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FIRST ON FOX – Tim Murtaugh, the communications director for former President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, reveals what it was like dealing with liberal CNN and MSNBC hosts during combative interviews in his new book, "Swing Hard in Case You Hit It."

Murtaugh, who took his last drink on May 16, 2015, spends much of the book talking about his decades-long battle with alcoholism. He wrote "Swing Hard in Case You Hit It" with the hope that it would help other alcoholics identify with the remarkable story of someone who went from the brink of ruin to helping lead the reelection campaign for the President of the United States.

Murtaugh feels some CNN and MSNBC hosts, along with their bosses, had goals of helping then-candidate Biden defeat Trump instead, rather than participating in actual journalism. Among them is CNN anchor Brianna Keilar, who participated in a tense on-air spat with Murtaugh during the height of the COVID pandemic in June 2020. 

"I think it would be accurate to conclude that Keilar had decided that she didn’t like me before I ever appeared on her show. Keilar pressed me about President Trump’s remark that he had asked government officials to slow down testing for the coronavirus during the pandemic," Murtaugh wrote in "Swing Hard in Case You Hit It," which hit stores Tuesday. 


Trump, Tim Murtaugh

Tim Murtaugh, the communications director for former President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, reveals what it was like dealing with CNN and MSNBC hosts in his new book, "Swing Hard in Case You Hit It."

"Taking my lead from spokespeople at the White House, who had already described the remarks as a joke meant to illustrate a point, I was prepared for the question. Keilar asked if it were true that the president wanted to slow down the pace of testing, even though more than one hundred thousand Americans had already died at that point," he continued. "’No, it’s not,’ I said. ‘I understand there’s not much of a sense of humor at CNN center, but the president was joking. He tried to illustrate the point that when you expand testing, you will naturally expand the number of positive cases that you detect.’"

According to Murtaugh, Keilar responded that over 120,000 Americans had died in the pandemic before asking, "I do not think that is funny. Do you think that is funny?"

Murtaugh wrote that "Keilar decided that she would claim moral superiority and declare humor off limits, while dishonestly suggesting that the president and his campaign were laughing at the people who were dying of COVID-19."

"The whole thing was a reminder that I needed to anticipate their partisanship more and treat them as though they were the political opposition, because they clearly were," Murtaugh wrote. 

Trump later said he wasn't joking. Murtaugh eventually went on CNN to speak with Keilar again and made sure he was better equipped. 

"She revealed herself to be a partisan whose only interest in conducting an interview was to win an argument with the Trump campaign. And she was not above moving the goalposts to do it," he wrote. 


CNN’s Brianna Keilar

CNN anchor Brianna Keilar was "opposed to President Trump," according to Tim Murtaugh. (CNN)

Murtaugh then described a tense on-air exchange when he accused Keilar of shifting the goalposts when it came to COVID testing. He said her argument morphed from "there was no COVID-19 testing program," to "there was a testing program, but it was too slow," to "sure, the U.S. led the world in total tests administered, but it wasn’t good enough because we didn’t also lead in per capita measurements" before she insisted "Trump shouldn’t get credit for the development of the tests because cotton swabs already existed." 

"This is what CNN put up during the daytime and presented as actual journalism," Murtaugh wrote. 

"Keilar’s view of her role was obvious… but it wasn’t what you might expect from a news anchor who supposedly wanted to inform viewers of facts, and not shape opinion," he continued. "It is impossible to read that transcript or watch a tape of the interview, and not conclude that Keilar, and therefore her bosses at CNN, viewed their role as the opposition. They were opposed to President Trump, opposed to his re-election, and opposed to the people who were working for him." 

Murtaugh revealed that combative interviews would sometimes feel like an adrenaline rush, but often left him disappointed. 

"I liked the thrill of battle on live television, and I liked it when I knew I had landed some blows and scored some points, but it was upsetting to discover that there were some who held us in real disdain for the simple fact that we worked for Trump. Brianna Keilar, for example, made it plain that she found me personally objectionable because of the political candidate who employed me. That’s also not professional journalism," he wrote. 

