Election 2016

Donald Trump's Watching a Lot of Television, and It's Worrying His Aides: Reports

To understand the president's erratic behavior, you must understand his media addiction, reports indicate.

Photo Credit: Albert H. Teich / Shutterstock.com

President Donald Trump is obsessed with the media—consuming it, reacting to it and being depicted positively by it. That obsession is born not only out of egotism but, as recent reports reveal, by a seemingly uncontrollable fixation on them. The word “addiction” is not being used here literally, but when reading about his media consumption habits, it can be difficult to think of a fitting substitute.

“Print copies of three newspapers,” wrote Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei of Axios in an article describing the president’s media habits on Tuesday. “When Billy Bush was on, ‘Access Hollywood’ every night. TiVo of the morning and evening news shows so he can watch the tops of all of them. Always ’60 Minutes.’ Often ‘Meet the Press.’ Lots of New York talk radio.”

Allen and VandeHei also reported that Trump doesn’t read books and avoids reports and briefings he considers too lengthy. That doesn't mean that Trump is hip to advancing technologies, however—he doesn’t use computers and rarely uses his phone for anything but calls. Even his infamous tweets are often dictated and then submitted by others. He doesn’t follow online news outlets, instead preferring traditional outlets including newspapers like “The New York Times” and “The New York Post” (which one friend referred to as “the paper of record for him”) and journalistic programs like “60 Minutes.”

He is particularly obsessed with TV.

Most mornings, Trump flicks on the TV and watches ‘Morning Joe,’ often for long periods of time, sometimes interrupted with texts to the hosts or panelists. After the 6 a.m. hour of “Joe,” he’s often on to “Fox & Friends” by 7 a.m., with a little CNN before or after. He also catches the Sunday shows, especially “Meet the Press.” “The shows,” as he calls them, often provoke his tweets. The day of our interview with him, all of his tweet topics were discussed during the first two hours of “Morning Joe.”

Indeed, Trump’s emotional dependence on positive TV coverage has led to some of the earliest mistakes of his presidency.

On Saturday, when Trump saw TV networks comparing his own tepid inaugural turnout with Obama’s much more impressive showing in 2009, he became so infuriated that his advisers were unable to convince him to ignore the negative coverage or simply respond to it on Twitter, according to The Washington Post on Monday. Instead he demanded that Press Secretary Sean Spicer denounce the negative coverage, and despite widespread criticism that Spicer had crossed the line by blatantly promoting lies about Trump’s inauguration (or what Kellyanne Conway later referred to as "alternative facts"), Trump’s main complaint was that Spicer had seemed too reliant on a printed statement and had not been sufficiently compelling. He was more pleased with Spicer’s performance on Monday.

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Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon.