Ever since Donald Trump began his campaign to reach the White House, his outspoken scrutiny of the mainstream media has raised eyebrows from Democrats and Republicans alike. Of course, U.S presidents showing their distaste for the free press is not an alien concept - such cases can be found in the presidencies of Reagan, Carter and Nixon. Yet, with the Trump administration, the war on ‘fake news’ has become one of the most divisive the country has ever seen.
It was recently found that 53% of American citizens disapprove of the way Trump treats media organisations. However, 51% of that same group also disapprove of the way the media treats the President. With this paradox in mind, the question is: why has Trump’s method of opposing all critiques faced before him from the likes of CNN, The Wall street Journal and The New York Times, proven successful?
During Trump’s campaign, his team meticulously aimed to portray him as an outsider, despite his status as a billionaire businessman. Many of the modern faces of Congress had shown little interest in the hard-red areas of America which also happen to be some of the most poverty-stricken. This helped propel the divide between the establishment politicians like Hillary Clinton, and the voters who felt let down by them. For many, a vote for Trump was a vote for a president who would tell it like it is and not be afraid of being politically incorrect. When questioned, Trump refused to back-down, and rather called upon the problems with the current establishment, which many voters were relieved to hear.
Trump’s forthright ability to relay questionable information to his supporters, with even more questionable motives, has caused a new age media uprising from some of the most prominent bureaucracies and figures in the world.
Many organisations, such as CNN, labelled the Trump-phenomenon as an excuse for casual racism. Articles upon articles were published and celebrities tweeted in their masses, wondering how on earth anyone with half a brain could vote for the racist, orange bigot who seemed to know nothing about what it means to be president. The media drove a seemingly downhill battle to prove that Trump was unfit for the presidency, although the same news sources were seemingly more forgiving of other party nominees during their scandals, which Trump supporters and Trump himself had no shame in pointing out.
Multiple incorrect stories of Trump were posted as fact, including that he posed gleefully next to a KKK member in a (photoshopped) photograph, or stated in a 1998 interview with People Magazine, if he were to run as president he would do so as a Republican, as they are the ‘dumbest group of voters’.
Trump’s supporters and undecided voters saw and experienced for themselves the scrutiny of the press, who they felt wanted to portray them and Trump alike, as racist and unintelligent, which to them only demonstrated that Trump’s outsider narrative was correct.
Almost a year since the election, Trump refuses to back down from his controversial critique of the press. Since the start of the year, Trump has mentioned the phrase ‘fake news’ in over 150 tweets.
With the sacking of Sean Spicer earlier this year, the administration seems to be more closed-off from the media than ever before. Representatives for the President, such as his current counsellor Kellyanne Conway, have faced criticism for their inability to answer interview questions. This comes as a surprise to Trump voters who admired Trump's frankness with the public during his campaign.
With more and more controversies surrounding the White House, the mainstream media are not giving up on the ‘Trump issue’ just yet. They remain set on delivering all fronts of a Trump presidency. As Trump aims to continue his presidency past 2020, only time will tell if the discrediting of the press will be a sustainable campaign strategy, and if it still carries the same punch and strong reactions as it does today.