Fox News this morning aired an on-screen visual that told viewers 91% of network news coverage of Donald Trump was “negative” between January through April. There’s reason for some skepticism about the statistic: the figure came by way of the Media Research Center, a Mercer-funded conservative enterprise, and defining objectively “negative” coverage can be tricky.
But Donald Trump saw the segment and quickly shared his knee-jerk response.
“The Fake News is working overtime. Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?”
I suppose the most troublesome aspect of this is the president’s assertion that American news organizations are “corrupt,” and the White House might consider revoking press credentials based on whether Trump approves or disapproves of journalists’ reports.
In case this isn’t obvious, this isn’t how leaders of a free society are supposed to operate.
But just as interesting was Trump drawing a parallel between “negative” news coverage and “fake” news coverage. In the president’s mind, they’re apparently the same thing: news reports that are critical of Trump are necessarily untrue.
Because, as far as Trump is concerned, he can do no wrong?
If this sounds at all familiar, there’s a good reason for that. About two weeks after his inauguration, Trump was confronted with news reports about the absence of a honeymoon period and his failing popularity. The new president made a declaration about all public-opinion surveys: “Any negative polls are fake news.”
It was a curious posture for a president take publicly. Trump simply asserted and asked Americans to believe that polls he likes are real and trustworthy, while polls he dislikes are unreliable and “fake.” Why? Because he says so.
And now he’s extending the thesis to network broadcasts. This isn’t healthy.