Media Buzz

Pundits savage Trump over press attacks, but the country is very much split

Fox News poll asks voters who they trust to tell the truth

 

Most of the media reaction to President Trump’s media-bashing presser ranged from negative to apocalyptic.

From the right, David Brooks in the New York Times: “President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued.”

From the left, Gene Robinson in the Washington Post: “President Trump is flailing like a man who fears he’s about to go under.”

MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle said Trump “lost a grip on reality.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper said the news conference was “unhinged,” and addressed Trump directly: “You legitimately won the presidency. Now get to work and stop whining about it.”

Now let’s step back at look at the latest Fox News poll. People were asked who they trusted more to tell the truth. In response, 45 percent said Trump, and 42 percent said reporters—a statistical tie that nonetheless should be sobering for the news business.(And to all the Trump-bashers who said online that the Fox poll must be fake, an Emerson College survey also found a virtual tie.)

Yes, the vast majority of Republicans questioned believed Trump, and the vast majority of Democrats believed the media, although independents also leaned toward the president. But that just underscores the deep divisions in the country.

Slamming the press worked extremely well for Trump in the campaign, and it still works well. He feels he is combating a relentlessly negative media narrative.

Was he rambling and over the top at times? Sure. Is there something personal in his constant branding of CNN as fake news? Seems that way. Did he misstate some facts, such as where he ranks in Electoral College victories, and then simply say someone had given him the information? Yes.

But much of the country sees it differently than the way journalists do. And Trump was able to change the subject from the firing of Michael Flynn, the withdrawal of his Labor nominee and the fact that he still hasn’t appealed the travel ban ruling to, well, himself.

But even for a president who regularly breaks the rules, there are lines he shouldn’t cross—as he did with this tweet on Saturday:

The media are not the enemy. That has sinister connotations. I can live with “opposition party” because that’s a sharp-edged piece of political rhetoric, and some certainly act that way. But virtually all journalists love this country.

It would be nice if both sides dialed it down a bit. I hope the president doesn’t repeat the line, and I hope the press realizes that every single story doesn’t have to be negative.

The Washington Post’s front page Saturday had a big photo of Trump walking with two of his grandchildren toward Marine One. And I thought, for all the aggressive reporting that fills the pages of the newspapers, that’s a side of this president we almost never see.

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.