On stage today at the Milken Institute Global Conference with Fox Business host Mario Bartiromo, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney lamented the extent of Donald Trump’s unfavorable press coverage.
“It’s a miracle the president’s approval ratings are what they are,” Mulvaney said in Los Angeles. “Give or take, they’re about 50%.” He repeated that figure—50% approval, more or less—at least once more before leaving the stage.
It’s an odd claim, not only because it’s false because it is so easily disproved. FiveThirtyEight.com’s presidential popularity tracker is updated daily and synthesizes the results of roughly a dozen different polls.
Trump’s approval rating reached its peak—45.5%—on Jan. 23, 2017, two days after his inauguration, the first day the site started tracking his numbers. Since March 23, 2017, the president’s approval rating has remained steadily between 36.5% and 43.1%.
So why stand before a room of people with access to Google in their pockets and crow about a verifiably untrue statement?
Mulvaney may have felt empowered to share a blurry version of the truth because he was sharing the stage with Bartiromo, who—along with other colleagues at the Fox Business Network—has shown a remarkable willingness to let Trump and his associates’ misstatements and falsehoods go unchallenged.
Months after he took office, Trump and Bartiromo sat down for their first cozy, laughter-filled interview. Bartiromo didn’t correct the president when he talked about authorizing the bombing of Iraq (it was Syria); Trump praised the journalist for “treating him so good.”
In her fifth and most recent interview with Trump on April 29, Bartiromo punctuated a lengthy Trump monologue of varying accuracy with “Yes,” “Exactly, exactly,” “Absolutely,” and “Wow.”
Trump has cooled in recent weeks on Fox News, well-documented as his favorite channel, after the network gave air time to Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. Looks like its sister network may be angling to be the president’s new media mouthpiece, at the expense of accuracy.