A couple of days ago, President Trump said that “no politician in history has been treated worse” than he has. In back to back days, both the New York Times and Washington Post ran explosive stories with accusations about the president. In both cases, no proof was provided, and both stories relied on anonymous sources to make their claims. It’s this kind of reporting that prompted the president to call the media’s treatment of him a “witch hunt.”
Unsurprisingly, the media jumped on him for making this claim, inadvertently proving his point in the process. But don’t take my word for it, a recent Harvard study proves that Trump is right. The coverage of his presidency has been historically one sided.
From the Washington Times:
President Trump has insisted that his press coverage has been historically negative, and a newly released Harvard journalism study backs him up.
A major study released Thursday by the Harvard Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy found that the coverage of Mr. Trump during his first 100 days was “unsparing,” with negative reports outnumbering positive ones by 80 to 20 percent.
“Trump’s coverage during his first 100 days set a new standard for negativity,” said Harvard Kennedy School of Government professor Thomas E. Patterson in the report.
He added that the coverage was “negative even by the standards of today’s hyper-critical press.”
What’s more, Trump has gotten more coverage than previous administrations. That combined with the amount of negative coverage, could erode public trust in journalism:
At the same time, Mr. Trump has received more press coverage in general than previous presidents. He was the topic of 41 percent of all news stories, or three times that of previous presidencies, and he was the featured speaker in 65 percent of the stories.
The report found Mr. Trump bore some responsibility as a result of his self-inflicted “missteps and miss-hits,” but also warned that the unrelenting negative coverage could also erode public trust in journalism.
Moreover, the study’s authors lend credence to Trump’s claim that the media is out to sabotage his presidency:
“Nevertheless, the sheer level of negative coverage gives weight to Trump’s contention, one shared by his core constituency, that the media are hell bent on destroying his presidency,” he said.
The lack of balance “has changed few minds about the president, for better or worse,” but the perception that journalists are out to get Mr. Trump threatens to weaken the media’s role as a watchdog.
And even at the time Trump was getting his most positive coverage, negative coverage still hit 70 percent:
Mr. Patterson said the White House’s best period was week 12, after the cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase in response to the Syrian nerve-gas attack on civilians, when his coverage was 70 percent negative and 30 percent positive.
The study clearly illustrates a major problem with the media establishment. America’s media has an important role to play as a check on the government, but their agenda against this president threatens the trust Americans have in the media. If they continue down this path, they will no longer be useful in their most instrumental role.
[Note: This post was authored by Michael Lee. Follow him on Twitter @UAMichaelLee]