President Donald Trump held an unannounced press conference at the White House Thursday and spent a few moments of what amounted to a nearly 80-minute lesson in issue side-stepping going after, deriding, and criticizing his least favorite news outlet, CNN. And although the president has called out CNN as “fake news” and has brought up how poorly the network is doing in the ratings, it would appear that the Atlanta-based news organization is doing just fine. In fact, as he attacks and attempts to minimize the network, CNN’s news ratings rise. At the same time, President Trump’s approval ratings continue to fall.
Adweek‘s TVNewser reported Thursday that there were five separate instances where President Donald Trump went after CNN, which he said was full of “anger and hatred” toward his administration. He even told CNN correspondent Jim Acosta he was upgrading CNN’s “fake news” status to “very fake news,” which even got a laugh out of Acosta. A couple minutes later, after speaking about then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “reset button” gift to the Russians, he told Acosta, “I want to turn in CNN for not doing a good job.”
Acosta, for his part, told the president that he didn’t hate him and tried to talk about the ongoing reports of Trump aides having contact with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign. Though Trump denied knowledge of any such dialogue throughout the press conference (he was asked about it several times), he was quick to let CNN know that their ratings were sub par.
And although CNN’s news ratings have historically lagged far behind Fox News Channel, it should be noted that they, and their rival news channels, are seeing a ratings spike. In fact, Forbes writes that all three major cable news networks — CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC — have seen increased ratings since the election, usually a time when viewership slumps. CNN itself has seen a 51 percent increase in viewers compared to this time last year among adults 25 to 54 years old. And CNN made more money last year than ever before in its history — and is projected to top that amount for 2017.
As for Trump’s bluster about CNN being “fake news,” network president Jeff Zucker told reporters Thursday (per Politico) the “brand is as strong as it has ever been.”
Due to then candidate Trump’s year-long berating of the press, and especially CNN, Zucker commissioned a poll. He noted that “there has been no diminution whatsoever” in the trust in CNN by the public. Of 2,000 Americans surveyed in January, Forbes reported, only 31 percent believe CNN’s coverage of Trump has been unfair. Over half said they trusted CNN.
And it isn’t just CNN that is tiring of the president’s — and his surrogates’ — aversion to answering questions straightforwardly. As was reported by the Inquisitr, Fox News Channel’s Shep Smith took Trump to task after the press conference, stating that the media was in no manner wrong for pursuing answers to questions about the current reports of Trump aides speaking with Russian operatives, individuals from a nation that American intelligence services have implicated in interfering with the 2016 presidential election, during his presidential campaign.
At the same time, the president is losing ground in approval rating polls. Although the president complained about unfair coverage with regard to polling, touting Rasmussen’s poll where he had a 55 percent approval rating, the Real Clear Politics average (which shows, as one would expect, an average of the latest polls) shows President Trump’s average approval rating at 44.7 percent (50.3 disapproval), which is considerably lower. Worse, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center’s latest poll indicates the president has a 56 percent disapproval rating as well.
And even worse still, Gallup reported that almost a month into his administration, Donald Trump has hit historic lows. Not only is the president trending 21 points below average (at 40 percent approval) for the one-month mark, but he also was 11 points lower than any other president in mid-February for any other president (going back to President Dwight Eisenhower).
To be fair, polls are conducted and calculated in various ways, so only a one-to-one comparison with polls from the same polling entity (such as Gallup’s downward trending daily and weekly polls) are truly accurate comparisons. But looking over the various polls in the Real Clear Politics list on a one-to-one basis, it can be seen that, with few exceptions, President Trump’s approval ratings are sliding. In some, this can be accounted for in the margin of error. But overall, with the exception of a few, polls for the president’s approval rating tend to be trending downward, or disapproval upward.
But President Trump went on to say that the American people were not listening to the news networks.
“They’ll take this news conference, now don’t forget, that’s the way I won. I used to give you a news conference every time I made a speech, which was like every day. I won with news conferences and probably speeches, I certainly didn’t win by people listening to you people, that’s for sure.”
And yet, as the data suggests, the president could be in denial about what the majority actually think.
It is almost as if Trump does not have the capacity to learn from his own success. During his nearly year-and-a-half presidential campaign, Donald Trump was hit from every point of the political spectrum with opposition to his candidacy and, eventually, his qualifications as president. Oddly enough (historically speaking), no amount of negative press, regardless of whether or not it was biased, seemed to knock him down in the polls for long. It was as if the more he was attacked or was subjected to ridicule or even well-reasoned opposition, the stronger his base became. All the negative was soon tuned out, no matter how much attention was paid by the media (and in some cases, such as the scandalous groping admission tape with Billy Bush, the coverage was considerable), and his message of supplying the nation with something truly different from the norm began to drive his campaign.
Now, instead of being seen as unfairly attacked (to some extent, because there are those, like Trump himself, that contend he is still unfairly treated by the overall media), he holds the most powerful office on the planet and is seen as at least having equal footing with the press. But his attacks come in the form of complaints and criticisms that appear petty and ill-befitting a man of such high office, attacks that broadly paint the press as “dishonest” while accusing CNN as “fake news.” Instead of answering questions that CNN and other media outlets extend for explanation and clarification, the president continues to claim that the media is being unfair and reporting “fake news” without providing answers to the many questions facing his nascent administration.
In the end, given the data so far, such behavior on the president’s part (i.e., warring with the press over every little story that does not show the Trump administration in a good light) might be more detrimental to his standing and to the office he holds than to any news network like CNN, which, when all is said and done, has been simply reporting the news.
[Featured Image by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Images]