Donald Trump has benefited more from the media than any other candidate

So why does he say they hate him?

It’s no secret that Donald Trump has had issues with the press in the past. In January, he refused to attend the final Republican debate because Fox News would be hosting it – or more specifically, because Fox anchor, Megyn Kelly, whom Trump had been feuding with at the time, would be co-moderating it. Instead, he decided to host his own event: a veteran fundraiser that he claimed had amassed over $6 million dollars, $1 million of which he claimed to donate himself.

Fast forward four months and the full amount of claimed donations still had not been accounted for. Last week, after reaching out publicly on Twitter in an attempt to find any veteran group who had received Trump’s donations, The Washington Post reported that they could find no evidence supporting Donald Trump’s alleged $1 million donation. As a result, reporters began searching for the truth about what money had been donated, if it had been donated at all.

Donald Trump

On Tuesday, May 31, Donald Trump held a news conference to defend the fundraiser he hosted in January to raise money for veterans’ groups, but the interview quickly turned into an all-out verbal attack on the media.

“The press should be ashamed of themselves,” he said before launching into a myriad of attacks. He believed the story delivered by the press painted him in an unfair light; instead of reporters saying, in the words of the presumptive Republican nominee, “’Thank you, thank you very much, Mr. Trump’ or ‘Trump did a good job,’” they did their jobs and scrutinized the legitimacy of his claims and validity of his campaign.

“Unbelievably dishonest,” he called the reporters.

“You’re a sleaze,” he told Tom Llamas, an ABC reporter, and condescended to CNN reporter, Jim Acosta, saying, “You’re a real beauty.”

While Trump isn’t the only politician who dislikes the media, he is the politician whose campaign has benefited the most from it.

Last February, Trump earned himself around $400 million worth of free media, meaning that $400 million worth of news about his campaign in magazines and newspapers, on television and online was not funded by Trump, it was simply given to him. It is estimated that over the course of Trump’s campaign, he has generated nearly $2 billion in media attention, more than two times the amount that Clinton has taken in, and more than six times the amount that Sanders has taken in. In comparison, Trump only spent a third of the amount of money that Sanders and Clinton spent on media advertisement, and is seeing a much greater return on his investment.

Monthly Earned Media

So, how does a man who has spent less than any other candidate for television advertising occupy so much of the media’s attention?

It is simple, really: Trump has mastered the art of social media, created a Twitter presence not unlike that of Kanye West, and developed a persona that even SNL doesn’t have to exaggerate to mock, and because of that, he has become an invaluable source of entertainment that reporters simply cannot ignore. In fact, Trump has acquired so much media attention that the “television news industry is wrestling with how to balance fairness, credibility and the temptations of sky-high ratings” when dealing with the presidential candidates.

Put plainly, Mr. Trump’s presence on air, however ridiculous or offensive it may be, boosts network viewership, spikes advertising ratings, and makes more money for the networks than any of the other candidates.

While Trump receives “unfair” media attention for just about every small thing he does, the current Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton receives almost nothing. Last week, Clinton delivered a speech to a workers’ union in Las Vegas – an event that CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all failed to cover. Instead, they aired a live broadcast of an empty stage, waiting patiently on Mr. Trump’s arrival. A similar incident occurred at the beginning of May, when the same networks chose to ignore a different speech from Clinton in Detroit – Fox News chose to cover a groundbreaking story on cheese instead.

Additionally, when Hillary Clinton is covered, her airtime is more focused on her reactions to the actions and statements of Donald Trump, and less on her own campaign. Even more alarming, despite the fact that she receives less press coverage in general than her Republican competition, she receives more negative coverage and fewer positive stories than any other candidate.

Bernie Sanders suffers from the same Tump media eclipse that Hillary Clinton does. In December, it was estimated that Trump received 23 times the amount of media coverage that Sanders did. For every 10 minutes of on-air time that Bernie Sanders was allotted, Donald Trump received 234 minutes.

And who could forget all of the other Republican hopefuls who have disappeared from the presidential race entirely? Rubio blames the media, and its lack of support for his candidacy, for his failure and for Donald Trump’s subsequent success — and he’s not wrong. No other Republican candidate came anywhere close to amassing the same amount of free media coverage as Trump, and look where they are now.

Bought v. Free Media

Time and time again, Trump has lamented the press for being “so dishonest and so unfair,” but Trump calling the press and media coverage of his campaign “unfair” is like Goliath complaining that David has a stone — entirely unreasonable.

Mr. Trump’s nearly constant stream of news coverage has garnered him success in the polls and has positively influenced his campaign. Most importantly, it has allowed him to control the discourse. While people can choose agree or disagree with the content that is being shared by and about Trump, they cannot hear alternative ideas, because they are not being given the same amount of attention. Instead of giving a voice to other candidates and focusing on real issues, “Cable news networks have decided to broadcast nearly continuous coverage of Donald Trump’s campaign.” 

Trump might hate the press, but it is the press that has been moving his campaign forward. He’s entirely correct to claim that the press is unfair, but he is incorrect in his thinking that it is unfair toward him.