‘Face the Nation’ Anchor Admits Covering Donald Trump is a Challenge

Donald Trump Presidential Announcement
Steve Sands/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16: Donald Trump makes presidential announcement at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Sands/Getty Images)

Donald Trump has changed the game when it comes to covering the 2016 presidential campaign, according to Face the Nation anchor John Dickerson.

“This was already going to be an exciting election before it became the ‘Summer of Trump,'” Dickerson told reporters Monday at the Television Critics Association press tour. “It’s made what was going to be an exciting election year that much more exciting.”

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Dickerson, who also serves as political director for CBS News, pointed to “interesting candidates doing interesting and strange things, like what happened this weekend with Donald Trump–which we find ourselves saying at the end of every weekend.”

Dickerson said he believed the news cycle “should move on” from dissecting Trump’s comments about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. (Angered by a question she asked him at Thursday’s Republican candidates debate, Trump told CNN over the weekend that Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”)

As for covering Trump as a candidate, Dickerson said the “challenge of the story” has been to figure out how much to cover the spectacle of the campaign vs. the campaign as a news.

“I came across it first about five or six weeks ago at a Scott Walker rally, talking to people who you wouldn’t peg as a traditional Trump voter,” he said.

“People there to see Scott Walker, who’s the opposite of Donald Trump. But people were bringing up Trump without me ever asking about him. The phenomenon of Trump is outside of Trump. There is a group of people who have lacked a vehicle for a candidate, who speaks the rage (of feeling the system is rigged against them).”

Dickerson lamented the fact that candidates mostly stick to “freeze-dried answers” and refuse to discuss hypothetical scenarios.

“There’s a shrinkage of candor from candidates,” he said, noting that everyone fears making a gaffe, particularly now that they’re being video taped at almost all times by opposition trackers. “That’s caused an encasement to go up around them. It’s the whole shooting match. It also doesn’t allow candidates to have mistakes or flubs.”

Also on stage was CBS News president David Rhodes, who was asked his thoughts about how NBC handled its recent Brian Williams controversy.

“I don’t envy them,” he said. “Obviously knowing some of the people involved in that and what they’re going through. People’s trust is hard to gain and really easy to lose. So it requires some constant vigilance. You are going to make mistakes. It’s how you deal with mistakes when they get made.

“[W]hen managing these operations, while you’re doing something you hope you put in enough practices so someone’s not screwing something up. Mistakes happen and how you deal with them becomes a big part of these jobs.”

As for next year’s political party conventions, Rhodes said CBS News is still figuring out how much will be covered in prime time. “You’ll see major events, speeches by nominees, at 10 pm,” he said. “There’s a dance going on between the parties and the major TV networks, broadcast and cable, about this whole convention exercise in general. It costs them a lot of money, it costs us a lot of money. They do it because we cover it, and we cover it because they do it. That being said, news happens at the conventions.”

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