Trump also benefits from the current media environment. First, he has the unstinting support of what is effectively palace media. Partisanship in the press is nothing new, but for decades, the United States had nothing resembling the party-aligned organs that exist in many other democracies. Instead, there was a center-left mainstream press that mostly aimed for objectivity and a small, scrappy conservative-media alternative. The right-wing press has grown in strength for the past three decades, but in the Trump era, it has reached its apotheosis, becoming a servant not so much of conservatism as of Trump himself.
The most prominent example is, of course, Fox News, where the star anchor Sean Hannity reportedly speaks to the president daily, but there are dozens of other important outlets of all sizes. The network’s former head, ousted for allegedly covering up sexual harassment, is now Trump’s communications director. These conservative media outlets wield enormous influence over their audience. John Dean, the Nixon aide turned informant, has said his boss would have survived Watergate if Fox News had existed to spin alternative narratives.
At the same time, trust in the media as a whole is low—in part thanks to unrelenting attacks from the conservative press—though it has rebounded somewhat since the beginning of Trump’s presidency. A certain segment of the population will dismiss anything that CNN or The Washington Post reports simply because CNN or The Washington Post reported it, which has lessened the impact of the impressive investigative journalism focused on the Trump administration.