President Donald Trump and the national media have at least two things in common. They are both attempting to do their jobs amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and both are seen by the American people as unreliable sources of information.
Nevertheless, a majority of Americans (60 percent) approve of Trump’s handling of the crisis. The same cannot be said of the national media. According to the most recent Gallup survey, 55 percent of Americans disapprove of the media’s response to the China-caused pandemic.
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Members of the national media have responded in predictable fashion—by losing their minds. After downplaying the seriousness of the virus in January by regurgitating Chinese propaganda and denouncing Trump’s decision to ban travel from China as racist and xenophobic, the media continue to demand the trust and respect of the American people—even as their collective hysteria ascends to unprecedented levels. (For what it’s worth, they’re still promoting Chinese propaganda.)
The media’s efforts to assert their credibility during the crisis have been complicated by the fact that the media don’t really respect or trust the American people. As Andrea Mitchell lamented on MSNBC: “No matter what [the president] says, people seem to be seeing him as a leader.” A headline in the Washington Post was more explicit: “Trump fans believe him over the media on coronavirus. This is dangerous.”
Take that, America! This is what you get for not trusting us.
Who’s the shithole country now? https://t.co/7NL4aHbyHq
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) March 26, 2020
The Washington Post is all over the story—Why Trump is Bad, etc.— publishing two separate (yet practically identical) opinion columns really sticking it to America: “The U.S. is still exceptional—but now for its incompetence,” by Fareed Zakaria and “Trump made us No. 1 — in the spread of a deadly disease,” by Jennifer Rubin.
What does the coronavirus have to do with abortion? Very little, unless you’re the Post. Take, for instance, Max Boot’s cerebral column on how the pandemic proves “the conservative devotion to life ends at birth.” Indeed, there is no shortage of journalists who are openly accusing the president of murder.
This is monstrous and people will die. https://t.co/RpipBFJI9l
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 27, 2020
When a Michigan hospital’s “worst case” policy draft leaked to the press—full of grim details about “comfort measures” and the prioritization of ventilators—journalists pounced. Former National Journal editor Ron Fournier cited the policy draft as evidence that Trump “has abandoned Michigan doctors and hospitals. He is letting people die.” The hospital was forced to clarify that the draft policies were not actually in effect, but not before the journos had racked up a bunch of precious retweets.
Meanwhile, the New York Times and the Washington Post were competing to see who could publish the most insightful headline on the intersection of religion and public health.
- WaPo: “Trump defiles Christianity’s holiest day”
- NYT: “The Road to Coronavirus Hell Was Paved by Evangelicals”
The Times wins this round, but the national media are further than ever from winning back the American people’s trust and respect. “Less trustworthy than Trump” is quite the honorific, but the media are certainly doing their best to show they deserve it.
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