"There are so many reporters completely against Trump it's absurd," says Megyn Kelly of NBC. Chris Wallace of Fox News says Donald Trump has a point in claiming the media give him unfair treatment. A Harvard study showed the tone of Trump coverage has been twice as negative in the early going as that accorded his predecessor, Barack Obama. CNN panels, overly stacked with progressive analysts, rail against the President on a daily basis.
For the notion that the media are out to get him, the outlier President can find some backing. In response he tries, as Mr. Wallace puts it, to delegitimize the fourth estate more than any other president. He rails at the press, "the enemy of the people," on almost a daily basis. He has made "fake news" part of the vernacular. Last month he went so far as to tweet that the Senate Intelligence Committee should investigate why "so much news is made up."
The media did much to make Donald Trump. Recall in the Republican primaries how he got so much coverage, so many exploding headlines compared to other candidates, that he hardly had to spend money on advertising. Now he fears the media are so hostile they are unmaking him.
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There is no doubting the power of the press. I've long held to the theory that a major reason the federal NDP has never made it and never will in Canada is because it has no institutional media support. Conservatives have the giant Postmedia/Sun chain to carry their banner, Liberals have Torstar and others to sing their song. The Dippers have squat.
But what of the Trump claim? Are he and his aggrieved right-side legions correct in their media lament? From the perspective of the volume of criticism, yes. In my four decades of covering politics, I've never seen anything comparable.
But what of it? Is media bias to be measured by the number of negative verdicts? Isn't the germane question whether or not the condemnation is justified? In sports, if the team fielded is woefully managed, performs shoddily, posts loss after loss, bad media reviews are the logical consequence. The Cleveland Browns, perennial flounderers in the National Football League, are a prime example. Their barrage of bad press isn't because of media bias.
In sport it is easier to render objective judgments, but not by much. In politics the people rate performance, and their verdict on Mr. Trump to date is like the media's. It's dismal. He's a mega-flop. For his first year they give him the worst approval ratings by far of any president, rankings reflected in woeful election results for the Republicans earlier this month.
Mr. Trump boasts of a bubbling economy. But is that because of any major reforms he has initiated, or is it the continuation of the trend in place before he took office? He takes credit for downgrading the Islamic State threat. But while he has given, perhaps wisely, more leeway to generals in the field, the success similarly flows from a military strategy already in place.
Much of the brutal press accorded to this President stems from his unprecedented torrent of falsehoods, lies and deliberate deceptions. They number, staggeringly, in the hundreds. While some are based on subjective measurements and can be disputed, the vast majority are demonstrably verifiable.
It is also difficult, you might say, for any president to garner favourable media coverage when he practises bigotry-laced politics that stoke the nation's racial divide; when he turns the Oval Office into an insult-peddling machine; when he starts a war with his own party establishment; when in the face of continual mass killings he supports the existing gun culture; when he claims climate change is a hoax.
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Mr. Trump's blaming of the media for his woes is a smart political strategy. For one thing, it is one of the few defences he has. For another, there is always (Fox News, CNN) some media bias. For another, he has a gullible population to prey on.
As stated by Richard Gingras, the vice-president of news at Google and a creator of The Trust Project to build confidence in journalism, the root problem is that people look to the media for support of their biases, for "affirmation rather than information."
Mr. Trump wants affirmation. His record to date, as not only the press but also the people tell him, suggests he doesn't deserve it. Not while he's fielding a team like the one in Cleveland.