For years, the media complained that President Donald Trump wasn’t holding enough press conferences. Now, as the media’s poor performance in his daily coronavirus press conferences is on worldwide display, they’re begging him to leave his own press conferences, and leave them alone to craft their anti-Trump storylines.
When March polls showed Trump receiving unusually high marks for his handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, and the media receiving their traditionally low marks for it, many journalists began pushing for censorship of the press conferences. While many outlets tried this approach, it obviously failed with viewers who turned to other outlets for the news they sought.
The media, however, continued to be mocked for the prevalence of silly and unserious questions from reporters who clearly think they come off better outside their echo chambers than they do:
In an attempt to regain control, the media have shifted to a new approach. Trump’s daily press conferences with updates on the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic are actually bad for him, yeah that’s the ticket!
The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, who would be known for their extreme anti-Trump posture and histrionic analysis if it weren’t shared by nearly everyone else in the White House press corps, laid out their case in a tendentious essay that the usual followers at many media outlets echoed throughout the day.
The article claims that “White House allies and Republican lawmakers” — not the embarrassed media — are deeply concerned by the briefings. Sen. Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina Republican known for nightly telling television audiences his senate committee will someday do things in response to horrific wrongdoing by the agencies they oversee, said Trump should drop the press conferences to once a week. Sniping also came in, reportedly, from Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Representative Susan Brooks of Indiana.
Martin and Haberman emphasized that polling shows Trump trails governors and medical experts in surveys of who the public trusts. However, they noticeably failed to mention that the media trails far behind all of them, and is the only group underwater out of all the institutions and public leaders surveyed. Whereas Trump has a 22-point net approval rating in the poll they mentioned, the media’s net approval rating was negative 11 points, a 33-point difference. That very important and relevant fact was studiously hidden by Martin and Haberman from the public, as per usual.
Instead, the “journalists” highlight that Trump’s job approval has ticked down a bit. That’s true, and is due not to the president spending too much time at his press conferences, but at frustration that he’s following the media’s lead in focusing on the serious public health crisis at the expense of the traumatic costs of the shutdown. Those who virulently loathe him, such as those in the media, would not give Trump positive ratings even if their lives depended upon it. Others support him seemingly no matter what he does. But those outside those extremes are able to balance competing thoughts. They can approve of virus suppression attempts while not thinking it should go on perpetually, as the media are pushing for. They can support initial efforts while getting annoyed and losing patience with Trump bending the knee to Coronavirus concerns at the expense of all other concerns.
The Coronavirus pandemic has three major battle fronts: public health, economic, media. Whatever his flaws, Trump understands that all three battles must be waged. The deadly Coronavirus must be fought lest it overwhelm hospitals. The economic collapse must be fought lest the “cure be worse than the disease,” as he’s fond of saying. And the media — which are currently parroting Communist Chinese government propaganda, engaged in cartoonishly hostile postures, and showing opposition to any discussion of an exit strategy — must also be contended with strongly if the other two fronts are to have any chance of success.
It is rather absurd on its face to suggest that the president of the United States should not be managing his own press conferences no matter the situation. But in a situation that marries public health, economic, and media crises, it’s even more absurd. The media would like the federal government to continue focusing on the public health issue at the expense of the others. Seen that way, their push to remove Trump from his press conferences is understandable, since he keeps emphasizing media malfeasance and the economic shutdown, both barriers to the continued exclusive focus on the public health crisis.
There is no Republican in existence who handles media malfeasance as well as Trump. It is obvious that the media objective is to turn the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic into Trump’s “Katrina.” Trump doing press conferences is a major frustration in their ability to do that. That’s why the media are trying to pressure him to stop doing them.
For the average American, it is difficult to navigate the news, politics, and policy in an environment where so very many in the media are actively framing every event and data point through the lens of how it can be used to hurt Trump. Far too many in the news media are not focused on conveying information that is true or factual, and certainly not whether it is good for America or for its citizens. The simple calculus is to push the envelope as far as they think they can get away with in their goal to ensure Trump does not win re-election.
When the president and other leaders, along with tens of millions of regular Americans, are actively trying to figure out what’s best for the nation during a legitimate national emergency, one that is unprecedented and with fast-changing information, compounded by the full shut-down of a capitalist economy, it is an added burden on citizens to have to contend with a media in large part committed to misinformation, dishonesty and outright propaganda.
No, Trump should not abandon his daily press briefings because of media pressure. He should of course keep speaking to the American people who elected him. He should understand that the media pressure to keep him from focusing on reopening the American economy is of course a trap.
Once the media get through emphasizing the likely apex of deaths in the coming days, Trump will need to fight the media’s pressure. He will need to do press conferences to keep corrupt and disingenuous media from telling falsehoods and spinning the news. He will need to do press conferences to provide leadership on the economic crisis the country faces. And he will need to do press conferences to communicate the nation’s plan for handling the next 18 months of a public health crisis.