An interview between CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and White House deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka took a sharp turn Wednesday amid the ever-expanding controversies surrounding the White House.
The interview initially focused on the 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer that has dominated headlines since Saturday. A Politico report on Tuesday said White House aides felt “helpless” as the scandal took on a life of its own. But Gorka disputed such a characterization.
“It’s laughable, your chyron talked about a ‘crisis,'” Gorka told Cooper, responding to a suggestion that the White House was in turmoil. He added: “I actually work in the West Wing, I work in the White House – it is absolutely nothing of the kind. The president is a steam locomotive that can’t be stopped. It’s just fake news.
“I’m sad to see CNN fall to this,” Gorka continued. “I know you want salacious and sensational coverage for your ratings so your corporate sponsors and owners will have more money, but that’s not media, that’s not reportage. It’s just fake news.”
- Alex Wong/Getty Images
Cooper responded by saying he was “just going to ignore the insults” and didn’t believe Gorka’s comments were going to be helpful to the conversation.
“It’s not about you,” Gorka replied. “It’s about actually having journalism back on TV. Where are the Walter Cronkites of yesteryear. This is just about ratings and money. It’s actually quite sad.”
Gorka went on to argue that Trump Jr.’s meeting in 2016 warranted no suspicion: “I deny the fact that there’s anything here that’s untoward. Again, this is an obsessive nine-month campaign.”
“I stand by what the president said, and I stand by what his son said,” Gorka said. “We are incredibly impressed by Don Jr.’s transparency and the fact that he actually published these emails and said he will cooperate with anybody.”
Trump Jr. on Tuesday tweeted transcripts of an email exchange in which the meeting with the Russian lawyer was organized. The emails showed Trump Jr. willing to accept damaging information about Hillary Clinton that was described as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” The New York Times has said he posted the emails only after it contacted him to say it had acquired them and was planning to publish them.
“Let’s be honest though, he only published emails because The New York Times got the emails and was going to publish them, and then he smartly got ahead of it,” Cooper said. “And the only reason that this story has lasted so long is because he wasn’t transparent from the beginning.”
The Times first reported of the meeting on Saturday, and while Trump Jr. confirmed the meeting, his initial description of it omitted that he accepted the meeting in hopes of receiving damaging information about Clinton.
“The story only has legs because the fake-news industrial complex is obsessed,” Gorka replied. “Nine months of accusations with zero, zero evidence of anything illegal.”
“I thought we were going to talk about real issues,” Gorka continued.
“I am gonna ask you, but you’re not being honest, you’re not being up-front,” Cooper replied.
- Win McNamee/Getty Images
“Anderson, how many minutes are we in?” Gorka asked.
“Are you a TV producer now?” Cooper quipped. “You’re concerned about how [many] minutes we’re talking? You have somewhere else to go? If you gotta go, you gotta go.”
“You’re falling into the fake-news trap again,” Gorka said. “And it’s sad, Anderson.”
“You’re shaking shiny objects to try to divert people, but I don’t think viewers are really that easily diverted,” Cooper said.
“Do you know why the president’s description of a witch hunt is accurate,” Gorka asked. “Because there never were witches. And there never was any collusion. It’s bogus … Anderson, you’re like a broken record.”
“No, because I’m not getting any answers from you,” Cooper replied.
“I’m answering it. Every time,” Gorka said.
“No, you’re responding,” Cooper said. “You’re not actually answering because you’re not actually being up front.”
“Let’s let the viewers judge, who decided that you are now at 13th place in national ratings behind ‘Nick at Nite,’ which is at 11 p.m.,” Gorka said.
“You used that line on Monday, and you know, it was sort of mildly amusing,” Cooper said, grinning. “But I think it’s funny that you have enough time in the White House, which is apparently you’re so busy, you’re able to sit around [and] read Nielsen numbers.”
“No, I had really good prep from my team, because the White House press team is superb,” Gorka said. “I don’t deal with this stuff because I do have a day job.”
Later during a panel discussion, Cooper bristled at the interview, describing Gorka as “the Hungarian Don Rickles.”
Watch a clip of the interview here:
— Anderson Cooper 360Â° (@AC360) July 13,2017