President-elect Trump was taken to task a lot during the campaign for all of the complaining that he did. The thing is, however, that much of that complaining was about the media, which was warranted. One of the hallmarks of both the McCain and Romney presidential campaigns was the candidates’ weakness in the face of hostile press coverage. As has been mentioned many times, Romney essentially threw an entire election because he let debate “moderator” Candy Crowley lie for President Obama.
For many Republicans who weren’t enthusiastic Trump supporters but wanted something to like about him, his refusal to give the media a free pass on their combative bias was the thing. It was practically otherworldly to see a Republican presidential candidate expressing frustration over something that GOP voters have been angry about for decades.
One of Donald Trump’s hobbyhorses during the presidential campaign and even now that he has emerged as the president-elect is how deeply negative the media coverage of him was during the 2016 race. Turns out he was right, according to a new study out of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.
“His coverage was negative from the start [of the general election] and never came close to entering positive territory,” writes Thomas E. Patterson, the Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at Harvard. “During his best weeks, the coverage ran 2-to-1 negative over positive. In his worst weeks, the ratio was more than 10-to-1. If there was a silver lining for Trump, it was that his two best weeks were the ones just preceding the November balloting.”
The negativity of the coverage was broadly consistent across each of the outlets the Harvard study included. CBS had the most negative coverage and Fox News Channel the least negative, but the differences between the two were not vast.
Let this sink in for a moment: a Harvard study about media bias is being written about in the publication that the study ranked as one of the worst offenders. Call me skeptical, but I wonder if we would even be made aware of this had Granny Maojackets prevailed.
The MSM is just beginning to grasp the fact that the new president’s social media habit isn’t just a sword that can be used against him. It’s one thing if a dozen or so right-leaning bloggers are complaining about media bias on Twitter and totally another if the next occupant of the White House is doing it.
We probably won’t see a massive shift in media coverage-the speculation drama over the transition has proven that-but we may see some subtle moves in the right direction. This is an intricate dance that the GOP formerly attempted with two left feet while letting its partner drag it around the floor to embarrass it. Trump came in and decided to wrestle them to see who would lead. Sure, the dance is still awkward, but it’s a little more honest and entertaining than it was a year ago.