White House reporter Jonathan Karl said in an interview on Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s abuse and humiliation of him in public doesn’t capture the fullness of their relationship.
Karl, an ABC News correspondent and president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said Trump can actually be very kind to him when the cameras aren’t rolling.
“He praises me to his friends and then he’ll come out right after and blast me in front of the cameras,” Karl told his colleague, ABC News chief legal analyst Dan Abrams.
Karl has been among the leading recipients on presidential beatings during the coronavirus task force’s daily TV press briefings.
On Monday, Trump called Karl a “third-rate reporter” who will “never make it” after the newsman inquired about a Health and Human Services inspector general report warning of a shortage of tests and personal protective equipment for hospital workers.
Last month, Trump told Karl not to “be a cutie pie” in response to a question about the availability of ventilators.
However, during his appearance on “The Dan Abrams Show” on SiriusXM, Karl sought to explain away Trump’s insults, saying the president “doesn’t mean it.”
“He’s lashed out at me in just explosive ways and then turned right around and couldn’t have been nicer,” he claimed.
Jonathan Karl explains why Donald Trump is so charming
According to Karl, that’s the way Trump is with all the reporters. He said Trump’s bashing of the “fake news” media was often simply “part of the show, part of the game.”
“To be clear, the very people by name that the president is saying are fake news, are bad for the country, enemies of the people, he is talking to them off the record, giving them information, trying to spin stories, being friendly, and then turning around and claiming that they’re the worst people who ever walked on the earth,” he said.
At the same time, Karl acknowledged Trump has “screamed profanities” at him in private. He said the president genuinely believes the press is unfair to him, and “frankly I think he has a point on that.”
Karl made similar comments in an interview last week on WBEZ public radio. He described how Trump knows and “charms” reporters, sometimes inviting them to join him in the front of Air Force one, which his predecessor would never have done.
“Barack Obama, by the way, you got the sense most of the time he really couldn’t the press and particularly the White House Press corps, and didn’t know most of the people that covered that building,” Karl said.
According to Karl, covering the Trump White House has been an “exhausting” and occasionally “maddening” experience. But he said it had enlivened what has traditionally been a “very boring” beat.
“In many ways it’s been an exhilarating story,” he said of Trump’s presidency. “He is unpredictable. It’s the definition of news.”
Karl has been on a media tour to promote his new book, “Front Row at the Trump Show,” an insider account of journalism during the Trump presidency.