One of the biggest disconnects of both the coronavirus saga and the last few years in American politics is between how the media covers President Donald Trump and how the public views him.
The media has hammered the president over his administration’s response to the pandemic, and outlets such as CNN frequently break away from Trump’s daily press briefings when he speaks. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and other liberals have accused the president of repeating misinformation during the briefings, and have urged cable news networks not to cover them. (RELATED: Democratic State Rep. Plans To Refer Trump To The Hague For ‘Crimes Against Humanity’)
At the same time, the American people have shown confidence in Trump and his team. The president has enjoyed the highest approval ratings of his presidency in recent weeks, with polls published late last month by Gallup and the Washington Post finding more Americans approving of Trump than ever before. The polls also showed that Americans largely approved of the job the president was doing in the fight against the coronavirus. So, why the disconnect between the media narrative and the American people’s response?
Much of the establishment media has spent the last month concocting a narrative that Trump did not take the virus seriously in its early stages. The president did take heat from many on the left and the right over his tone early last month, and while Trump tried to sound an optimistic note by downplaying the effects of the virus, his administration was taking steps and implementing policies that medical experts say saved lives.
Trump took the bold step of halting travel from China in January, before the rest of the world knew how bad the virus was. The president took a beating in the press and among some politicians for the decision, including former Vice President Joe Biden — Trump’s likely 2020 challenger. (RELATED: Trump Says White House Coronavirus Model Overestimated Number Of Beds Needed)
The former vice president said over the weekend that he now supports Trump’s decision to ban travel from China, even though he accused the president of xenophobia on the day it was implemented. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Trump’s top coronavirus adviser, said the president’s early decision to ban travel from China saved lives, and said one of the reasons the virus hit Italy “really badly” was because of Chinese tourists who visited the country leading up to the pandemic.
The media has given Fauci fawning coverage over the past month and have attempted to contrast his views with those of the president. Despite the establishment media’s seeming desire to drive a wedge between Trump and Fauci, the doctor’s public statements on the president have largely been praiseworthy. Some in the press have also accused the president of ignoring warnings from doctors, but an old interview Fauci did with Newsmax that went viral last week showed the renowned infectious disease expert downplaying the possibility of the virus spreading rapidly in the U.S. (RELATED: Infectious Disease Expert Says Anti-Malaria Drug Marks ‘Beginning Of The End’ Of Pandemic)
“This not a major threat for the people of the United States, and this is not something that the citizens of the United States right now should be worried about,” Fauci said in January.
Many people on the left who have accused the president of having a delayed response to the crisis were also slow to the punch. There has been no bigger critic of Trump than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but Pelosi stood on the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown in late February and urged people to come out and enjoy themselves. New York City has become the epicenter of the virus, but Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio and Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot repeatedly downplayed the virus throughout February and early March, telling New Yorkers to go on with their lives.
Coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx said last week that governments could not respond quickly enough to the crisis, because China withheld vital information from the world. While the media has reserved especially harsh criticism for Trump, most of the public understands that the response all over the world was slow because of the cover-up from China. This has bought the president some leeway with the public and allowed him to earn high marks for his performance so far.
However, there are signs that support for his administration’s handling of the crisis is starting to wane. A poll conducted in Florida last week found that more than half of voters in the crucial swing state were dissatisfied with the president’s recent performance. This is a trend that could continue as the escalating economic crisis overtakes the public health crisis in the minds of many Americans.
The economy has already entered a recession due to government-imposed shutdowns, and expert economists have warned of a looming depression if the economy stays on pause for too long. Nearly ten million Americans have filed for unemployment in recent weeks, a chilling number that exceeded many worst-case scenario predictions. The president has repeatedly expressed a desire to get Americans back to work, saying that the cure must not be worse than the disease, but his administration’s policy has largely been formed by health experts such as Fauci and Birx, who have urged extreme caution and prolonged shutdowns. Fauci and Birx have been criticized as out of touch by some conservatives, and Fauci came under fire for calling the economic shut downs “inconvenient” on the same day that last week’s devastating unemployment numbers were released. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: How Trump’s Extended Coronavirus Guidelines Could Tank The Economy)
“His natural instincts I know are much better than the policies he has accepted from his advisers,” renowned conservative economist and staunch Trump supporter Art Laffer told the Daily Caller last week.
While Trump is in the unenviable position of having to balance an unprecedented public health crisis with an economic one, his job as president requires him to balance the needs of the American people. The president has earned a lot of good will from voters for his early response, but that alone will not define his presidency. Trump’s ability to get Americans out of this rut and back into their daily lives as quickly and safely as possible will likely determine the outcome of his reelection, as well as his legacy. For millions of Americans who now find themselves unemployed, patience is running thin.