One reason that President Trump gets so worked up about how he’s portrayed in the media is that he spends so much time paying attention to media portrayals of him. For decades, the president spent hours and hours each week watching cable news shows and poring over newspapers, often, it seems, looking for mentions of his own name. Now, the media is an endless buffet of commentary about Donald Trump, and there’s little indication that the president has been able to keep from gorging.
D.C. media stalwarts Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei (formerly of Politico, now of Axios) broke down Trump’s media habits in a short article on Tuesday morning. No books, lots of TV. Newspapers, but only certain ones. Lots of political talk shows, both on the nets and on radio.
We combined the Allen-VandeHei analysis with our own observations of Trump’s Twitter activity and statements to put together this approximate Week in Presidential Media-Watching.
Here’s how it breaks down.
Newspapers. Trump apparently reads the New York Times and the New York Post each morning, skimming the Wall Street Journal. There was actually a study done once to track how long it took Brits to read various newspapers; broadsheets took about 50 minutes and tabloids about half an hour.
Morning shows. Allen and VandeHei indicate that Trump is a regular watcher of “Morning Joe,” which will surprise no one who has been paying much attention to Trump recently. He’ll often then jump to “Fox and Friends” or CNN. The Axios duo indicate that Trump often watches “Morning Joe” for more than just the first hour, but we’ll leave that as-is.
Sunday shows. Trump watches the Sunday political talk shows, especially “Meet the Press.” He also watches “60 Minutes” with some regularity, according to the Axios report. Some of these he watches on DVR, so the timing presented here may not be totally precise. But he still spends time watching these shows.
Radio. The Axios report indicates that Trump listens to radio talk shows, but doesn’t go into much detail.
Evening shows. There’s no mention made of evening talk shows in the report, but we know from our past analysis that he watches them regularly. Here, for example, is a graph of the shows he has tweeted about watching the most.
Several evening shows are toward the top of the list. He used to watch Megyn Kelly’s show with some regularity, but she no longer hosts it.
Saturday Night Live. I mean, obviously. This one he does seem to watch on delay, though.
Twitter. Trump’s Twitter activity tends to overlap heavily with the period he spends in the morning watching news shows, particularly since Election Day.
One of the main questions as Trump transitioned from private citizen to president was the extent to which he’d be able to maintain this media diet. A report from Politico this week indicates that his staff has not been completely able to wean him off it.
One person who frequently talks to Trump said aides have to push back privately against his worst impulses in the White House, like the news conference idea, and have to control information that may infuriate him. He gets bored and likes to watch TV, this person said, so it is important to minimize that.
The Post’s reporting makes clear that Trump’s perceptions of how he’s portrayed in the media have driven a lot of his public outreach over the first few days of his administration. “Aides talk of giving him ‘better choices’ or jamming his schedule with meetings to keep him away from reading about or watching himself on TV,” Allen and VandeHei write. “But this is an addiction he will never kick.”
That’s the problem with all-you-can-eat buffets. Sometimes, you get a stomachache.