We all know how it works: love him or hate him, Piers Morgan knows exactly how to rile people up. Undoubtedly he believes some of what he says, undoubtedly he doesn’t believe the rest of it - but he knows for sure that all of it will provoke a reaction.
Simultaneously, he knows - from personal experience - that if there’s one way to an egomanic’s heart, it’s by stroking that ego until it’s sleeping peacefully, purring away. Forget keeping your dignity: if you want to secure an interview with someone powerful, just suck up to them until the juice has run out.
And, lo, so it came to pass that Piers managed to secure the first international interview with Trump since his inauguration, having history with the President after appearing on a celebrity version of The Apprentice back in 2008.
Despite a significant amount of world class brown-nosing, the questions were perhaps more direct that we’d been expecting and, credit to him, he managed to tease out several ‘what the hell’ moments from the President. Although, given that Trump manages to produce these on a daily basis without the need for any interviewer, perhaps it’s not that much of an achievement.
Despite a lot of Piers-bashing on Twitter, it should also be noted that he did call out Trump over his Britain First retweets, and even elicited an apology after Morgan pressed on the issue. He also repeatedly questioned Trump on gun control - a favourite topic of Morgan’s while he was a chat show host in the States.
Still, this didn’t placate everyone.
Here’s what you missed:
1. ON HIS POPULARITY IN BRITAIN:
DT: I think it’s good. I think I’m very popular in your country.
PM: Let’s not be too hasty, Mr President.
DT: But I believe that, I really do. I get so much fan mail from people in your country. They love my sense of security. They love what I’m saying about many different things. I have a great… I own the great Turnberry and other things in your country – Turnberry in Scotland – and I’m getting tremendous – I mean we get tremendous support from people in the UK.
2. ON MANAGING ARSENAL:
PM: Your son Barron is a massive fan of my football team in London, Arsenal.
DT: That’s true!
PM: And we saw pictures of him… he’s an Arsenal fan. We’ve been going through a rough patch for a long period of time. People think it’s time for a change of leadership at my club. Barron, I’m sure, shares my view, right? I have something for you. I’ve done – this is an Arsenal shirt.
DT: He’ll be so happy.
PM: ‘TRUMP 45’. We’re looking for a new leader who has an attacking philosophy, who believes in a strong defensive wall and believes in winning at all costs. And only wants big trophies.
DT: Well I think that’s beautiful. You know I have a son who does love this sport. He loves this sport.
PM: And he loves Arsenal, right?
DT: And it’s growing very rapidly in the United States.
PM: Are you an Arsenal fan?
DT: Not particularly, no…
PM: Don’t kill the dream Mr. President!
DT: But I have a friend who owns Manchester United so I know exactly what I’m going to do with it.
PM: Really? Wow! That will kill our special relationship! Anyway, that’s for you, and if you do want to come and manage Arsenal, we would love it.
DT : That’s great! That’s beautiful. We’ll do very well!
3. ON WOMEN:
DT: I have tremendous respect for women, and I think you know that very well because you know me, and you’ve spent a long period of time with me. You see all of the women I have working around me and working with me. Tremendous respect for women.
PM: You have a lot of strong women around you. Melania, and your team here, the press team. Do you identify as a feminist? Are you a feminist?
DT: No, I wouldn’t say I’m a feminist. I think that would be maybe going too far. I’m for women, I’m for men, I’m for everyone. I think people have to go out, they have to go out and really do it and they have to win… And women are doing great. And I’m happy about that.
4. ON CLIMATE CHANGE:
PM: Do you believe in climate change? Do you believe it exists?
DT: There is a cooling and there is a heating and I mean, look – it used to not be climate change. It used to be global warming. Right?
DT: That wasn’t working too well, because it was getting too cold all over the place. The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records, so OK, they’re at a record level. There were so many things happening, Piers. I’ll tell you what I believe in. I believe in clear air. I believe in crystal clear beautiful water. I believe in just having good cleanliness in all. Now, that being said, if somebody said go back into the Paris Accord, if we could go back into the Paris Accord, it would have to be a completely different deal because we had a horrible deal. As usual, they took advantage of the United States. We were in a terrible deal. Would I go back in? Yeah, I’d go back in. I like, as you know, I like Emmanuel… No, no, I like Emmanuel, I would love to, but it’s got to be a good deal for the United States.
5. ON BREXIT NEGOTIATIONS:
DT: Well, would it be the way I negotiate? No, I wouldn’t negotiate the way it was negotiated. But I have a lot of respect for your Prime Minister, and I think they’re doing a job. I think I would have negotiated it differently. I would have had a different attitude.
PM: What would you have done?
DT: I think I would have said that the European Union is not cracked up to what it’s supposed to be, and I would have taken a tougher stand in getting out… I have a lot of problems with the European Union.
6. ON HIS HEALTH AND BEING A STABLE GENIUS:
PM: A question about your health. Everyone was being led to believe that you were insane, and physically incredibly unfit. It turned out from your recent medical that you are 30/30 in your cognitive tests…
DT: Which most people are not going to do too well on.
PM: Right. You’ve got to hand it to you. As you said ‘stable genius’. Your words.
DT: I am a stable genius.
PM: And healthy. You’ve never had a drink, you’ve never smoked, you’ve never taken drugs. We do see lots of pictures of you with burgers and Cokes and stuff. It’s an unusual diet.
DT: Don’t want to change that! No, they build that up. I eat fine food, I eat really… some of the finest chefs in the world. I eat healthy food. I also have some of that food on occasion. Sometimes it makes sense. Actually when you’re campaigning there’s a lot of sense to it because it’s boom boom boom. But no, I think I eat actually quite well.
7. ON TWEETING:
PM: Your supporters get frustrated that a lot of the tweeting – the tweetstorms, the controversies, some of the more outlandish things that you occasionally say – that they distract from that kind positive message. Do you accept that? Do you care?
DT: I don’t think it’s so many of my supporters. I think a lot of other people, they use that… I don’t call it tweeting, I call it social media. And you’re a big social media man by the way. You do great with it. And I think you might agree with that statement.
PM: I like your tweets. I like the kind of unfettered access to the President’s mind in real time.
DT: If I wasn’t able to do that – I call it a modern day form of communication, OK – if I wasn’t able to do that, because I get a lot of fake news, I get a lot of news that’s very false, very made up. You saw all of the stories that were wrong this year. I mean one of the stories was so wrong it drove the stock market down substantially and it was wrong. They’ve made a lot of mistakes and lot of them were made on purpose. If I don’t have that form of communication, I can’t defend myself. Unless I’m going to have a news conference every 15 minutes…
PM: Do you actually tweet yourself?
DT: I do. I do. I also give it to people and sometimes I’ll have – I had one case where a lawyer did a tweet, you know they’d call it. I have a man, Dan Scavino, and I have people that are with me, you know Hope [Hicks] and you know Sarah [Huckabee Sanders]…
PM: The whole world waits for you to wake up, on tenterhooks.
DT: …It’s a crazy situation.
PM: Are you actually lying in bed with your phone working out how to wind everybody up?
DT: Well, perhaps sometimes in bed, perhaps sometimes at breakfast or lunch or whatever. But generally speaking during the early morning or during the evening, I can do that, but I’m very busy during the day – very long hours, I’m busy – and sometimes I’ll just dictate out something really quickly and they’ll give it to one of my people to put it up.