Donald Trump has said he will not fire the White House press secretary because he “gets great ratings.”
Mr Trump discussed the fate of Press Secretary Sean Spicer at a behind-closed-doors White House lunch last month.
“I’m not firing Sean Spicer,” Mr Trump said, according to someone familiar with the event. “That guy gets great ratings. Everyone tunes in.”
The press secretary had made a series of public gaffes in the days prior, including asserting that Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons during the Holocaust. Mr Trump, however, seemed nonplussed, boasting to attendees that Mr Spicer’s briefings attracted as many viewers as a daytime soap opera, according to the Washington Post.
The president, who indulges in a well-documented TV habit, regularly emphasises his own broadcast ratings. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, for example, he bragged that his television appearances attracted more viewers than broadcasts of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“On air, [CBS ‘Face the Nation’ host John] Dickerson had 5.2 million people,” Mr Trump said. “...It's the highest for ‘Deface the Nation’ since the World Trade Center. Since the World Trade Center came down. It's a tremendous advantage.”
Mr Trump’s unprecedented 2016 presidential campaign was indeed a massive ratings generator. The first presidential debate attracted a record-breaking 84 million viewers, and his election night victory barely missed a ratings record set in 2008.
According to media analyst Andrew Tyndall, Mr Trump’s campaign was the second most-covered story of 2015. Hillary Clinton’s campaign, by comparison, was 16th.
Since taking office, however, Mr Trump’s ratings have dipped significantly. His inauguration attracted only 30.6 million viewers – down 18 per cent from Mr Obama’s inauguration in 2009. Similarly, his first address to Congress attracted 9 per cent fewer viewers than Mr Obama’s.
Outside of the broadcast realm, the 45th president's ratings are historically low. Only 42 percent of Americans approve of Mr Trump's performance as president, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. That is the lowest approval rating of any president since 1945.
Mr Trump, however called the polls “very good” on Sunday, adding that he believes “much of the media is FAKE and almost always negative.”
“The two fake news polls released yesterday, ABC & NBC, while containing some very positive info, were totally wrong in General [Election],” he tweeted. “Watch!”