An Australian journalist has found himself an overnight viral star following a jaw-dropping interview with President Donald J. Trump.
Aussie Jonathan Swan sat down with the president to discuss his response to the coronavirus crisis in the US in an uncut interview stretching over 37 minutes by political news site Axios broadcast by HBO published on Monday, August 3.
Clips of the lengthy chat shared to social media have since gone viral, with the president’s lengthy, and ‘spin’ filled responses to the reporter’s questions raising eyebrows, and Jonathan’s own baffled reactions being praised.
One clip of the interview has reached more than 44 million views, while the full interview on YouTube has been viewed just shy of 10 million times.
Discussing the coronavirus pandemic, the Black Lives Matter Movement and the country’s relationship with China, the interview featured some serious bizarre responses from the president and was described by many as an absolute ‘car crash’ on his part.
For Axios political reporter Jonathan Swan, on the other hand, the interview propelled him into international stardom, with his incisive questions and dogged pursuit of a straight answer praised by many industry leaders.
Jeffrey Goldberg, editor of The Atlantic, described the interview as "one of the best interviews I’ve ever seen", while Aussie Leigh Sales tweeted that he ‘nailed’ the interview.
“@jonathanvswan has nailed the tone, the questions, the calling out of BS,” she wrote. “It's great journalism but it's also massively entertaining."
Jonathan Swan’s reaction to Trump becomes Twitter meme
More than even the flurry of strange responses from the president, or the stellar reporting, was Jonathan’s hysterical facial reactions that caught the internet’s attention, prompting a wave of hilarious memes that have seen him dubbed ‘the face of 2020’ on Twitter.
The interview itself is being compared to a satirical comedy sketch, with one moment where Swan asks Trump about the percentage of coronavirus deaths proving particularly popular.
“We’re lower than the world,” Trump claims.
“The world?” Swan responds, an incredulous look on his face. “According to what.”
“Oh, you’re doing death as a proportion of cases,” he realises. “I’m talking about death as a proportion of the population. That’s where the U.S. is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, etc.”
“You can’t do that,” Trump replied.
“Why can’t I do that?” Swan responds.
Measuring the virus’ severity as death to number of cases indicates how severe the virus is, and the efficacy of the treatment of those infected. Measuring by the percentage of the population reflects the rate of people falling ill, which the US has performed dismally in.
.@jonathanvswan: “Oh, you’re doing death as a proportion of cases. I’m talking about death as a proportion of population. That’s where the U.S. is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, etc.”@realdonaldtrump: “You can’t do that.”— Axios (@axios) August 4, 2020
Swan: “Why can’t I do that?” pic.twitter.com/MStySfkV39
In another memorable moment, in the interview’s first few minutes, Swan grills the president on his stance that the pandemic is ‘under control’.
“Well, what’s your definition of control?" Trump asked in response. “Under the circumstances, right now, I think it's under control.”
“How?” Swan fires back. “A thousand Americans are dying a day.”
“They are dying, that's true,” the president concedes. “And it is what it is.”
“But that doesn't mean we aren't doing everything we can. It's under control as much as you can control it.”
The line ‘it is what it is’. has subsequently been picked up by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in a scathing video denouncing the president.
Thousands of Americans are dying every week. The President's response?— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 4, 2020
"It is what it is." pic.twitter.com/GT59hr14kb
Who is Aussie Trump interviewer Jonathan Swan?
The reporter behind first the interview, and now the memes, Jonathan Swan was born in Sydney but now lives in the US.
The 35-year-old is the National Political Correspondent for Axios online news site.
Axios was launched by the founders of Politico, who originally reported for The Washington Post. It’s renowned for its insider knowledge and precise coverage of US politics.
Jonathan is the son of ABC Health Reporter of almost four decades, Dr Norman Swan.
Getting started with a Sydney Morning Herald cadetship at the age of 26, Jonathan first dipped into politics when he covered the 2013 election in which Tony Abbot famously demolished Kevin Rudd in a landslide win.
He later won a fellowship with the American Australian Association to study American history and politics at Johns Hopkins University.
Since then he has stayed in the US, starting out in congress, then nabbing a role at The Hill, a Washington DC news site.
He joined Axios in 2017 and has since made a name for himself as one of the few journalists with insider access to Trump.
He has become famous for his relentless and incisive reporting on Washington, famously sitting down with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner in 2019 in a similarly persistent interview regarding the president’s perceived racism.
He’s married to Politico journalist Betsy Woodruff, and the pair are expecting their first child together next month.