Surprise: Network News Has Covered Trump Positively...Three Percent of the Time

Posted: Mar 01, 2017 4:31 PM

Three percent? That's somehow even lower than the number of Americans who think Obamacare is working well, which is quite a feat. Granted, this is just one study based on a single metric, but its findings should sound about right to anyone who's watched (or read, for that matter) coverage of the Trump administration thus far.  The president too often oversteps in his bashing of the press, particularly when he over-applies the term "fake news," but he's not wrong to regard much of the media as an active arm of his political opposition.  Via the Washington Post:

This is based on a new analysis by Media Tenor, an international, independent media research firm. Trained analysts examined 370 news stories about Donald Trump on the “NBC Nightly News,” “CBS Evening News” and Fox News “Special Report” between Jan. 20 and Feb. 17...Only 3 percent of the reports about Trump that aired on NBC and CBS were positive, while 43 percent were negative and 54 percent were neutral. On “Special Report,” the Fox News program that most closely resembles the evening network news, 25 percent of the reports about Trump were negative, compared with 12 percent positive and the remainder neutral.

It's a fair assessment that he's experienced something of a rocky start to his administration in several important respects, but that reality alone cannot come close to explaining the negativity ratio illustrated above. For every one positive story, the networks aired approximately 15 negative ones, with Fox's Special Report at least being significantly more fair and balanced than other outlets. The good news for Trump is that in spite of that onslaught, his numbers are relatively steady, and most voters agree with his contention that the press treats him too negatively. Also, on one of the biggest presidential stages last night, he spoke directly to the American people, uninterrupted, for a full hour -- and he connected.  Big league.  So much so that even the White House seems pleasantly surprised:

Perhaps the nearly-universal plaudits for the 'joint session' speech will reinforce a positive message for the president: Restraint, comportment and discipline is a winning formula. But Vice President Pence told MSNBC this morning that journalists are kidding themselves if they believe this was a turning point, after which Trump will lay off of them. The battle with the press is by no means over:
BRZEZINSKI: 'Enemy of the people'? It’s strong terminology.

PENCE: Well, I think when you see some of the baseless and fabricated stories that have come out and been treated with great attention —

SCARBOROUGH: But you know, 'enemies of the people,' that’s a Stalinist term.

PENCE: Well, look —

BRZEZINSKI: Are we going to see that still?

SCARBOROUGH: Was that a turning point — he’s moving away from that sort of rhetoric?

PENCE: I think one of the reasons that Donald Trump was elected is because he’s a fighter. The American people want a president who will fight for their future, who will fight for American jobs, fight to make America strong in the world again, but also he’s willing to make his case and to challenge his detractors when unfair criticisms come his way.

In light of the statistics above, can you really blame Trump for punching back at such a hostile entity?  I'll leave you with this insight from the Cook Political Report's Amy Walter -- from which I'll partially dissent:

That's generally right, I think.  However, as far as a single speech can go, I think it was an important moment.  Trump strode onto one of the biggest stages in the world, amid extraordinarily and unremittingly hostile media coverage, and hit a home run.  In doing so, he cut through the media filter, significantly exceeded expectations (which the media helped drive down), and reassured voters that he really can behave himself and act in a presidential manner.  So in a sense, he further exposed the disconnect between the media/elites/resist camp and the rest of the country, and he dealt a body blow to the hysterical narrative that his presidency is teetering on the brink of collapse.  That may have more lasting political ramifications than any typical political speech could.