On his campaign plane, Trump watched television on full volume — usually Fox News, sometimes CNN — almost constantly, said someone who flew with him, shushing his aides whenever he himself came on the screen and listening with rapt attention.
When Hillary Clinton appeared, he’d similarly quiet his team, often before pointing a finger at the TV and scolding: “She’s lying! ” To relax, however, he would occasionally watch the Golf Channel, while on his plane or in the clubhouses of some of his private courses.
“I’m not firing Sean Spicer,” he said, according to someone familiar with the encounter. Everyone tunes in.” Trump even likened Spicer’s daily news briefings to a daytime soap opera, noting proudly that his press secretary attracted nearly as many viewers.
For Trump — a reality TV star who parlayed his blustery-yet-knowing on-air persona into a winning political brand — television is often the guiding force of his day, both weapon and scalpel, megaphone and news feed.
And the president’s obsession with the tube — as a governing tool, a metric for staff evaluation, and a two-way conduit with lawmakers and aides — has upended the traditional rhythms of the White House, influencing many spheres, including policy, his burgeoning relationship with Congress, and whether he taps out a late-night or early-morning tweet.
Those Trump tweet-storms, which contain some of his most controversial utterances, are usually prompted by something he has seen on television just moments before.
Now that he’s in the White House, friends and aides describe a president who still consumes a steady diet of cable news.
During an intimate lunch recently with a key outside ally in a small West Wing dining room, for instance, Trump repeatedly paused the conversation to make the group watch a particularly combative Spicer briefing.
During a small working lunch at the White House last month, the question of job security in President Trump’s tumultuous White House came up, and one of the attendees wondered whether press secretary Sean Spicer might be the first to go.
The president’s response was swift and unequivocal.
Sometimes, at night, he hate-watches cable shows critical of him, while chatting on the phone with friends, said someone familiar with the president’s routine — a quirk a senior official jokingly called “multi-teching.” In the morning, the president typically flips between “Fox & Friends,” Maria Bartiromo’s show on Fox Business and CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” West Wing aides assert that the president stopped watching MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” after the show’s hosts grew increasingly critical of his presidency, but some confidants think he still tunes in, especially for the top of the program.