Murtaugh, the grandson of the late Pittsburgh Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh, said the title of the book "Swing Hard in Case You Hit It," comes from advice from his father when playing baseball as a child. It is not some kind of tell-all political book that bashes the campaign and Murtaugh repeatedly notes that working for Trump was the highest honor of his professional career. However, members of the press didn’t make his gig particularly easy. 

"If they had not actively ‘put on the jersey’ for the Democrats, the media were at least pulling in the same direction because they opposed President Trump so openly and forcefully. Brianna Keilar was just one example; there were many others," he wrote. 


CNN anchor Jim Sciutto, a former Obama administration official, is another journalist who Murtaugh believes is more interested in influencing opinions than reporting the news. 

"Every time I appeared on his show, he attacked aggressively from the very first word. He quite clearly viewed me as a political adversary and conducted interviews in what I felt was a condescending and accusatory manner," Murtaugh, who frequently reminded CNN viewers that Sciutto was an Obama staffer, wrote. 

"One day in August 2020, I appeared on his show, and he repeatedly asked me if President Trump accepted responsibility for all the American deaths attributable to COVID-19. This, obviously, was an unanswerable question in a political sense, which is exactly why he asked it," he continued. "If I said that the president did accept responsibility, then I would have agreed with the false narrative that Trump was responsible for the effects of a virus that came from China. Additionally, I’d have handed CNN the very soundbite it was looking for. If I said he did not accept responsibility, it might sound callous and inconsistent, because we were simultaneously looking for credit for the president’s overall response to the pandemic, and so we would be wanting the good without taking the bad."

Murtaugh explained that "any observer could see clearly that CNN’s goal was not to be a mere journalistic outlet covering current events, but that it wanted to be an active participant in the political campaign," and said he ultimately blamed China when grilled by Sciutto. 

He believes Sciutto grew frustrated when he was reminded by Murtaugh on-air that he served as chief of staff and senior advisor to the U.S. ambassador to China during the Obama administration.

Jim Sciutto

CNN’s Jim Sciutto is more interested in influencing opinions than reporting the news, according to Tim Murtaugh. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for CNN)

Katy Tur on TV

Katy Tur attempted to "thrill the MSNBC audience" by attacking a member of the 2020 Trump campaign, according to Tim Murtaugh. (Screenshot/MSNBC)

Murtaugh wrote that in October 2020 he was scheduled to do a hit with MSNBC’s Katy Tur, but the progressive network "demanded" he wear a mask during the live shot. 

"Mind you, it was a bright and sunny day, and I was standing outside, easily more than six feet away from any crew the network could have been concerned about. Tur herself was in a studio somewhere else. After it was confirmed that the mask was a condition of the live shot, I huddled over the phone with some of the campaign team back in Virginia to discuss whether I should proceed. As a group we decided that it was better to participate in the hit than to skip it, so I went through with it," he wrote. 

Murtaugh wrote that Tur proceeded to cite the names of people who had recently died from COVID in order to criticize a tweet Trump had sent that said, "Don’t be afraid of COVID. Don’t let it dominate your life," directly to the masked Trump spokesperson. 

"That wasn’t journalism. It was the ghoulish exploitation of the deaths of real people so that Katy Tur could thrill the MSNBC audience by attacking someone from the Trump campaign. It was juvenile and a bad-faith effort to specifically blame one person—President Trump—for deaths caused by a global pandemic that began in China," Murtaugh wrote. 


Tim Murtaugh (left), the grandson of the late Pittsburgh Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh, said the title "Swing Hard in Case You Hit It" comes from advice he was given when playing baseball as a child. (Murtaugh)

Not everyone at CNN and MSNBC rubbed Murtaugh the wrong way. He wrote about since-fired anchor Chris Cuomo coming off as sincere when he told the Trump spokesperson, "I respect your effort because that’s the game," after a fiery interview in which Murtaugh mocked the anchor’s infamous on-air antics with his brother. 

CNN and MSNBC did not immediately respond to requests for comment by Fox News Digital.

"Swing Hard in Case You Hit It: My Escape from Addiction and Shot at Redemption" is available now