Donald Trump, on a war footing against the media, is now trying to discredit stories even before they air.
In a prebuttal on Twitter, he wrote that “@CNN, of all places, is doing a Special Report on my daughter, Ivanka. Considering it is CNN, can’t imagine it will be great!”
As Trump heads for Friday’s inauguration under a barrage of negative headlines, no president has ever taken office on such a war footing against the fourth estate. There’s a fascinating nugget in yesterday’s Washington Post poll about the tense relationship between the two sides.
(I should pause here for another Trump tweet: “The same people who did the phony election polls, and were so wrong, are now doing approval rating polls. They are rigged just like before.” The Post poll echoes Gallup, Quinnipiac and CNN in saying Trump has a 40 percent approval rating, while the last four presidents-elect were in the 60s and 70s.)
But there’s an even split over the coverage of Trump, with 49 percent saying the media have treated him fairly and 47 percent unfairly.
When the question is reversed, however, 57 percent say Trump is treating the media unfairly, and 38 percent say fairly.
Leaving aside the sharp divide between Republicans and Democrats on this and other questions, the finding suggests that much of the public is turned off by his attacks on the “dishonest media.”
I don’t think this reflects any great love for the news business, whose credibility is at record lows. But it might indicate a sense that Trump should be more selective in his attacks, whether he’s beating up on the press or on those who attacked him first, from John Lewis to Meryl Streep.
But if the incoming president seems to be playing defense, let’s remember he’s in an environment in which 58 House Democrats are boycotting his inauguration. So much for the country coming together for the peaceful transfer of power, with hardly a disapproving note from the press.
At the same time, Trump is being hit with headlines like this: “As Trump Era Arrives, a Global Sense of Uncertainty.” (Fair enough to quote nervous foreign leaders, but it coincides with a largely sympathetic six-part series on President Obama, including an interview on the books he loves to read.)
Politico, in “Trump’s Divided State of America,” says since the election he has done more “to court Vladimir Putin than the 74 million Americans who voted for other presidential candidates—or the tens of millions who didn't vote at all.”. “Trump’s Presidency Is Doomed,” says Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen.
So when we evaluate Trump’s handling of the transition, it’s important to look at both sides. The man who vowed to drain the swamp is finding that plenty of swamp creatures are fighting back.
As for the president-elect’s tweet about CNN’s Ivanka Trump special, well, it went a bit awry. He used @Ivanka, the Twitter handle of a British digital consultant named Ivanka Majic, who responded: “May I suggest more care on Twitter and more time learning about #climate change.”
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.