By the time you read this, Donald Trump will be mostly through his daily “self-isolation” open press conference. This claim is so easily debunked that it’s amazing it appears at all, especially at CNN.
Donald Trump has long favored Fox News when it comes to one-on-one interviews, which perhaps mattered more when the White House dispensed with its daily briefings. Trump often calls in to Fox & Friends, as he did this morning, and with Hannity as well, choosing to focus his strategic messaging delivery on the friendliest platforms. Today’s appearance on Fox’s morning show was the last straw for Brian Stelter, who declared that Trump was “self-isolating at Fox News,” as his way of providing himself political cover:
President Trump’s go-to move in a crisis is always the same: to call Fox News.
On Monday morning, he called into “Fox & Friends,” one of his most reliable sources of support, and praised his own response to the pandemic.
It was Trump’s third interview on Fox in the past week, and it was more of the same: He talked for 54 minutes with hardly a tough question or assertive follow-up.
That’s not entirely true, and it’s a bit unfair to Brian Kilmeade, who actually did push back a bit this morning on China. However, we then get to the root of Stelter’s complaint:
If the ratings-conscious president had wanted to reach a bigger audience, he would have called into the “Today” show or “Good Morning America.” If he had wanted to be heard on the global stage, he would have granted an interview to CNN.
Perhaps it’s because of nonsense accusations like this. Far from “self-isolating,” Trump has made himself more available than ever over the past two weeks. He holds a presser every day to update the media and the nation on the coronavirus outbreak, including on the weekends. And during those pressers, Trump and his team take questions from a wide variety of media outlets, including a number of adversarial interrogatories.
In fact, he’s made himself so available that CNN thinks this kind of broad access should be curtailed. Last week, CNN’s Daniel Dale complained that the pressers had “replace[d] campaign rallies,” and called them “a kind of special spinoff of the familiar Trump Show”. Trump doesn’t usually take reporters’ questions during his campaign rallies, of course, and coming from an outlet that has complained loud and long about the end of daily briefings and the paucity of Trump pressers until recently, it has a distinct ring of hypocrisy.
Not that CNN is alone in this. A few days ago, the Daily Beast reported on complaints within CNN and MSNBC about the amount of live coverage given to Trump’s coronavirus pressers, arguing that they should ignore the high ratings these generate:
On the one hand, their ratings have never been higher, and viewers’ appetites for the live sessions have shown no signs of dwindling. On the other hand, journalists and executives at MSNBC, CNN, and the often Trump-friendly Fox News—which scored an impressive 6.2 million viewers for Sunday’s installment of the Trump show, according to Nielsen—are increasingly facing the likelihood that they are becoming an uncritical and unvetted transmission belt for propaganda and misinformation. …
“These White House sessions—ostensibly meant to give the public critical and truthful information about this frightening crisis—are in fact working against that end,” wrote Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, summarizing such concerns. “Rather, they have become a daily stage for Trump to play his greatest hits to captive audience members. They come in search of life-or-death information, but here’s what they get from him instead: Self-aggrandizement… Media-bashing… Exaggeration and outright lies.”
In an echo of the self-criticism expressed during the 2016 presidential race, when the cable networks repeatedly broadcast Trump’s campaign rallies live and unexpurgated, top MSNBC anchors have already argued publicly that their own network should not air the president’s pandemic musings in full.
Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough tweeted during Trump’s briefing on Monday that there was “no public benefit to this briefing,” and the cable news networks should “cut away.” MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who anchors the network’s most highly rated program, also repeatedly called for news networks to stop carrying Trump’s statements live, saying that the president’s daily comments contribute to the spread of misinformation.
“If it were up to me, and it’s not, I would stop putting those briefings on live TV,” Maddow said on her show earlier this week. “Not out of spite, but because it’s misinformation. If the president does end up saying anything true, you can run it as tape. But if he keeps lying like he has been every day on stuff this important, we should, all of us should stop broadcasting it. Honestly, it’s going to cost lives.”
So on one hand, CNN and other media outlets complain bitterly about covering presidential pressers despite the ratings they generate and the public’s obvious interest in them. Then they wonder why Trump’s not going out of his way to give them exclusive interviews, and claim that Trump’s hiding … in plain sight, apparently.
The basic argument here appears to be: Who you gonna believe — us, or your own lying eyes? Maybe C-SPAN should get ready for a ratings bonanza.
Update: Maybe it’s CNN that’s self-isolating:
Fox News, MSNBC carrying Coronavirus Task Force briefing. CNN just cut away.
— Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) March 30, 2020
How … predictable.