Channel 4 news anchor on Trump and American democracy

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Welcome to ElectionLine’s A View from Abroad series, in which we talk to media personalities who don’t live in the US but keep a close eye on politics there. Every few weeks, these smart observers will provide a unique perspective on what promises to be a fraught and unpredictable campaign for the White House. This week, our interview is with Matt Frey, who serves as anchor and Europe editor for Channel 4 News. She has been nominated for the Network Presenter Award at the Royal Television Society Journalism Awards on 28 February.

Donald Trump is building a wall. Not the concrete border between the US and Mexico that was partly built during Trump’s first term, but a metaphor for hard electoral support.

That’s the view of veteran British journalist Matt Frei, who has chronicled Trump’s GOP career. “He is building a wall for himself that is not just getting higher in terms of electoral support, but is becoming more solid,” explains the Channel 4 News anchor.

The former BBC Washington correspondent has been fascinated by Trump since interviewing the former president in New York City. The 2013 meeting was a sometimes playful, often enlightening encounter. After boasting about taking Miss Universe to Moscow, Frei took a dig at Trump about “bikini diplomacy.” Trump called Frei an “idiot” for acknowledging China’s status as a factory for the world.

It’s the kind of exchange you don’t see very much these days: Trump being challenged hard by a reporter at a non-partisan news service. Watching the interview, Frei sees Trump with all his sharp edges, but ultimately believes his rhetoric was soft.

He argues that Trump’s anger has gotten to him; That their American ideals have been tarnished. “It’s like an American figure seen through Tarantino’s filter. Something has gone wrong,” he thinks. “Here comes someone who’s very good at being bad.”

Frei, who has presented eight documentaries about Trump and his family, says that despite all of the former president’s lies and “crazy” proclamations, he represents authenticity to his supporters. This reminds Frei of a quote he once heard about Trump from an American historian. “He’s a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch,” Frei smiles. This wouldn’t look out of place in a Tarantino film.

On the other hand, Frei considers the fate of an 81-year-old man’s cognitive health “hostage” to a Democratic Party. We’re speaking after two clips of an uncertain Biden went viral, including one in which he confuses French President Emmanuel Macron with his long-dead predecessor Francois Mitterrand. “He seems so stupid that you wouldn’t trust him to arrange your mortgage, let alone that of the most powerful nation on Earth,” says Frei.

Joe Biden

Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

The deep support for both candidates is emblematic of the tribalism in American life that means “many Americans simply want to be reassured in something they already believe.” It’s a “zero-sum game,” says Frei, in which “the other person’s win is my loss.”

The Channel 4 news presenter criticizes American news networks for reinforcing these divisions, creating fear and failing to challenge their audiences. This is a very British perspective on the American media landscape, as UK broadcasters like Channel 4 have a legal duty to impartiality. Frei wouldn’t be surprised if Mark Thompson, the former BBC colleague who now runs CNN, freed the network of any political allegiance – perceived or real.

“He really talks a good public broadcasting game. And I think his view is that the only way CNN is going to survive is to do what it does best, or used to do best, which is to report, observe, inform. ,” explains Frei. “then you [might] Found that the public service audience, which had been cowering a little in the shadows as the two galleries shouted at each other, suddenly swelled in number.

Frei says it is the job of Channel 4 News, which won a BAFTA last year for its reporting in Ukraine, to interrogate individuals who might offend its viewers. He says he doesn’t “care too much” if the audience is less tolerant of other belief systems. “We must have the courage of our convictions. If I only told my audience what they wanted to hear, it would be an incredibly boring program.

Matt Frei accepts the BAFTA news coverage award for last year’s ‘Channel 4 News: Live in Kiev’

Frei believes that the issues facing America are so serious that they call into question the foundation of the country’s democracy. It’s fertile territory for his next Channel 4 documentary, in which he wants to ask: Is the most powerful republic on Earth about to die? The presenter, who also works as Europe editor for Channel 4 News, is planning to travel to the US this year to shoot a film with Netflix producers Passion Pictures. Wow! Documentary.

The former President is at the center of this question. Frei thinks Trump, campaigning from the courtroom and without any of the restraining qualities of his daughter Ivanka, could be restored to the White House amid civil unrest, or become the architect of his own downfall. “Not controlling Trump is potentially very dangerous, but at the same time, it could destroy his candidacy because the thing that has always defeated Donald Trump more than anything else is Donald himself,” he says. It’s Trump.”

Trump may be building his metaphorical wall and the election is all over again in 2020, but Frei thinks it will be far from boring. “The republic is really in danger here,” he says.

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