Don’t be fooled by Trump’s tweet bleats. He’s got a strategy

World

Don’t be fooled by Trump’s tweet bleats. He’s got a strategy

Ben Riley-Smith in Washington
Could Donald Trump’s use of social media be strategic?
TWEET FROM THE HIP Could Donald Trump’s use of social media be strategic?
Image: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

He is notorious for tweeting from the hip, unleashing tirades at all and sundry at all hours of the day and night. Yet Donald Trump’s use of social media may not be so haphazard, according to a book which claims it is part of a strategy to knock negative stories out of the headlines.

The US president is quoted describing how by launching a personal attack on a journalist he had stopped cable news covering North Korea and his struggling healthcare bill. Trump’s anger at the “f — — — New York Times” and desire to “sue the s — - out of” newspapers that print inaccurate stories is reported in the book Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press, and the War over the Truth, by Howard Kurtz, the Fox News host, published Monday.

It also reveals his fascination with the media, asking friends if his tweets are being covered by cable news and fearing aides could get “Pinocchio” awards from fact-checkers. According to an early copy of the book, Kurtz largely paints a sympathetic picture of Trump as he criticises the media’s hostile reaction to his presidency.

However, the book, partly based on interviews with White House “insiders“, provides a string of insights into Trump’s approach to shaping media coverage. One section quotes Trump’s thinking after he tweeted that Mika Brzezinski, a once-friendly TV anchor who turned hostile, was once “bleeding badly from a facelift” at an event. The comment triggered a heated backlash and claims of sexism.

The book recounts how Anthony Scaramucci, at the time just a prominent Trump supporter, told Trump that he should not have “gone there“.

“Is Korea off the TV?” the US president reportedly responded. “Is healthcare off the TV?” When told yes to both he is said to have responded: “Sounds good to me.” The incident, which refers to the North Korea impasse and Trump’s struggling healthcare legislation — which was later defeated in the Senate — suggests he uses tweets to limit coverage of negative stories.

Other alleged incidents in the book shed light on the president’s repeated interest in how the media, and in particular cable news, is covering him.

After spending four hours on a golf course having tweeted that Barack Obama had wiretapped him, Trump reportedly asked a friend: “Are they talking about it? Is it out there? I’m hoping it’s the lead.” In a meeting with news anchors where he is asked what surprised him most about becoming president, Trump is said to have responded: “The fact that you never changed your coverage. The fact that it never got better.”

The book says Trump reads four newspapers — The New York Times, the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. The White House is yet to respond to the book.

— © The Daily Telegraph