Donald Trump’s contempt for news organizations hasn’t exactly been subtle. Once a president describes the media as “the enemy of the American people,” it leaves little doubt about the president’s perspective on the free press.
But Trump can’t seem to make up his mind about whether journalists will work collectively to undermine his presidency or extend it. In January, for example, referring to himself in the third person, he declared at a cabinet meeting, “I think the media will ultimately support Trump in the end, because they’re going to say, if Trump doesn’t win in three years, they’re all out of business.”
The president said the same thing in a New York Times interview, and apparently under the impression that this is clever, Trump said it again this morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC):
“Even the media. The media will absolutely support me sometime prior to the election. All those horrible people are going to support me. You know why? Because if somebody else won, the ratings would go down and they would all be out of business.”
So, in the president’s mind, news organizations, journalists, and other media professionals are so corrupt, we’ll all quietly agree to tilt the playing field in Trump’s favor – for our benefit, not his.
It’s fair to say nearly every American president, at various times throughout history, has had difficult relationships with the press, but Donald Trump is unique: he’s the first president to ever tell the public he’ll benefit from a media that’s biased for him, not against him.
Postscript: MSNBC’s Joy Reid noted in December, “Trump thinks he is still the star of a TV show, and that the media has the power to decide who wins elections, based on ratings.” That’s as true now as it was when Joy wrote it two months ago.