Kurtz sees media forfeiting credibility in war with Trump

Kurtz sees media forfeiting credibility in war with Trump
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Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz says in an interview with The Hill that the news business “is forfeiting some of its credibility by appearing so one-sided" regarding its coverage of President TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE.

“The media barely focus on Trump’s role in the economy, but are largely consumed by palace intrigue, hot-button issues, Russia, Twitter rants and his attacks on journalists — since we find ourselves endlessly fascinating,” said Kurtz, who recently released the book “Media Madness: Donald Trump, The Press and the War Over the Truth.”

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“No matter what you think of this president’s policies and his style, 5 percent positive coverage is an appalling figure that should prompt some soul-searching.”

Pew Research found that only 5 percent of media coverage of Trump last year was "positive." In contrast, former President Obama received more than eight times the positive coverage during his first year in office.

Kurtz said this shift is one reason he wrote his book.

“We’re not the ‘opposition party,’ as Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — GOP spars with FBI agent at tense hearing Bookstore owner calls police after customer confronted Steve Bannon Trump’s plan to drown government must be stopped MORE says,” he said, referring to the former White House strategist, “but sometimes it sure looks that way.”

Kurtz, who hosted CNN’s “Reliable Sources” from 1998 to 2013 and was The Washington Post’s media columnist for 29 years, believes the negative coverage of Trump stems in part from president’s baiting of the “fake news” media, which he once called “the enemy of the people.”

“I don’t think it’s just ideological — in fact, Trump gets it from the right as well as the left,” said Kurtz, 64. “There is something visceral in the disdainful way some talk and write about him, something about his style that offends them. And Trump baits them with his constant attacks, sometimes over-the-top attacks, on the press and on media people.”

Not everyone has agreed with Kurtz’s premise.

Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan argued in a Jan. 28 column that it was “based on a false premise: that President Trump and the national press are at war with each other.”

She also wrote that Kurtz’s take is a direct reflection on his employers, writing that his “allegiance to his masters at Fox News is evident right from the start.”

One of the biggest media supporters of Trump’s White House is Fox News host Sean Hannity.

But Kurtz argues the point is unfair.

“The lowest argument someone can make is that you don’t believe your own words,” he said of Sullivan’s criticism.

“Come at me, challenge my arguments, rip the book, but this is a painfully honest book that I knew would draw a harsh counterattack. Some folks who are anti-Fox and anti-Trump find it hard to believe that everyone doesn’t agree with their point of view.”

Kurtz said he’s always been a “down-the-middle” guy and that moving to Fox hasn’t changed his perspective.

“You know, I’m the same guy I’ve always been,” he said. “I was fair to conservatives when I was at CNN, I’m fair to liberals now at Fox, and I’ve always had to criticize my employers. People who say I’ve somehow been transformed really just don’t agree with where I am on Trump coverage — and I get flak from both sides. I’m a down-the-middle guy.”
Kurtz criticized Fox on Sunday for not immediately covering White House staff secretary Rob Porter’s resignation under a cloud of domestic violence allegations, which at the time was the dominant political story.

“Fox's news division has covered this story as it should, but on Wednesday when it was exploding for 15 hours after 'Special Report' from prime time in the morning, there was no mention about Porter being ousted at the White House,” Kurtz said on Sunday's edition of “Media Buzz” during a panel segment. 

“I think opinion shows can cover this any way they want, but I think to not cover it all for a half a day was a misjudgment that gives some ammunition to Fox's critics,” he concluded.

Both President Trump and the press have trust issues with the public.

A Quinnipiac poll released in November 2017 found that American voters disapprove of media coverage of Trump by a 20-point margin, but also trust the media to tell the truth about important issues more than the president by the same margin.

The poll showed that 58 percent disapprove of the way the media covers Trump, while 38 percent of those polled said they approve.

However, 54 percent said they trust the media to tell the truth about important issues more than Trump, while 34 percent said they trusted the president more.

The poll also found that 53 percent of those surveyed think the media focuses too much on negative stories about the president and that 39 percent believe the press “makes up negative stories about him.”

In the end, Kurtz doesn't see the fractured relationship between the president and press healing anytime soon.

“It’s ironic, isn’t it, that being largely anti-Trump is a gold mine for some news outlets,” he says.

“All cable news ratings are up, New York Times digital subscriptions are way up. I don’t say that’s their motivation, but with the press serving as a foil for Trump, both sides have an extra incentive to keep on fighting.”