Media report card on Trump mirrors split in the country

US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Thursday after a media interview. He is expected to mark his first 100 days in office today by touting his record as one of the most successful ever during a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Thursday after a media interview. He is expected to mark his first 100 days in office today by touting his record as one of the most successful ever during a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.PHOTO: REUTERS

Mainstream outlets critical, but pro-Trump media and voters still solidly behind him

US media coverage of President Donald Trump, who marks his first 100 days in office today, has ranged from negative to lukewarm, except for some praise from pro-Trump media.

Many media organisations - which the President has slammed for unfair reporting - rushed to judgment before he signed a last-minute flurry of executive orders ahead of tonight's rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he is likely to tout his record as one of the most successful ever.

The mainstream media has a starkly opposite view, unlikely to be shaken by the executive orders which are already drawing criticism. A tax reform plan, for instance, has been lambasted by critics as favouring the wealthy.

On March 27, a Washington Post headline declared: "Trump's first 100 days: A big failure, and a new low in the polls."


The New York Times, often described as "failing" by the President, on April 17 ran a piece by columnist Charles Blow headlined "100 days of horror".

"Trump's legislative agenda has been stymied. The drip, drip, drip of negative news about connections between campaign associates and Russia - and Russia's efforts to impact our election - continues unabated. He seems to have no real strategy for governance other than pouting and gloating. His advisers are at each other's throats. And the public has soured on him to a historic degree," the column said, calling the first 100 days a "colossal failure".

On Thursday, New York Magazine ran an article somewhat puncturing the critical hyperbole.

"For all the attention paid to the president's historically low standing in the polls, he has nonetheless held on to a unified, intractable base that thinks he's doing fine," wrote columnist Frank Rich.

"Trump's approval number in the Washington Post-ABC News survey released this week, 42 per cent, may be dismal, but his approval rating among his own voters is 94 per cent," he added.

The Washington Post, in its report on the poll on Sunday, said: "There are no signs of major slippage in support among those who voted for Trump. His approval rating among those who cast ballots for him stands at 94 per cent. Among Republicans, it is 84 per cent."

Among those who voted for Mr Trump, 2 per cent say they regret doing so while 96 per cent say supporting him was the right thing to do, the report said.

"When asked if they would vote for him again, 96 per cent say they would, which is higher than the 85 per cent of Hillary Clinton voters who say they would support her again," it added.

At the other end of the media spectrum, the Rupert Murdoch- controlled, stridently pro-Trump Fox News on Thursday ran an opinion piece from Pennsylvania Republican congressman Mike Kelly headlined "Our downhill trajectory has been stopped and reversed".

"President Trump's mission to correct our course has involved a wholesale rejection of his predecessor's approach to government and view of the world," wrote Mr Kelly, who will likely be among those welcoming Mr Trump at what promises to be a triumphal rally in Harrisburg. 

"In the global arena, America is undeniably leading with strength and confidence again," he wrote, citing the President's missile strikes on a Syrian air base in retaliation for a chemical attack on civilians that the US blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"We are a mighty superpower to trust, fear and respect again," he said, adding: "Instead of a lecturer as president, we now have a leader."

The right-wing Breitbart News, a cheerleader for Mr Trump during his campaign, wrote an analysis on Wednesday.

"While he has kept most of his promises, a few undertakings still linger unaccomplished," it said.

The article focused on security and terrorism, listing "promises kept" as a plan to bomb and defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.

"The number of strikes targeting ISIS' shrinking caliphate in Iraq and Syria reached a record high in March since the US-led air war began in 2014 - 3,878, according to statistics released periodically by US Central Command," it said.

The website listed as "unclear" Mr Trump's "promise to bring back waterboarding" - a form of torture widely considered extreme.

The New York Post, like Fox News owned by Mr Murdoch, on April 15 ran an opinion piece saying that Mr Trump's first 100 days are "much better than you think".

It largely cited Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's substantive debut on the world stage in speaking bluntly with Russia and smoothing ruffled feathers in Asia. On the domestic front, it mentioned downsizing of the federal government.

"Despite... clear successes, the Beltway media continues to depict the White House as a floundering, latter-day court of the Borgias, a back-stabber behind every arras. But that's to be expected of a novice administration in its infancy," the Post maintained.


Trump’s 100 days in office.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2017, with the headline 'Media report card on Trump mirrors split in the country'. Print Edition | Subscribe