Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy has released his hotly anticipated interview with President Trump.

Normally, in media, an interview with the president of the United States is considered a major score. But in 2020, in some circles, a non-hostile conversation with the Commander-in-Chief is a controversial act.

In a way, it is shame. Barstool’s appeal has long been apolitical. The company’s edgy, comedic style resonates with college-aged Americans of all persuasions. But Portnoy’s success in large part is based on the way he projects himself as authentic blue-collar figure. ‘Brick by brick,’ he has said many times over the years, describing Barstool’s rise from a tiny newspaper in the Boston area to massive digital phenomenon. It is no surprise to Cockburn that such a self-made man take up an offer to interview the leader of the free world. Wouldn’t you?

The interview was good entertainment, too. Highlights included a good mutual bashing of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell; Trump admitting he regrets certain tweets; and Portnoy FaceTiming his liberal father. All good fun — unless you happen to think Trump is some demonic force that must always be scorned.

Inevitably, though, politics crept in. Portnoy, from the start, made clear he had no intention of being political. But he was of course interviewing the President, so the conversation drifted into controversial issues such as kneeling for the National Anthem and opening up the economy amid the coronavirus outbreak, for which Portnoy has been a vocal advocate. From there Trump, being Trump, spun the interview towards other matters such as inner-city crime and his relationship with international leaders. Perhaps Trump really was using Portnoy’s cultural influence for his own political gain.

This criticism was not just liberal activists — it even came from Portnoy’s own company. Dan ‘Big Cat’ Katz, co-host of Barstool’s number one podcast, Pardon My Take, took to his radio show Friday to criticize his boss’s decision to interview the President. Katz, who has been a leading figure in Barstool since its humble beginnings on the internet, argued that the interview meant Barstool could no longer claim to be apolitical. He also voiced his displeasure with
the fact that he wasn’t advised on the decision to follow through with the interview, which was reportedly the White House’s idea.

‘When people think of Barstool they think of the two of us,’ he said. ‘So I am basically thrust into talking about politics, being asked about politics, and I had zero say in it. And that’s not fair. That’s not right. So I’m in a spot now where I don’t know really what to do. For the first time at Barstool, I don’t know what to do.’

Katz acknowledged that Barstool has done political interviews in the past, which have included DNC Chair Tom Perez and Vice President Chief of Staff Marc Short. But he argued the magnitude of the president of Barstool interviewing the President of the United States is a whole new territory — and claimed that he and his co-host PFTCommenter had turned down the opportunity to interview Joe Biden, out of their commitment to remain apolitical.

Portnoy remains essentially a non-political figure. He has, however, become a somewhat regular on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, where he discusses sports and other cultural issues. So ‘El Presidente’, as Portnoy is known, may claim to be apolitical, but he’s certainly creating a public image of himself that is far more positive to Trump supporters, intentional or not. Bad for business? Possibly. But Portnoy already sold the majority of his stake in Barstool, so he might as well have his fun. Portnoy 2024, anyone? Or 2028? Stranger things have happened. Look at the man Portnoy just interviewed.