President Trump's cable news obsession is upending Washington but pretty normal for his age group

Kellyanne Conway on Fox News
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Trump wakes up to Fox & Friends, regularly slips out of the Oval Office to watch cable news in the small adjoining dining room, and keeps the TV on when he retires to his private residence, sometimes hate-watching shows critical of him and discussing it on the phone with friends, The Washington Post reports. "Once he goes upstairs, there's no managing him," one adviser said. Some confidants say Trump still watches MSNBC's Morning Joe, but Trump tells The Associated Press he no longer tunes in to negative coverage of himself on CNN and MSNBC, to his own surprise. "I don't watch things, and I never thought I had that ability," he said. "I always thought I'd watch."

What's undisputed is that Trump's cable news habit has upended Washington. Politicians and White House staff who appear on TV seem to have as much influence as those who meet with Trump in the Oval Office, proving TV to be one kind of great equalizer. But at the same time, White House aides and congressional Republicans are exasperated that Trump "can seem to be swayed by the last thing he sees on TV, a medium geared more for entertainment than actual policymaking," The Washington Post reports, or when they have to scramble "to reverse-engineer information to support his dubious assertions" on Twitter. And there are other ways Trump's TV habit affects the real world, the Post says:

The president, advisers said, also uses details gleaned from cable news as a starting point for policy discussions or a request for more information, and appears on TV himself when he wants to appeal directly to the public. ... Foreign diplomats have urged their governments' leaders to appear on television when they're stateside as a means of making their case to Trump. [The Washington Post]

Trump's advisers and allies say the 70-year-old president is served well by his "sophisticated understanding of how to communicate, the power of television," as senior counselor Kellyanne Conway says. And while Trump's obsession with cable news, especially Fox News, is unusual for a president, The Washington Post notes, in other ways it's "unremarkable, based on his profile. Fox News' average prime-time viewer last year, for instance, was 68 years old and mostly white, and the average American watches more than four hours per day, according to Nielsen data." You can read more about Trump and TV at The Washington Post.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.