Donald Trump is baiting the press with his tweets — and the media is falling for it
Negative news about President-elect Donald Trump has come fast and furious since Election Day.
From a half-hearted denunciation of hate crimes being committed in his name, to numerous reports of Trump seeking to enrich himself through his position as president-elect, Trump's first two weeks since being elected to the highest office in the United States have seen an unprecedented volume of bad news that, for any other administration, would have amounted to crippling scandal.
Yet Trump has seen his popularity rise since his election, according to two separate polls released Monday — an indicator that these scandals either aren't breaking through to the general public, or the public is siding with Trump over media reports.
Instead, Trump's tweets attacking an increasingly unpopular media and his Twitter feud with the cast of the Broadway show Hamilton have been the stories that have stuck.
Both narratives include elements that helped Trump rise to the presidency in the first place — attacking the media and the country's elites. They also provide easy fodder for talking heads on television to process and opine on during live broadcasts.
Throughout the campaign, Trump whipped his supporters into a frenzy about the press, calling them liars and casting doubt on the accuracy of media reports.
The continued coverage of Trump's tweets trashing the media — and the media dutifully passing along his criticism to the general public — will only further erode the public's tenuous trust of the press and their reporting.
And if the public doesn't trust the press, reports on any possible Trump scandals in the future will fall on deaf ears, giving Trump more leeway to defy the democratic norms that have developed over 200 years of constitutional government.
Trump has successfully baited the press into keeping up the coverage of his ongoing feud with the media, tweeting that he canceled a planned meeting with the New York Times because of their "nasty" coverage. He subsequently dominated Tuesday morning's media conversation and again pushed the "dishonest media" narrative to the fore.
The meeting ended up taking place, but only after Trump was able to publicly and pre-emptively rail against the press and raise doubts about the fairness and accuracy of what the New York Times may report from their conversation.
By getting the country to distrust the press, Trump could be inoculating himself from facing backlash from real issues the press may report down the line.
He could also be softening the blow if he chooses to freeze the press out of his White House.
Trump has already defied norms by not holding a press conference in the days following his election, denying the media the ability to ask him pointed questions about the inner workings of his transition and his vision for the beginning of his transition.
In fact, the last time he held a press conference was 117 days ago on July 27, according to CBS News' Sopan Deb, who covered the Trump campaign.
Instead, Trump is forcing the press to report on what he gives them without any chance for critical questions.
For example, he released a video message on Monday outlining his 100-day agenda and an update on the transition. The New York Times ran the video as a lead story on the front page.
Yet every time the media reports on Trump's tweets or video announcements that he releases without allowing for critical questions from the press, the media is enabling Trump's behavior.
The media needs to stop taking Trump's bait, or this cycle will only continue.