Even Trump’s allies think his coronavirus briefings have gone "off the rails"

The Washington Post/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Originally Published: 

For the better part of the past month, President Trump has held daily coronavirus briefings to update a tense nation on the state of his pandemic response plan. At least, that's what he claims they're for. In actuality, the briefings have largely been a less about reassuring the public, and more about giving the president a televised platform to brag, whine, and discuss the hit Netflix series Tiger King.

But while the president has insisted that his nightly appearances have been a huge success because, as he's tweeted many, many times, they get television ratings on par with ABC's The Bachelor, even some of Trump's most reliable allies are starting to publicly question whether subjecting the American people to a daily dose of haphazard policy messaging and random self-aggrandizement is really the best plan of action during a global health crisis.

Speaking with The New York Times, Trump golf-buddy Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) admitted the president "sometimes drowns out his own message" and suggested that Trump should consider "a once-a-week show" — the operative word here being "show" — instead. West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) meanwhile was a little more blunt in her assessment of the president's briefings, telling the Times that the nightly gaggles — which have sometimes lasted for hours — have been "going off the rails a little bit."

And it's not just lawmakers who are starting to break rank. The Wall Street Journal's staunchly conservative editorial desk issued a rare and (for them) surprisingly pointed criticism of the president's performance this week, describing the briefings as a "wasted" opportunity in which "Trump seems to have concluded that the briefings could be a showcase for him."

"Perhaps they substitute in his mind for the campaign rallies he can no longer hold because of the risks," the WSJ's editorial board wrote. "Perhaps he resented the media adulation that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been receiving for his daily show. Whatever the reason, the briefings are now all about the president."

Suffice it to say, Trump was not thrilled at the public rebuke from an ostensible ally.

Notably, the president's kvetchy response prompted an even more surprising instance of pushback from, of all people, Fox News's senior political analyst Brit Hume.

Now, who can say what does and doesn't penetrate the combed-over hair and layers of orange makeup that coat the president's skull. But, in a sign that the combined efforts of Senate Republicans, Fox News personalities, and The Wall Street Journal's editorial board might just be having an effect, Trump spoke for just 20 minutes during his Thursday night briefing — without mentioning Tiger King even once — before handing the mic to someone else.