TV critic Donald Trump: I don’t watch much TV

Michael Walsh
Reporter
President Trump at the G-20 summit on July, 8, 2017, in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer to gather dirt on Hillary Clinton has dominated news coverage the past few days, but his father has been too busy to notice … or so he says.

On Wednesday morning, President Trump tweeted that he’s too busy dealing with health care, tax reform and other issues to spend much time watching television.


This was a somewhat bizarre claim for the commander in chief to make given that television commentary is a mainstay on his Twitter feed. Anyone following @realDonaldTrump can rest assured that he will sound off on TV news coverage — lauding flattering coverage while lashing out at criticism.

And Trump is known to be obsessed with cable news coverage of himself and his administration. On Tuesday, the New York Times Magazine published a story in which Trump was seen watching a four-hour-old recording of “Fox & Friends” at 12:30 p.m. The Associated Press reported last month that Trump was “yelling at television sets in the White House carrying coverage” of the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election. And he often declares on Twitter that cable news hosts like MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski are treating him unfairly.

But he is a known fan of Fox News. That same morning he claimed not to watch TV, Trump promoted a clip from “Fox & Friends” with positive coverage of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and another clip of Fox News pundit Jesse Watters claiming that Trump Jr. is “the victim here.”

Trump also promoted Fox host Sean Hannity’s Tuesday interview with Trump Jr., who has been mired in a scandal involving his June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer. The younger Trump escalated the firestorm earlier in the day Tuesday when he tweeted out emails showing that he had agreed to meet with Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Kremlin-linked Russian attorney, to get information that could hurt Clinton during last year’s election.


A simple scroll through his past tweets will reveal dozens more retweets of clips from Fox News, as well as praise for the network’s reporting.



The Hollywood Reporter published an article Wednesday morning on the influence of “Fox & Friends” on Trump — calling the program “America’s most influential morning show.” Co-host Brian Kilmeade said his team is flattered that Trump likes their program.

“I’m smart enough to realize that this is the most powerful person in the world, and he likes [our] show,” Kilmeade was quoted saying in the Hollywood Reporter piece. “There are worse things that could happen to somebody. Do I know he’s watching? Yeah. Does it affect what I do? Well, I was critical of him when he was running, and I’m still critical of him sometimes. My preference is to be respected, not liked by him. But I don’t know anybody else in the history of television that can honestly say that you know the president is watching every day. Maybe Johnny Carson.”

Trump’s appreciation for “Fox & Friends” and disdain for most other news programs is nothing new. During his first solo press conference as president, on Feb. 16, Trump described the “Fox & Friends” crew as “very honorable people.”

“I watched this morning a couple of the networks, and I have to say, ‘Fox & Friends’ in the morning, they are very honorable people — not because they are good — because they hit me when I do something wrong, but they have the most honest morning show. That’s all I can say.”

His take on CNN wasn’t as glowing: “I mean, I watch CNN, and it’s so much anger, hatred, and just the hatred.” He accused Don Lemon of packing the panels on his show “CNN Tonight” with anti-Trump personalities: “Well, you look at your show that goes on at 10 in the evening. You just take a look at the show. It’s a constant hit. The panel is almost always exclusive anti-Trump.”

On April 23, the Washington Post published a story, “‘Everyone tunes in’: Inside Trump’s obsession with cable TV,” about how Trump’s preoccupation with television “has upended the traditional rhythms of the White House.” Details from cable news prompt his tweetstorms or serve as a starting point for his policy discussions.

“Some White House officials — who early on would appear on TV to emphasize points to their boss, who was likely to be watching just steps away in his residence — have started tuning into Fox News’ ‘Fox & Friends’ because they know the president habitually clicks it on after waking near dawn,” the Post reported.

Trump’s tweets about his TV coverage serve as clear evidence.




On the other hand, Trump has long claimed he does not watch other TV shows and channels — as he criticizes them.







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