Bloomberg Politics’ “With All Due Respect” won the morning Thursday with a boffo focus group of New Hampshire Trump supporters singing The Donald’s praises as a “classy” commander-in-chief-in-waiting who is definitely “one of us,” despite being worth billions of dollars. But one of the voters featured Wednesday night in the focus group told TPM that she’s not a Trump supporter at all. And the same went for most of the other participants in the panel, according to the voter.
Jessica DeBurro was prominently featured in a video of the focus group posted to Bloomberg Politics’ website that showed 12 Granite State residents fawning over Trump’s everyman appeal and vast wealth. Bloomberg Politics described the focus group participants as “12 Republican and independent voters who are supportive of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy,” while co-managing editor John Heilemann, who led the focus group, further stated that the participants were Trump supporters whose “second choices in the Republican field ran the gamut from Jeb Bush and John Kasich to Ben Carson and Ted Cruz.”
But DeBurro, a data analyst, told TPM Thursday in a phone interview that she is actually a supporter of Carson’s and not Trump’s. She added that while all the participants in the focus group had listed Trump among their top three favored Republican presidential candidates, just one person was “100 percent a Trump supporter.”
It was not immediately clear why “With All Due Respect,” which has a troubled history of controversy and pratfalls, could not assemble 12 actual Trump supporters out of the entire state of New Hampshire or why Bloomberg Politics claimed it was a group of Trump supporters when, according to DeBurro, only one of the 12 is currently supporting the boisterous mogul.
While most controversy tied to the show has focused on Bloomberg Politics impresario Mark Halperin, DeBurro further alleged that interviewer Heilemann, Halperin’s co-host, pumped them to think of positive things to say about Trump which could then be edited together into a Trump fawn-a-thon. “What they’re taking is these snippets of us saying positive things to answer questions where they asked us to state a positive thing and then representing it as if we’re all his staunchest supporters,” she explained. “And we’re not.”
A Bloomberg Politics spokeswoman told TPM late Thursday that the focus group participants all identified as supporters of the billionaire, or at least as leaning toward supporting him.
“As part of our screening process, New Hampshire voters were asked who
they would support if the primary were held today,” the spokeswoman said in
an email. “Every person in our focus group answered saying they would
either support Donald Trump, or lean towards supporting Trump.”
DeBurro is the first participant shown in the Bloomberg Politics video, offering that Trump “speaks the truth.” When Heilemann asked her to elaborate, she said: “when he talks about especially immigration control and the border, he really — he doesn’t care what people think.”
Later, she recalled being impressed by Trump’s business empire as a child.
“I knew that he was a wealthy, successful man and I remember asking my
mother if I could write him a letter to ask him how he made his money so
that I could do it too,” she said.
DeBurro told TPM that she believed the video was selectively edited and that the questions Heilemann asked were engineered to get the focus group participants to speak positively about the real estate mogul.
“The questions were geared mostly toward the positive,” she said. “They were all ‘tell me something you like about him’ or ‘what makes him appealing to voters.’ It was all positive-focused, not ‘what do you not like’ or ‘why do you like this other candidate better.'”
DeBurro said that focus group participants did voice concerns that Trump was a “hothead” and may “say something really stupid.” She added that she had the impression that the focus group would be talking about all the Republican presidential candidates until the focus group settled into the studio.
“They were looking specifically for conservative voters and they asked us for our three choices,” DeBurro recalled. “So I didn’t realize it was entirely about Trump until we got there and [Heilemann] said ‘Oh we’re going to talk about him, mostly.'”
This post has been updated.