As President Donald Trump’s approval ratings hit all-time highs, Trump’s critics are now arguing that the nightly news broadcasts are inadvertently upping his ratings by making Trump seem “coherent,” “competent,” and “presidential” by truncating his rambling responses during the Coronavirus crisis.
Press Watch’s Dan Froomkin argued on Wednesday “that the broadcast networks shouldn’t break into regular programming to show the briefings live anymore. Watching them, unfiltered, makes their viewers dumber and less safe.”
Do you have a child? Even if you don’t, you are certainly familiar with the concept of positive and negative consequences.
Right now, when Trump lies, the only consequences are positive – his base gets just that much more fired up. https://t.co/EU2wFDtMRf
— Dan Froomkin/PressWatchers.org (@froomkin) March 26, 2020
“More often than not, mainstream reporting on even the most incoherent and contradictory Trump briefing consists of cherry-picking quotes that make him sound coherent, and in no way whatsoever indicate the true nature of the lunacy,” Froomkin continued. “To some degree, we’re getting the worse of both worlds right now. When Trump says something outrageous, the media unthinkingly broadcasts it live – then ignores it.”
New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie said that the evening news broadcasts could also be making Trump seem more competent because they have a limited amount of time to air Trump’s words. Bouie flagged a tweet about evening news broadcasts last week seeing a 42 percent increase in viewership (32 million viewers) from last year and said “this may help explain” the president’s approval ratings because “evening news broadcasts are featuring a truncated Trump who appears more competent than he is as a result of editing.”
this may help explain trump’s approval ratings. evening news broadcasts are featuring a truncated Trump who appears more competent than he is as a result of editing. https://t.co/msNSjDKik2
— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) March 25, 2020
As Froomkin pointed out, the “nation’s most eminent media critics are virtually unanimous that television networks should stop the live broadcasting of the White House’s daily coronavirus briefings” because “Trump has turned into a torrent of dangerous lies, misinformation and self-aggrandizement.”
But cable news producers and hosts are struggling to figure out how to prevent Trump from “hijacking” the briefings and turning them into “virtual campaign rallies.” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes simply did not play any sound on Tuesday while airing Trump’s clips and corrected Trump’s “lies.” According to the Daily Beast, “privately, several staffers at CNN and MSNBC have acknowledged that airing Trump’s pressers live and in full likely amplifies the spread of misinform.” An NBC News “insider” even reportedly told the outlet that Trump needs to be “quarantined” like the Coronavirus: “I think the best way to handle the president in the briefing is that you handle the president like you handle the virus. He has to be contained and quarantined and his falsehoods have to be scrubbed so that they don’t rub off on you.”
The most recent Gallup poll found that 60% of Americans approve of how Trump is handling the Coronavirus crisis while his job approval rating (49%) has hit an all-time high.