In the middle of a firestorm surrounding whether the president’s eldest son colluded with the Kremlin to obtain damaging information on Hillary Clinton, President Donald Trump finally took to Twitter on Wednesday to address the burning question on everyone’s minds: How ever does the president find the time to watch television?
“The W.H. is functioning perfectly, focused on HealthCare, Tax Cuts/Reform & many other things,” Trump tweeted. “I have very little time for watching T.V.”
If this is true, it marks a rupture from Trump’s widely reported passion for television — an obsession so deep that Elaine Godfrey, assistant editor for the Atlantic, argued it was actually unprecedented.
“No president has consumed as much television as the current one, or reacted as quickly or directly to what they were seeing,” Godfrey wrote in an article published in April titled “Trump’s TV Obsession Is a First.”
Her piece opens by noting just how much Trump loves Fox & Friends— so much so that he has, as president, instructed the nation to watch it as well.
In May, he replied to tweet linking to Fox & Friends’ favorable coverage of his administration to congratulate them on their soaring ratings.
In April, the Washington Post ran a report titled “‘Everyone tunes in’: Inside Trump’s obsession with cable TV.” Writers Ashley Parker and Robert Costa noted that Trump’s love of television actually informs his approach to the presidency.
“For Trump... television is often the guiding force of his day, both weapon and scalpel, megaphone and news feed,” Parker and Costa wrote.
To demonstrate this, they pointed to Trump’s decision in March not to fire beleaguered White House press secretary Sean Spicer because he “gets great ratings. Everyone tunes in.”
Though Spicer appeared to be on Trump’s good side that month, just one month prior, Trump was reportedly furious at Spicer — again, all because of television. According to Politico, this time, it was Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of Spicer on Saturday Night Live that infuriated Trump, who, the report said, thought that having his press secretary played by a woman made Spicer — and by extension, Trump’s White House — look weak.
Even beyond Trump’s beleaguered press secretary, reports have shown Trump’s opinions about current events have been shaped by coverage on his preferred channels. In January, Mic reported that Trump’s opinion about Chelsea Manning came almost word for word from Fox News.
In March, Mic reported that Trump’s shocking decision to purge 46 holdover U.S. attorneys came just days after Fox News personality Sean Hannity suggested the same thing. According to Mic staff writer Tom McKay, it continued a trend of Trump making decisions or giving statements based on coverage and analysis he saw on that channel— including his claim in February that Sweden’s decision to take on refugees had let to major security-related incidents.