As we approach the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration, it is painfully obvious that our “news” providers are a highly agitated brigade of the “Resistance.” A new Media Research Center study finds that from January 20 through December 30, 2017, the network evening news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC were overwhelmingly hostile in both content and tone.
The study, co-authored by Rich Noyes and Mike Ciandella, comes witha jarring headline, “2017: The Year The Media Went to War Against a President.” It is indisputable that no president in the history of the republic has been visited by such vitriol from the press. It is not to say that some of the negative coverage hasn’t been deserved. But no man this side of Maxine Waters can defend their overwhelming hostility as fairness.
Journalists often talk about President Trump’s “war on the media,” and can’t possibly discuss the media’s war on President Trump. When the president attacks the media, that’s an attack on democracy. When the media undermine the president, that’s the full flowering of democracy.
Removing the statements made by Trump and other politicians, 90 percent of Trump’s evening-news evaluations were negative, and only 10 percent were positive. (Neutral statements are not counted.) There were only three months in 2017 where the coverage dipped below 90 percent negative. For instance, it was 85 percent negative in December, when Trump succeeded in getting his tax cut passed.
The numbers don’t tell the whole story. The qualitative measurement is just as awful. Trump news isn’t mildly negative, like “the president’s message failed to resonate today.” The network anchors have felt compelled to signal Trump is so undesirable he should be removed from office. A month into the presidency, then-CBS anchorman Scott Pelley pressured Democrat Leon Panetta: “Is it appropriate to ask whether the President is having difficulty with rationality?”
The Clinton die-hards couldn’t stop reporting on their suspicion that the Russians colluded with Trump campaign to beat Hillary. The Russia probe was the networks’ favorite topic, with an astonishing 20 hours, 34 minutes of coverage, or more than one-fifth of all Trump coverage.
Nobody rooted for Trump to succeed and pass legislation, as they did for Barack Obama. In 2009, then-NBC host Matt Lauer badgered GOP strategist Karl Rove on the “stimulus package” vote. “If you add up the House and the Senate we have what, 219 Republicans. All but three of them voted against this plan,” Lauer complained. “216 Republicans seem to have placed a bet on failure.”
That spin didn’t happen when House Democrats unanimously voted no on the Trump tax cut. Instead, NBC anchor Lester Holt sounded like a DNC press release. “Unable to repeal and replace Obamacare, Republicans are instead trying to undermine it. So is this a body blow to Obamacare?”
To the press, repealing anything Obama installed isn’t an “achievement.” It’s a disastrous setback. Some of the repeal happened without much media protest. Trump’s attempts to deregulate the economy barely drew 11 minutes of coverage. Trump’s approval of new oil pipelines drew just over seven minutes.
Oversights on their part? In a way, yes. They have other more pressing matters on their plates.
They prefer reporting their Gaffe of the Day. Here’s another number that proves the media’s aggression. When The Washington Post reported that Trump referred to immigrants from “s—hole countries,” it became an intensely negative news story. CNN was the most intense of all. In the first full day after this story broke, CNN put decency aside and said “s—hole” on air 195 times. The cursing also appeared for days on screen.
Those screens, in turn, grace airport terminals, doctor’s offices, even schools all across America. Millions upon millions of Americans were offended. But for CNN, the effort was worth the insult if it could also damage the president they despise.