Most Americans approve of the way their leaders and institutions are responding to the coronavirus pandemic, with one notable exception.
According to the latest Gallup survey, the news media are the only institution without a majority approval rating with respect to their handling of the China-caused pandemic. Just 44 percent of Americans said they approved of the media's handling of the crisis, compared to 55 percent who said they disapproved.
Americans view President Donald Trump much more favorably, with 60 percent approving of his response to the coronavirus and just 38 percent saying they disapproved. Even Congress—59 percent approval, 37 percent disapproval—is more popular than the media when it comes to its handling of the pandemic. That's embarrassing.
Most Americans are correct. Our nation's journalists have become completely unhinged in response to the coronavirus. Major media outlets spent most of January and February attempting to downplay the seriousness of the virus and attacking Trump's decision to ban travel from China as racist and unnecessary.
"Is this going to be a deadly pandemic? No," the official Vox account tweeted on Jan. 31. Around that time, Vox was publishing articles denouncing the China travel ban and interviews with so-called experts saying things like, "The risk of acquiring this infection outside of Hubei and, truly, outside of China is remarkably low." Meanwhile, another Vox Media property, the Verge, was scolding the American public with headlines such as, "The New Coronavirus is Not an Excuse to Be Racist."
Earlier this week, Vox explained that the tweet from January had been deleted because it "no longer reflects the reality of the coronavirus story." It certainty wasn't the only media outlet forced to change its tone in response to "reality." The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Beast, Mother Jones, and USA Today, among others, ran headlines insisting the coronavirus was far less dangerous than the seasonal flu before "reality" forced them to take it seriously. Nevertheless, the media persist in demanding our trust and respect.
Members of the media have continued to beclown themselves amidst the crisis while hysterically criticizing the Trump administration. Some major outlets have self-righteously declared an end to live coverage of the president's coronavirus briefings, as if out of some moral obligation to the public—even though the public thinks Trump is a more reliable source of information than the media are.
Trump's approval rating has risen during the crisis, and that's really caused journalists to lose their minds. MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, for example, recently said in frustration: "No matter what [Trump] says, people seem to be seeing him as a leader." New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie suggested the president's rising poll numbers were due to the fact that "evening news broadcasts are featuring a truncated Trump who appears more competent than he is as a result of editing."
The media's attacks on Trump's handling of the coronavirus crisis have become increasingly bizarre. THE POLITICO, for example, recently scolded his "passivity in what by all rights would be a dream scenario for an authoritarian strongman." Meanwhile, some media outlets have applauded the response of actual authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China, presumably in an effort to make Trump look bad by comparison. Others, such as the Economist, are actually publishing Chinese propaganda.
The following tweet, from a Washington Post senior editor, is a snapshot of the media's collective derangement during this time of crisis.
Scott McMillan, a 56-year-old lawyer, tweeted that it's more vital to revive the economy than to save people who are ‘not productive,’ like the elderly and infirm. So I called his parents. https://t.co/czDOkbGI49
— Marc Fisher (@mffisher) March 25, 2020
There was once a time when the American media commanded the trust and respect of the public. That no longer reflects the reality in the country, and the media have only themselves to blame.