Kroft on Interviewing Obama: 'I Don't Think It Was a Matter of Pushing Hard'

Retiring '60 Minutes' correspondent boasted about being 'go-to' journalist for Obama

September 9, 2019

Retiring CBS News correspondent Steve Kroft in a 60 Minutes interview reflecting on his career praised Barack Obama and said his interviews with the former president were not a "matter of pushing hard" against him.

Kroft interviewed Obama 16 times from 2007, when he announced his bid for the presidency, to 2017, when he left office after two terms. Kroft boasted to his mistress of three years that he was the "go-to" television journalist for interviews at the Obama White House.

"Did you have a relationship?" correspondent Lesley Stahl asked Kroft of Obama.

"The only thing we had was a reporter-subject relationship," Kroft said.

"I think he knew that we were not going to burn him, that we were going to ask tough questions, but we were going to let him answer them," he added.

Kroft said he felt Obama "appreciated" that CBS edited his remarks in a way that the viewer was still "able to distill what he was saying."

He praised Obama for having a command of the issues whenever they spoke.

"I don't think I've ever interviewed a politician quite like that," he said. "You interview lots of people in Congress. Some of them can't answer anything without four aides in the room, you know, stopping them saying, "Well, that's not exactly right.'"

"Did you ever feel that you should have pushed harder?" Stahl asked.

"I don't think it was a matter of pushing hard," Kroft said. "I think that that criticism came from the fact that I didn't get angry with him."

In a clip of one of their exchanges, Obama told Kroft, "asked and answered, let's move on." Kroft chuckled and obliged.

The Free Beacon compiled a montage of their friendly interviews over the years upon Obama's departure from office in 2017.

Obama requested—and got—a joint interview with Hillary Clinton conducted by Kroft on 60 Minutes in 2013. Kroft took sharp mainstream criticism for the softball nature of the interview, which was heavy on chuckles and good-natured ribbing and light on substantive questions.

Kroft told CNN afterward he felt Obama liked to speak to Kroft because he knew CBS wouldn't play "gotcha" with him.

"I think he knows that we're not going to play gotcha with him, that we're not going to go out of our way to make him look bad or stupid and we'll let him answer the questions," he said.