On 60 Minutes, the news-magazine show that prides itself on “hard-hitting” investigations and interviews, correspondent Steve Kroft, who has won most of the highest awards in his industry, has just broadcast another softball interview with the most powerful man in the world, a performance that ought to earn him a rebuke from his peers in the news business but almost certainly won’t. His CBS bio page proudly touts his unparalleled access to President Obama: He scored the first post-election sit down after Election 2008, another exclusive following the killing of Osama bin Laden, and a third sit-down as the president kicked off his reelection campaign.
Little wonder that Obama keeps going back. The 60 Minutes brand is associated with probing interviews, and Kroft is adept at using his tone and manner to create the impression of tough questions without actually asking any. For Sunday’s interview, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who sat beside him, benefited from 60 Minutes gravitas while answering questions better suited to Ellen. It hardly matters whether Kroft is deliberately pulling his punches to secure ongoing access or is simply disinclined to fulfill the core journalistic duty of holding powerful people accountable for their actions; his Obama interviews ought to diminish his standing and the reputation of his employer.