The most important decision every president must make is how to feel, on a personal level, when the Cincinnati Zoo shoots a gorilla to protect a small child. When our next commander-in-chief gets that 3 a.m. phone call, the American people deserve to know whether he or she will tweet, “I’m no expert, but I think they could have waited another minute,” or, “It’s a shame, but the zoo did what it had to do.”
And yet, for 48 hours after the shooting death of 17-year-old Cincinnati silverback Harambe, the Republican nominee managed to avoid disclosing his feelings about this zoological controversy. Yahoo News’ Hunter Walker ended that evasion on Tuesday, forcing Donald Trump to tell the electorate exactly how the dead-ape story makes him feel inside.
“One of the biggest stories from this weekend was the situation from the Cincinnati Zoo and animal activists are outraged that they killed this gorilla who was holding a 4-year-old boy. How do you feel about it?” the intrepid reporter asked as his one question at a presidential nominee’s press conference.
“There were moments with the gorilla, the way he held that child, it was almost like a mother holding a baby. It looked so beautiful and calm,” Trump said, weighing his words carefully, conscious of the immense gravity this subject holds for all Americans. “And there were moments when it looked pretty dangerous. I don’t think they had a choice.”
It would have been easy for Walker to ask Trump a more frivolous question, like whether the Donald really told Paul Ryan that he believes in cutting Social Security from a “moral standpoint” and is only praising the program to win an election, or why he recently decried a federal judge overseeing his fraud case as a “Mexican,” when that judge was born in Indiana, and, anyway, don’t Latinos love him? Or why he wants to “cancel” the Paris climate agreement when the evidence for man-made global warming has only increased in the months since it was signed?
Those kind of softballs might have generated goodwill from the Donald while supplying Yahoo with some buzz-worthy news copy — but they wouldn’t have told American voters anything useful about their choices this November. It’s a testament to Walker’s journalistic bravery that he refused to ask such a question.