By Howard Kurtz
Published November 02, 2018
If there is one overriding theme to the coverage of Donald Trump's presidency, it's that he is dividing the country, tearing it apart, fueling the rage and possibly even political violence.
Strip away objections to his policies, to his personality, to his Twitter insults, to his spur-of-the-moment management style, and it comes down to the journalistic view that the president has done almost nothing to unite America.
A major problem with this mindset is that most of those in the media fail to consider that their business is also contributing to the deepening divisions.
That simply doesn't comport with their self-image. Most journalists believe they are neutral seekers of truth. Most commentators believe they are offering honest opinions (and, increasingly, that the other side is lying).
But in the hyperpolarized Trump era, with so much bitingly negative coverage of the president, the media are increasingly viewed by major chunks of the country as part of the problem.
Now I don't dispute for a second that Trump has largely chosen to play to his base. He has made only limited attempts to work with Democrats on issues like health care and tax cuts, and when he has, such as on the dreamers, it has usually come to naught. That approach has been even more pronounced in the final days of the midterms, especially on immigration.
And when there have been racially charged eruptions, such as Charlottesville, Trump's comments have managed to inflame rather than soothe much of the public.
But a new poll by Politico and Morning Consult contains some pretty troubling news for the press as well as the president.
Just 30 percent of voters surveyed say Trump has done more to unite the country, while 56 percent say he's done more to divide it.
But in a bigger vote of no-confidence, 64 percent say the national media have done more to divide the nation, and just 17 percent say they've done more to unite it.
Put another way, the media are 47 percent underwater on the question, compared to 26 percent underwater for Trump, who has a fiercely loyal base.
As you might expect, there's a huge partisan divide when it comes to the president. A sweeping 88 percent of Democrats say he's done more to divide the country, while 25 percent of Republicans say the same. (So do 54 percent of independents.)
But again, the numbers are even worse for the fourth estate. Some 80 percent of Republicans say the media have done more to divide America, and 46 percent of Democrats agree (as do 67 percent of independents).
This is sobering stuff. The entire national debate has been framed by the media around Trump stoking the flames of divisiveness, not the other way around.
The president, of course, has hit back hard, as in this tweet:
"The Fake News is doing everything in their power to blame Republicans, Conservatives and me for the division and hatred that has been going on for so long in our Country. Actually, it is their Fake & Dishonest reporting which is causing problems far greater than they understand!"
But the press has largely dismissed such accusations as mere deflection.
I do think some pundits really overreached in trying to blame Trump, directly or indirectly, for the serial pipe bomber and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. And perhaps that influenced the poll findings.
What would be best for an angry and divided country is if both sides would tone it down. But I see very little prospect of that happening.