Donald Trump’s GOP opponents sought to gain some advantage from his uncertain performance during an interview with conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, while Trump himself reacted sharply to what he said were “gotcha questions” designed to trip him up.
Appearing on Hewitt’s show on Thursday, the real estate mogul seemed unfamiliar with some intricacies of the Middle East.
“On the front of Islamist terrorism, I’m looking for the next commander-in-chief to know who Hassan Nasrallah is, and Zawahiri, and al-Julani and al-Baghdadi,” Hewitt said. “Do you know the players without a scorecard yet, Donald Trump?”
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Trump did not appear to know, and he seemed only vaguely familiar with General Soleimani, the leader of the Quds forces. And he either misheard Hewitt or mixed up the Quds with the Kurds.
“Well, that is a gotcha question, though,” Trump said to Hewitt at one point in the interview. “I mean, you know, when you’re asking me about who’s running this, that’s not, that is not — I will be so good at the military, your head will spin.”
“I don’t think they’re ‘gotcha questions’ at all,” said Carly Fiorina, who also appeared with Hewitt Thursday and faced similar questions. “The questions you’re asking are at the heart of the threat that we face, that our ally, Israel, faces, that the world faces.”
Fiorina got a little more help from Hewitt, who named the leaders as terrorists before asking if she could ID “most of these without a scorecard.”
Sen. Marco Rubio called the exchange “very concerning.” But Sen. Rand Paul offered Trump some support.
Jeb Bush tried Friday to have some fun at Trump’s expense. “I’m sure he’ll get better,” Bush deadpanned to reporters. He echoed Fiorina’s contention that the questions posed were relevant. “This is not a flippant thing. This is a serious deal,” he said.
Sen. Marco Rubio called the exchange “very concerning.”
But Sen. Rand Paul offered Trump some support.
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“I also do think that running through a list of every different Arabic name and asking somebody to respond to them is maybe a little bit of a game of ‘gotcha,'” Paul said.
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program Friday, Trump let Hewitt have it.
“I thought he said Kurds, this third-rate radio announcer that I did the show — it was like, Got you, got you — every question was do I know this one and that one? It was like he worked hard on that. But I thought he said Kurds,” Trump said.
The issue of “gotcha questions” has been controversial since 2008 when Katie Couric, then the anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” asked Sarah Palin what newspapers and magazines she read and didn’t get a specific answer.
Hewitt, who maintains the questions were not of the “gotcha” variety, will be on the panel asking questions of the candidates during CNN’s Republican debate on September 16.
Hewitt told Politico on Friday he would not change his preparation for this month’s debate and said he has treated all of the Republican candidates the same on his show.
“They all get tough questions with some overlap and some new ones each time.”
“They all get tough questions with some overlap and some new ones each time,” he told Politico.
Appearing on “The Laura Ingraham Show” Friday, conservative political analyst Byron York said Trump probably needed to bone up on some details. “It would be a good idea to know a little bit about the Quds Force,” York said.
Ingraham agreed. “He’s got to learn some of this stuff. He’s got to study up on this, there’s no doubt about it,” she said.
But York noted that the controversy likely wouldn’t subtract from Trump’s support.
“My sense is it’s not going to hurt at all with the people who support Trump, because they do look at it as a gotcha question.”