U.S. President Donald Trump has dominated news coverage in his first months in office, with most of the stories about him negative, a study showed on Thursday.
In the study of major U.S. and European print and broadcast outlets, Trump was the topic of 41 percent of stories—or three times the level of the three previous U.S. presidents.
Trump’s coverage during his first 100 days “set a new standard for negativity,” according to the report by Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. The study found that of news reports with a clear tone, negative stories outpaced positive ones by 80 percent to 20 percent.
“Trump’s coverage was unsparing,” the report said. “In no week did the coverage drop below 70 percent negative and it reached 90 percent negative at its peak. The best period for Trump was week 12 of his presidency, when he ordered a cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase.”
Trump has been unrelenting in his attacks on the mainstream media, which he has called “the enemy of the people” and purveyors of “fake news.” But the study led by Harvard professor Thomas Patterson said it could not conclude whether the mainstream media covered Trump “in a fair and balanced way.”
“That question cannot be answered definitively in the absence of an agreed-upon version of ‘reality’ against which to compare Trump’s coverage,” the report said. But it noted that “the sheer level of negative coverage gives weight to Trump’s contention, one shared by his core constituency, that the media are hell bent on destroying his presidency.”
The report is based on an analysis of the print editions of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post; the main newscasts of CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC; and three European news outlets—the Financial Times and BBC of Britain and Germany’s ARD.
European reporters, according to the study “were more likely than American journalists to directly question Trump’s fitness for office.”
The researchers found that Fox was the only news outlet in the study that came close to giving Trump positive coverage overall—but that 52 percent of the Fox stories analyzed on Trump were negative in tone.
The level of news coverage was compared with that of presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.