Richard Ford in Conversation with Kirsty Wark at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Author Richard Ford believes President Trump occasionally says something “that’s actually not wrong” but does not see it “registered in the news”.

“Trump is always saying rubbish, he’s always lying, he’s a fool, he’s a bad guy,” he said at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, “but every once in a while, he says something that’s actually not wrong…something that’s true, [but] I don’t see it registered in the news.”

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author cited the recent Charlottesville riot, and Trump’s claim, in Ford’s words, that “there was responsibility apportionable on both sides”. “You would have thought he had uttered the most-grave profanity,” he told a sell-out event on the last day of the Book Festival, “except it was true, except it was true. There’s a picture of a guy in this group, anti-white nationalist, shooting a flame thrower at these guys.

“So unless and until the media are…going to report things that actually happened, then I don’t think it’s fake news really, I think it’s just not all the news, and that’s the New York Times’ motto, ‘all the news that’s fit to print’, and I don’t always see it reported.”

Ford was talking to broadcaster Kirsty Wark about events in the United States over the past twelve months, including the riot in Charlottesville. “Trump said there were some decent people in that group, there probably were some decent people in there,” he added, “and until those kinds of issues are able to be aired, we’re not going to have that kind of melding back together of the polity.”

And he added: “I wanna say, I’m not on their side: I’m against racial hatred, I’m against white nationalism, I’m against the Klu Klux Klan, but they’re there.” On the issue of Confederate statues, Ford said he supported their removal, arguing that as well as being a slave owner, General Robert E. Lee had “acted to try and dismember our Union…he was a traitor”.

Recalling last year’s presidential election, Ford said: “I never thought it would happen and I’m appalled that it did happen and I’m ashamed, and embarrassed, and terrified that he is the president…there has been a kind of silent military coup in the United States.”

But he said many of those who supported Trump had “a completely certifiable and supportable point of view for voting the way they voted. I would rather these people – even at the risk of having a president like Trump – become visible and have their concerns inevitably addressed by the government than that they be invisible…they need to have their grievances addressed.”

And Ford said the “real underlying problem” was that the Democratic Party in the US was “doing zip”. “The Democrats are certainly on notice that they’ve got to do something to bring these people into the fold because the Republican Party are not their natural allies,” he added. “If the Democrats can just find a way to get rid of [minority leader] Nancy Pelosi and get rid of [Senator] Chuck Schumer and get some new and younger brains and bodies up at the top of the party. The fact those two people are still running the Democratic Party is an outrage: get the hell out, you lost, failed.”

Wark also asked Ford about his long-running feud with fellow Pulitzer Prize-winner Colson Whitehead, who once wrote a “coruscating” review of his short stories. “I spit in his face,” admitted Ford, “it was so coruscating that Christina [Ford’s wife] wouldn’t let me read it. [There are] adverse effects on writers such as I by reviews and reviewers who blithely take the three years of a person’s life and piss it away in an afternoon and print it in the newspaper and drive readers away from the book.

“Now that’s the water I swim in, that’s the nature of my existence, that’s what happens, but I don’t have to take it lying down, and I don’t take it lying down.”

Asked about the future of US politics, Ford said he could not “foresee” another African-American president, but said the “numbers” made a Latino or Latina commander in chief “inevitable”. He also criticized defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, saying he did not “understand” her choice of Tim Kaine as her running mate. “And if she were president she would do other stupid things too,” he added. “I don’t think that the office for anyone, from George Washington to FDR, from JFK to Bush, ever inoculates you against doing really bone-headed things, she just unfortunately did her bone-headed thing before she got there.”


DAVID TORRANCE



 

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