The U.S. press is failing the public on COVID-19 coverage. And helping Donald Trump.

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President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, participates a coronavirus (COVID-19) update briefing Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

The outbreak of COVID-19 has already altered many facets of American life, perhaps permanently. What it has not done, however, is increase our collective faith in the U.S. media.

A majority of people do not approve of the job media outlets are doing covering COVID-19.

In these strange times, the unprecedented government response to the COVID-19 outbreak has ground the U.S. economy- which had been clipping along at a smart pace- to a crushing halt. This was terrible news for everyone, almost as terrible as the idea of a deadly new virus sweeping through the population.

After all, poverty can also kill. For people in America perched precariously on the precipice of financial devastation- of which, we have learned, there are far too many- the financial aspect of this crisis has hit with particular ferocity.

The economic downturn was not wonderful news for Donald Trump, either. The outbreak of a deadly disease aside- the prosperity, the manufacturing renaissance, the jobs gains; everything the Trump administration had been carefully building for the past three years had been wiped away in an instant.

But not all the news amid coronavirus has been bad for Donald Trump. On the contrary, some of the best news for his reelection campaign has been the media’s COVID-19 coverage of the Trump presidency.

Even when Democrats in the press think they are hurting Donald Trump, they are helping him.

Trump’s approval rating is the highest it has ever been during his presidency. According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans overwhelmingly approve of the job most government agencies are doing in response to COVID-19; even 60% approve of the job Donald Trump is doing.

Only 44% approve of the job the media has done covering the outbreak and attendant economic news.

COVID-19 has given the Trump administration a great enemy, without his having to engage the U.S. in any unpopular new wars. Getting people to unite against a common enemy is an age-old strategy for winning friends and achieving strategic alliances.

Trump is making the most of this; the U.S. media is not.

Trump must be doing a good job of it, too, because since his approval ratings have gone up, everyone who’s anyone on the liberal left in journalism is suddenly expressing the opinion that he should be taken off the air immediately.

Ostensibly, they claim, for lying to people, giving people false hope; endangering lives. Trump’s approval rating improvements notwithstanding, of course.

Problem is, this strategy by the press isn’t working. At least, it isn’t working to the advantage of Democrats. People are paying an uncommon amount of attention to the news during the outbreak; they are noticing a few glaring flaws in the media’s coverage of events as they unfold.

For instance: Earlier this week, much was made on social media and in the press of a rumored rift between President Trump and coronavirus expert Dr. Anthony Fauci. This would be terrible for Trump, of course; if it were true.

But it isn’t.

The rumored rift was refuted by no less a person than Dr. Fauci himself, who complained pointedly that the press repeatedly trying to pit him against Donald Trump wasn’t helpful.

“The president has listened to what I’ve said, what the other people on the task force have said. When I’ve made recommendations, he’s taken them. He’s never countered and overridden me. The idea of pitting one against the other is just not helpful and I’d wish that would stop so we can look ahead at the challenge we have together to get over this thing.” — Dr. Anthony Fauci. March 24, 2020.

Dr. Fauci was wrong; pitting Fauci against Trump is extremely helpful…to Democrats trying to unseat Trump in the upcoming election. The public is not too stupid to have noticed this.

Dr. Fauci is universally admired on the right and the left for his stellar performance during the COVID-19 outbreak, as is Dr. Deborah Birx. Their standing beside Trump every day during his daily press briefings on the government’s COVID-19 response unquestionably improves Trump’s image and his credibility. But that isn’t why they do it.

Still, this isn’t exactly music to the ears of progressive Democrats who want Trump gone in November, coronavirus or no coronavirus.

Democrats in the press complain that Trump’s appearance on the nightly news is giving him a veneer of respectability and an unfair advantage in the race. Problem is, incumbents always have a veneer of respectability and an “unfair” advantage provided by the office they hold. That is why beating an incumbent is so difficult.

Revealing a desire to manipulate the impressions of the public is a bad look in journalism. Thinking themselves responsible for “shaping public opinion” is only revealing the contempt media elites have for the people they entertain with “news”.

Trying peevishly to level this impossible-to-level playing field- and during a national crisis- is only making Democrats look desperate. And callous.

Democrats in the press also are quick to point out that they do not trust Donald Trump to make decisions during a crisis.

This is not breaking news to the American public, of either party.

Not everyone on the left agrees with Rachel Maddow, however; that Donald Trump is doing a terrible job and should be taken off the air immediately lest anyone form a contrary opinion.

No less a person than Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), no fan of President Trump, his policies or him administration, has praised Trump’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and California Gov. Gavin Newsom have also been expressing the sentiment that Trump’s response to coronavirus has been quite competent.

Liberal Democrats may not love Trump’s continued insistence on calling the virus the “Chinese Virus”, but they like the idea of their constituents getting checks from the federal government very much.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act reads like a liberal Democrat’s wish list. Expanded Medicaid/Medicare to include free testing, paid sick leave, paid leave for caregivers, food assistance and many other benefits.

The relief bill currently underway in Washington will put a $1200 check in the hand of every working person in the the U.S.- $2400 for couples, $500 for each dependent child.

No one in the press could have predicted coronavirus. Coverage of the Trump presidency during any other election year might require a different approach. The all anti-Trump, all the time rhetoric is falling on ears deafened by a continuous stream of same for the past three years and tuned out a public preoccupied with bigger problems, at the moment.

The U.S. press would get a great deal further in their legitimate criticisms of the the Trump administration- of which there is no shortage- if they were to be a little more even-handed in their coverage of COVID-19.

Shaping public opinion isn’t going that well. Perhaps the U.S. press should try reporting the news.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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