White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders attributes the lack of support for the president not to his job performance but to the media's coverage of his job performance.
She told the White House press corps Tuesday:
“While the president and this administration has been very focused on how we can better help the American people, I think often times the media is focused on other things. Certainly not talking about the growing economy, certainly not talking about the crushing of ISIS, not talking about the creation of jobs. If you look at the amount of time that is spent on negative coverage of this president, 90 percent of the coverage is negative about this president when, as you said, I listed off a number of things that have been pretty historic in nature in this first year. If people were focused on a lot more of those things in the media, I think his numbers would be a lot higher.”
But the truth is the media has spent significant time covering the accomplishments Sanders attributes to the president.
But much of this coverage has included context and nuance that could suggest that the accomplishments aren't always as glowing as the White House suggests — or as solely credited to Trump as he and his team often suggest.
And despite what Sanders would like the press to do, it is hard to cover accomplishments that do not exist. The recent tax bill that the Republican Senate passed early Wednesday morning is the president's first legislative accomplishment since entering the White House nearly a year ago.
But the press secretary's assessment fails to acknowledge a key part of why Americans may view the president the way they do. They don't have to turn to the media to judge the president; they see his statements on social media, view his answers in news conferences, listen to the policy he lays out and the speeches he gives with heads of state.
Besides, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll in October found 65 percent said the news media are a "dysfunctional" part of the U.S. political system. A Quinnipiac poll from the same month also found 60 percent of registered voters disapprove of the way the news media has covered President Trump.
Putting too much emphasis on how much Americans look to the media for guidance about their politics breaks down quickly when examining how many conservative media outlets cover the president.
Trump still enjoys high favorability ratings with Republicans — more than 80 percent, according to Gallup earlier this month. While it could be because they agree with his policies, temperament or actions, it also could be because if the news they consume.
Some media analysts have claimed that Fox News, undoubtedly Trump's favorite source of news, has been so glowing in its favorable support of the president's performance that it resembles “state media.”
The Washington Post's Erik Wemple specifically highlighted just how supportive Fox News host Sean Hannity has been in his coverage of the Trump White House:
“As Trump’s outrages and shortcomings pile up, Hannity will continue to press the extremes of Trump sycophancy. That’s because his trajectory on this candidate leaves him no choice. Not that he’ll endure any ratings pain from doing so. In a rare case of accuracy, Trump correctly cited Hannity’s surge in the ratings; last week, for instance, he ruled all of cable news. “I think a lot of the news media is fake, except ‘Hannity,’ ” said a fellow interviewed by Hannity at the Trump event.”
But given Sanders's logic, one could argue that Trump's high approval rating with Republicans isn't because of his actual performance but because of how pro-Trump media outlets and personalities, like Fox and Hannity, cover the president.
Before entering politics, Trump often doled out advice on social media that could apply to those working in politics. A topic he visited often — especially in his attacks of his predecessor former president Barack Obama — was the importance of taking responsibility for one's performance.
Entrepreneurs: See each day as an opportunity to show what you can do at the highest level. Take responsibility for yourself!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2015
Obama's complaints about Republicans stopping his agenda are BS since he had full control for two years. He can never take responsibility.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 26, 2012
With at least three years left in the Trump administration, there is ample opportunity for the majority of the American people to get on the Trump train. If they indeed do, will the White House credit media coverage for the pivot?