For years, some of us have criticized President Trump for his reference to the media as the “enemy of the people.” While Trump has indicated that he adopted the attacks to appease his supporters, the danger is that many would believe it. Now a new Hill-Harris X poll shows that one-third of Americans say the news media is “the enemy of the people.” Not coincidentally, that figure matches Trump’s core base that remains firm in the polls. However, it shows that this mantra is believed by millions of Americans, who are now viewing the media as the enemy.
I have repeatedly called out the media about a self-defeating bias against Trump, a trend that has fulfilled the stereotype advanced by the President. Indeed, CNN and MSNBC is risking not only this type of backlash against the media but, again, fueling a desire in some voters to vote for Trump to stick it to the establishment. There is no need to warp the news. Trump is justifiably criticized on many fronts. However, some networks have become openly partisan. Watching CNN cover breaking news is like watching open advocacy from the anchor chair — immediately contesting statements and leading guests to the most critical possible take on developments.
None of that however excuses Trump’s reckless attacks on the free press, the very cornerstone of our democratic system of government. While the bias against Trump in palpable on some outlets, the vast majority of media in the United States remains professional and unbiased in their reporting. Indeed, the New York Times, Washington Post, and other major newspapers have continued to report on important stories despite the constant threats and badgering from the White House.
I have long objected to this rhetoric from Trump. Past presidents have attacked the media but never in these terms. They have maintained presidential in reminding the public of the importance of our free press while disagreeing with specific stories. The use of the “enemy of the people” language is perfectly chilling given its use in authoritarian nations like China to crackdown on free speech and the free press. Most presidents would view this poll as a terrible legacy in convincing one-third of Americans that the free press is actually the enemy of the people.
The percentage of people buying into this view is higher outside of major cities. Forty-six percent of rural Americans said they believed the news media to be the “enemy of the people.” Moreover, 51 percent of Republicans polled said they thought of the press as “the enemy of the people.”
On the good side, according to Gallup, trust in the news media is the highest it has been since 2009. Most importantly, there remains 67 percent of us who believe that the “news media is an important part of a democracy.”