In break with tradition, President Trump opts out of pre-Super Bowl interview

Nation/World

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 10: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during news conference with Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway in the East Room at the White House, on January 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. The two leaders participated in a meeting before taking questions from the media. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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CNN—President Trump has decided not to participate in a Super Bowl Sunday interview this weekend, a White House official told CNN on condition of anonymity on Wednesday.

“He is not doing a Super Bowl interview,” the official said.

Sources at NBC affirmed that their interview requests have been turned down. But Trump still has an open invitation, should he choose to change his mind, the sources said.

NBC is televising the Super Bowl on Sunday. It is traditionally the highest-rated event of the year by far.

A pre-Super Bowl interview with the president has become an American tradition in the past decade.

When Fox televised the Super Bowl last year, Trump sat down with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly at the White House.

But this year it always looked unlikely that he would agree to an interview on NBC — the network broadcasting the big game. He has repeatedly assailed NBC journalists and executives with “fake news” tweets.

Trump’s intent to turn down the invite was telegraphed a couple of weeks ago. But NBC officials lobbied for the interview anyway. Part of the pitch: The highly-rated pre-game show is a unique chance for the president to reach a big audience.

Trump, the former star of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” pays close attention to TV ratings.

But he has lots of reasons to avoid high-stakes interview settings, no matter how high the ratings might be. Any NBC journalist would likely question Trump about the ongoing Russia investigations.

Trump’s feud with the NFL could have been a factor in the decision-making process. Trump repeatedly criticized the NFL as an organization and the specific players who kneeled during the national anthem.

The idea of a Super Bowl Sunday interview originated with George W. Bush. Obama picked it up in 2009 and sat down for an interview every year.

Trump has sought out friendly forums for TV interviews recently: He sat down with CNBC’s Joe Kernen and ITV’s Piers Morgan while in Davos last week.

He has also granted interviews to the Wall Street Journal and Reuters this year.

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