Aides on Donald Trump’s campaign had a strategy for keeping their candidate off of Twitter, according to a new report from Politico. The idea was to gin up favorable coverage from conservative outlets, promote that coverage on Twitter and then demonstrate the results to Trump himself. These folks would contact “media amplifiers like Fox News hosts and conservative columnists to encourage them to tweet out the story so that they could print out and show a two-page list of tweets that show that they were steering the message,” reads the story.
Breitbart, Washington Examiner, Fox News, Infowars and the Daily Caller were among the “alternative” outlets that were petitioned to produce favorable reports about the Trump campaign. “The key to keeping Trump’s Twitter habit under control, according to six former campaign officials, is to ensure that his personal media consumption includes a steady stream of praise,” writes Politico’s Tara Palmeri. “And when no such praise was to be found, staff would turn to friendly outlets to drum some up — and make sure it made its way to Trump’s desk.”
It’s no mystery that Trump thrives on praise, which he often heaps on himself when others aren’t doing a suitable job. “I’m getting a lot of credit because that’s really my first so-called choice,” said Trump in October after his pick for vice president, Mike Pence, faced off against Sen. Tim Kaine in a debate. White House aides are fully engaged in promoting Trump sycophancy; in a briefing Tuesday, for instance, White House press secretary Sean Spicer fielded a question about a harsh statement from the Anne Frank Center regarding Trump’s stance on anti-Semitism. “So I saw that statement,” said Spicer. “I wish that they had praised the president for his leadership in this area.”
There’s logic in the idea that the more good news Trump sees, the less likely he is to spout off on Twitter — though he’ll do a lot of that regardless of the external circumstances.
Yet citing stories from the likes of the Daily Caller and Breitbart are never going to sate this media-narcissist. As the president has made clear in tweet after tweet after tweet, he craves the approbation of the organs with which he grew up. The New York Times, the big TV networks and the likes of CNN. Those also happen to be some of the news outlets that will most steadfastly resist Team Trump’s efforts to plant favorable coverage. It’s this very dynamic that underlies months of insufferable Trump-media drama. “I know what’s good. I know what’s bad,” said Trump himself at that remarkable Feb. 16 news conference. “And when they change it and make it really bad, something that should be positive — sometimes something that should be very positive, they’ll make okay. They’ll even make it negative.”