The US president, one imagines, must have access to all sorts of information the rest of us have to wait for the next broadcast or newspaper scoop to learn, if we ever learn it at all. After all, he’s the leader of the free world, isn’t he? But Americans, and the world, are discovering the president can be behind the news cycle too—a lot behind.
Of course, president Donald Trump doesn’t much like the news. Or, to be specific, he doesn’t much like news that’s critical of him. Of his newspapers of choice—the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and, more recently, the Washington Post—he appears to despise the Times, which he has called “failing” on Twitter 42 times since 2015, and he’s been openly critical of CNN on numerous occasions. He generally labels any coverage that disagrees with his administration’s “alternative facts” FAKE NEWS (all caps).
But like it or not, Trump sure seems to watch a lot of news, specifically, cable TV news. He often bases his talking points on something he’s just watched on TV, at times using the same wording on Twitter that he has apparently just seen on air. He watches cable news while he gets up, before 6 am, and continues to check in through the day when he gets a chance—including while having lunch in his private dining room. (He just upgraded the TV there.) The president’s loyalty to cable news is such that advertisers are being charged higher rates for the shows he’s expected to watch.
This eagerness to be up to date would be laudable except his source of news has already let him down more than once. That happened most recently on Friday morning, when he quoted an analysis of an appeals court’s decision to uphold a stay of his travel ban:
What, out of context, may appear to be critical of the decision, is actually taken from an article that agrees with the federal judges. In short, Trump quoted someone who disagreed with him, in the belief that it was supporting him. Why would he do that? Well, he probably hadn’t read the full article—just a short passage, shown on screen by TV channel MSNBC:
That’s, well, awkward.
But beyond any mistakes, it’s remarkable how behind the curve the president appears to be. On Friday morning, Trump accused the New York Times of publishing “FAKE NEWS” for an article that said he hadn’t seen China’s prime minister since November—except the version of the story he read was published before he met with Xi Jinping, and (real) news of the meeting was updated shortly after the meeting.
Remember when he tweeted about Berkeley’s protests against Milo Yannopoulus speech the day after they started?
Or about Chelsea Manning, nine hours after he published an op-ed calling Barack Obama “a weak president”?
And when he attacked John McCain’s criticism of the latest US raid in Yemen the day after the senator spoke?