by Rebekah Brooks, who you might remember from such larks as the News of the World phone-hacking scandal and owning a racehorse that David Cameron liked to ride on weekends.
If conversations from 2019 being tediously rehashed and cold coals being raked over in the hope that one slightly tepid ember might remain are your thing, then you’re gonna enjoy everything about Piers Morgan’s new show. If you’re looking for something new, you might want to change to the shopping channel or something. Because it’s clear Morgan and his canceled-but-not-canceled mates desperately want you to huff their recreational outrage at a very special price. But any price is too high to pay for this stuff — trust me.