Well, it had to come to this. With more than 132,000 cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) confirmed in the United States, and 2,300 plus deaths, Donald Trump is showing us what really matters to him. He isn’t expressing condolences to those who have lost loved ones. He isn’t implementing a coherent strategy for combating the pandemic. He isn’t even adhering to the social distancing orders his own task force is recommending.
Nope. What matters to Trump now – and always – is his ratings. Trump’s ego is voracious. Throughout this ordeal he has spent more time paying tribute to himself than he has executing a national plan. Whenever he does address things his administration is doing, he prefaces those remarks with superlatives that applaud his actions as “the biggest,” “the most,” and “the best ever.” He simply cannot describe any effort on his part without asserting that it broke some imaginary record for fabulousness.
On Sunday morning Trump went even further to essentially admit that he’s exploiting this pandemic as a means to get free airtime to promote himself and his 2020 reelection campaign. In a flurry of frantic tweets, Trump shamelessly boasted about the ratings for the televised Coronavirus Task Force briefings. He began with a typical swipe at the media that he despises saying that “The Lamestream Media wants us to fail. That will NEVER happen!” And that “Polls are showing tremendous disapproval of Lamestream Media coverage of the Virus crisis. The Fake News just hasn’t figured that out yet!”
Trump’s assertion that the media (which he is now maligning as “lamestream” ala Sarah Palin) “wants us to fail” is not supported by reality. And Trump, as usual, doesn’t provide a single example to prove that reckless claim. Reporting accurately that Trump’s response is failing is not the same as wanting it to fail. As for polls on the public’s approval of coverage of the pandemic, they predominantly show that the majority of Americans don’t trust Trump on the subject of the virus. Even worse for Trump’s fragile ego, Americans trust the media more than they trust Trump. And then there was this:
Because the “Ratings” of my News Conferences etc. are so high, “Bachelor finale, Monday Night Football type numbers” according to the @nytimes, the Lamestream Media is going CRAZY. “Trump is reaching too many people, we must stop him.” said one lunatic. See you at 5:00 P.M.!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2020
Notice that Trump refers to the ratings of “my news conferences.” That is not what these briefings are supposed to be, They are supposed to be opportunities to keep the public informed and have questions answered by experts. They should be used to educate the public honestly about current circumstances, and to disclose what the government is doing to keep them safe. But Trump has never been a source of reliable, truthful information. As an example there’s the quote in this tweet from an unnamed “lunatic” whose existence is doubtful. That’s particularly ironic since just yesterday Trump was mightily perturbed about the use of unnamed sources.
However, Trump had only just begun saluting his ratings prowess. Not satisfied with his earlier accolades to himself, Trump unleashed a four-tweet rant quoting an article in the New York Times. Or should I say misquoting? The first tweet stated that…
“President Trump is a ratings hit. Since reviving the daily White House briefing Mr. Trump and his coronavirus updates have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news, roughly the viewership of the season finale of ‘The Bachelor.’ Numbers are continuing to rise…”
However, here is what the article actually said with the parts Trump excised in bold:
“President Trump is a ratings hit, and some journalists and public health experts say that could be a dangerous thing.
“Since reviving the daily White House briefing — a practice abandoned last year by an administration that bristles at outside scrutiny — Mr. Trump and his coronavirus updates have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news, roughly the viewership of the season finale of ‘The Bachelor.'”
So Trump left out crucial information, but still put his edits in quotation marks. That is both dishonest and unethical. It should also be noted that viewers who both support and (mostly) oppose Trump watch these briefings. So the ratings are not an indication of Trump’s popularity. What’s more, they air on multiple networks simultaneously and, therefore, are not comparable to any single network program rating such as The Bachelor. Moving on to the second tweet…
“…On Monday, nearly 12.2 million people watched Mr. Trump’s briefing on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, according to Nielsen — ‘Monday Night Football’ numbers. Millions more are watching on ABC, CBS, NBC and online streaming sites, and the audience is expanding. On Monday, Fox News…”
And now for the actual quote from the article with relevant edits in bold:
“Millions more are watching on ABC, CBS, NBC and online streaming sites. […] And the audience is expanding even as Mr. Trump has repeatedly delivered information that doctors and public health officials have called ill informed, misleading or downright wrong.“
Most Americans would probably be interested in the fact that Trump is regarded as ill informed by doctors and public health officials. But Trump decided that they shouldn’t know that. Then, in the third tweet Trump said that Fox News…
“…alone attracted 6.2 million viewers for the president’s briefing — an astounding number for a 6 p.m. cable broadcast, more akin to the viewership for a popular prime-time sitcom…”
Really? Does Trump really want to associate his pandemic briefings with sitcoms? In the fourth tweet Trump said that…
“…The CBS News poll said 13 percent of Republicans trusted the news media for information about the virus. Michael M. Grynbaum @NYTimes”
Now don’t be surprised, but Trump left out pertinent information about this as well:
“The CBS News poll said 13 percent of Republicans trusted the news media for information about the virus, versus 72 percent of Democrats.”
What this tells is something we already know if we’ve been paying attention. Donald Trump is an egocentric, malignant narcissist who will lie about all things great and small in order to exalt himself. And he couldn’t care less about the suffering of the people, about whom he rarely expresses any sympathy or condolences. In this Sunday tweetstorm Trump has proved that he is only interested in his ratings. And that, sadly, explains why he has failed so tragically to protect the nation from a pandemic that could have been averted.
UPDATE: A reporter from the ultra-right OANN asked Trump about speculation that networks would cease coverage of these briefings and if his ratings were connected to that. After complimenting the question, Trump replied that “I don’t want high approval ratings from this.” Yeah, right. So what were these tweets all about?
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.