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Trump has tweeted about TV ratings four times more than masks during the pandemic

Trump’s latest Twitter diatribe lamenting disloyal Fox News’s low TV ratings marks his 44th tweet about TV ratings since February 21.

Trump has tweeted about TV ratings four times more than masks during the pandemic
[Photo: Wikipedia]
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The most important metric in assessing the devastation COVID-19 has wreaked upon Americans is arguably the number of deaths, which currently stands at 304,000.

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The last time President Trump acknowledged the number of deaths in his preferred venue for communicating to the public, Twitter, was back in March, when he used the number of annual flu fatalities to downplay the threat of the pandemic.

The death rate cannot compare with another metric during this pandemic. The numbers Trump is seemingly tracking most closely as COVID-19 officially hit U.S. shores in late January is television ratings, which he has tweeted about as recently as the morning of Wednesday, December 16.

After seeing the above tweet on Wednesday morning, I immediately flashed back to the residual anger of seeing the president tweet congratulations at Fox & Friends on the show’s ratings as the lockdowns were first beginning in March. On a hunch, I decided to search for just how many times Trump has tweeted about TV ratings since the pandemic reached America.

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He has done so 44 times.

It was tedious to confirm this number, since combing through Trump’s 2020 tweets that contain the word “ratings” involved disregarding a great many self-congratulatory tweets about Trump’s favorability ratings, according to various polls. After determining that the number was indeed 44, though, I next decided to check how many times the president has tweeted about face masks, which the scientific community overwhelmingly agrees greatly reduces the risk of transmission.

Since February, Trump has tweeted about masks 11 times, only one of which was to promote mask-wearing. (The rest of the tweets were mainly calling out perceived mask hypocrisy.)

The disparity between Trump’s emphasis on TV ratings and mask safety certainly gels with a recent New York Times report on CDC whistleblowers, which reveals an administration more concerned with the CDC not publicly contradicting the president than with getting out the proper information.

“Every time that the science clashed with the messaging, messaging won,” says former CDC chief of staff Kyle McGowan in the report.

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Trump appears to see every aspect of American life, even the pandemic, solely through the prism of how it reflects on himself. The relative ratings of TV networks favorable to him, versus those that report on him more accurately, are therefore a more important messaging priority than mask safety, since tweeting about mask usage might only save lives, rather than save Trump’s image.

It’s fascinating to trace the events of the year solely through the prism of Trump’s tweets about TV ratings.

After some early praise for Fox News, the next phase of ratings tweets addressed the daily news briefings Trump began to conduct in March.

At one point, some outlet must have described these ratings as “through the roof,” since Trump used this quote to describe them in several tweets.

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Later, Trump nursed an obsession with former ally-turned-critic Joe Scarborough’s MSNBC ratings, while asking that the TV host be investigated for any involvement in the long-ago tragic death of an employee.

Trump was also apparently not impressed with the ratings of either Cuomo brother during the pandemic.

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As the national conversation turned to racism, Trump moved away from pandemic talk to blame declining ratings for various sports on the athletes’ political messaging.

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Finally, in the weeks since the election, Trump has been tweeting about TV ratings only in the context of Fox News losing viewership to fringier outlets like Newsmax and OANN.

Meanwhile, the last time Trump tweeted about masks was back in October, just as COVID-19 cases and deaths began to surge, when he tweeted a clip of 60 Minutes reporter Leslie Stahl not wearing a mask during a visit to the White House.

Trump would do well to take his own advice and wear a mask in public more often. Considering how many lives could be saved between now and March if more Americans in general wore masks, perhaps he could find time to tweet about that, too.