Television watching is a bit harder to pinpoint. There’s no motorcade that has to happen for Trump to turn on the news, it’s just there in the White House. Unless you see him watching television, you can only infer that he’s doing it.
Which he insists is rare. During a flight on Air Force One earlier this month, Trump offered a statement that, over time, may become as infamous as his campaign-trail protestations that he’d be too busy as president to play any golf.
“Believe it or not,” Trump said during his trip to Asia, “even when I’m in Washington or New York, I do not watch much television. I know they like to say that. People that don’t know me, they like to say I watch television — people with fake sources. You know, fake reporters, fake sources. But I don’t get to watch much television. Primarily because of documents. I’m reading documents. A lot. And different things. I actually read much more — I read you people much more than I watch television.”
Just sitting there reading documents. And then tweeting about things he saw on “Fox and Friends.”
That’s the thing: Trump’s tweets give the game away. He has tweeted about the Fox News show 88 times as president, including retweets of its account. Often, though, it’s clear that he’s watching the show because he tweets about what he saw shortly afterward. Both CNN and Matthew Gertz of the liberal group Media Matters have mastered the art of tying Trump’s early-morning tweets to the things he has seen on television.
So what do we know? On 108 of the 313 days Trump has been president, he has tweeted directly about what he’s watching on Fox, tweeted about subjects that had just aired on Fox, tweeted about an interview on Fox involving himself or an ally or has retweeted “Fox and Friends” or Sean Hannity in a way that suggests he’s watching those shows.
That’s a bit more than once every three days. Remove those days when Trump is traveling overseas, and he has hinted that he has been watching Fox on 37 percent of the days that he has been president. That probably includes Wednesday morning. Exclude those days when he only retweeted Fox or Hannity — days he was clearly watching television — and it’s still a quarter of the days he has been president.
Here’s the thing: This is almost certainly low. Time interviewed Trump earlier this year and described a small dining room adjacent to the Oval Office.
“Each president leaves his mark on the building,” Michael Scherer (now with The Post) and Zeke Miller wrote, “and Trump has wasted little time making his. … [F]ew rooms have changed so much so fast as his dining room, where he often eats his lunch amid stacks of newspapers and briefing sheets. A few weeks back, the President ordered a gutting of the room.” Trump invited the reporters in there to show them something: “On the opposite wall, above the fireplace, a new 60-plus-inch flat-screen television that he has cued up with clips from the day’s Senate hearing on Russia. Since at least as far back as Richard Nixon, Presidents have kept televisions in this room, usually small ones, no larger than a bread box, tucked away on a sideboard shelf. That’s not the Trump way.”
Trump can pop in there at any point and watch television; the Time story shows Trump, remote in hand, queuing up whatever it is he wanted to watch.
Whether he also read those documents that were in the dining room was not mentioned in the article.