In a discussion Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” moderator Chuck Todd helped to cement the awful legacy of Roger Ailes, the late founder and president of Fox News. In a back-and-forth with David Brody of CBN News, Todd addressed one of the 21st Century’s most depressing trend lines — the American public’s trust in the accuracy and integrity of the media. Witness the slope of this Gallup poll:

Furthermore: A 2018 Gallup/Knight Foundation survey found that, overall, “Americans believe 62% of the news they see on television, read in newspapers and hear on the radio is biased.”

The Todd-Brody discussion alighted on this dynamic:

Brody: I’d say on the Republican side they got exactly what they wanted, a guy that was going to shake things up. Look, I think one of the best things going in Donald Trump’s favor — we know this — is the mainstream media. I hate to say it. I know I’m sitting on a “Meet the Press” roundtable, but the truth of the matter is 62% think the media is biased. So in other words, if you look at the approval ratings of Donald Trump versus the approval rating of the media . . .
Todd: The conservative echo chamber created that environment. It’s not — no. No. No. No. It has been a tactic and a tool of the Roger Ailes-created echo chamber.
Brody: Yeah.
Todd: So let’s not pretend it’s not anything other than that.
Brody: Well, hang on. Yes and no. Because remember, the independents are part of Donald Trump’s base. And I think that is very important. A lot of times we say, “Republicans are Donald Trump’s base.” Not really. They’re . . .
Todd: No. It’s a separate Trump — it is a different version of the Republican Party.
Brody: But those Independents also distrust media. This is not just Republicans. It is many Americans across . . .
Todd: Oh, no. No. No. I take your point. I’m just saying it was a creation — it was a campaign tactic. It’s not based in much fact.

It goes without saying that the mainstream media is a political asset for the president. President Trump’s authoritarian rants against “fake news” are among the few through lines of the past three years, along with his nonstop mendacity and narcissism. He has gone so far as to boast about his own role in depressing trust among Americans in the media.

To Todd’s point about the Ailes effect — correct. Launched in 1996, Fox News has boosted its ratings throughout its history by hammering mainstream outlets when they published scoops unfavorable to Republican candidates — only to piggyback on these very same outlets when they published scoops unfavorable to Democratic candidates. The network’s ideology on this front was uniform, persistent and, quite often, idiotic. But it helped attract a big and mostly Republican audience, a dynamic that surely wasn’t lost on Trump himself, a friend of Ailes and longtime guest on the network’s morning program, “Fox & Friends.”

How irretrievably did Trump poison the American public with his Fox News-derived attacks on the media? Well, another Gallup-Knight survey found that “Four in 10 Republicans consider accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group in a negative light to always be ‘fake news.’ ” The corresponding number for Democrats was 17 percent. Such a partisan divide over media trust is by no means an outlier: The 2018 Poynter Media Trust Survey found that “high-knowledge” Democrats have a 98 percent trust rating in the media, versus 11 percent for “high-knowledge” Republicans.

The media’s detractors, of course, allege that the media — staffed in large part by liberals/Democrats — is getting the trust numbers that it deserves. Surely there have been errors and instances of bias, but the campaign cited by Todd has worked wonders over the years, as Trump has proved by stretching it to its rhetorical extremes.

The milking, however, may be approaching its end. Trust-in-media numbers are starting to bump up a bit, as the Poynter survey demonstrated. There’s no surefire scientific explanation for the phenomenon, a vacuum allowing the Erik Wemple Blog to insert some genuine speculation, which we laid out in a previous post: The U.S. media, along with Republican primary opponents, portrayed Trump as an incompetent, soulless liar during the 2016 presidential election — and he has gone on to govern as an incompetent, soulless liar.