Horowitz: MSNBC Gaining From Trump Presidency

Tuesday, August 08, 2017


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Rob Horowitz

Perhaps the biggest media winner of the daily wreckage and dysfunction of the Trump Presidency in its first 6 months is  MSNBC. As the now big tent cable home of Trump critics ranging from its liberal prime time hosts to “Never Trump” conservatives, MSNBC is now more than occasionally beating Fox News Channel in the weekday prime time ratings and becoming more competitive in other day parts.  Rachel Maddow has emerged as the top- rated host in all of cable news, attracting nearly 3 million viewers nightly.  In a recent week, she garnered the second highest ratings in all of basic cable, trailing only professional wrestling.

MSNBC has certainly benefited from the removal of cable ratings leader Bill O’Reilly from the Fox prime time lineup and other disruptions on the still leading cable news network. But, the main impetus behind MSNBC’s dramatically increased ratings is the intense negative opinion of Trump among liberals and moderates and the plentiful story lines that evoke strong reactions and high interest from their growing audience.   Given the stepped-up activity of the Special Prosecutor and Trump’s penchant for saying and doing things that most of the nation finds outrageous and un-presidential, the audience is likely to stay tuned for the foreseeable future.

In this era of niche, partisan media, where people can and do choose the news and information that confirms and reinforces their ideology and opinions, it is not unusual for vocal media opponents of the party and President in power to benefit ratings wise. Fox News increased its already sizable ratings lead during the Obama Presidency and other conservative media outlets benefited as well.  MSNBC had its first ratings spurt when George W. Bush was President and public opinion turned against the Iraq War. Keith Olbermann emerged as a ratings success by pretty much spending every night explaining why Bush was the worst President ever and his fellow MSNBC prime time hosts, including Rachel Maddow, followed suit.  That is when MSNBC essentially became Fox News for liberals.

MSNBC has also made its own luck, upgrading its programming substantially. The addition of former Bush Communications Director, Nicole Wallace at 4;00 p.m., Meet the Press Daily hosted by Chuck Todd at 5;00 PM, and The 11th Hour with Brian Williams at 11:00 p.m. have greatly enhanced its line-up. When there is breaking news, Williams usually anchors and he has lost none of his wit and television chops. Additionally, the cable news network has broadened out its commentators and pundits as the broad opposition to Trump has enabled anti-Trump conservatives, including Brett Stephens, Charlie Sykes and George Will to find a welcoming home.  And their conservative views, which in a different context, the core MSNBC audience might find off-putting, in this anti-Trump moment, simply provide further confirmation to viewers that Trump is beyond the pale.

It is no small irony that President Trump has made the most anti-Trump cable news network, a big ratings winner.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.


Related Slideshow: RI Democrats React to Trump’s Budget - 2017

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Gina Raimondo 

RI Governor 

"Rhode Island is making strong progress to provide our people with the education and job training they need to be successful and to expand access to affordable, quality health care to virtually everyone in our state. 

President Trump's budget betrays Rhode Islanders by giving huge tax cuts to corporations and the wealthiest Americans while drastically reducing federal funding for vital programs that create jobs, raise wages, and protect low-income Americans. 

Even as we analyze President Trump's budget in the coming days to determine its specific impacts on Rhode Island, I appreciate the members of Rhode Island's Congressional Delegation for their leadership and advocacy, and I join them in calling on their colleagues in Washington, D.C. to stop the Trump administration from making massive cuts to health care, public schools, affordable housing, and other programs that Rhode Islanders rely upon."

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Jim Langevin 

U.S. Congressman

“In March, President Trump released a budget outline that I strongly condemned for its drastic cuts to programs that help everyday Americans. Unfortunately, the President’s full budget proposal continues these harmful policies by gutting programs that invest in our economy, create jobs and provide crucial assistance to families across the country. 

This proposal slashes funding for education, food assistance and health care for low-income seniors, children and people with disabilities. It makes cuts to worker training, environmental protection, and investments in medical research and advanced manufacturing. These are not mere luxuries, but programs that make meaningful differences in the lives of Rhode Islanders. 

Congress must reject this cynical and misguided budget. Instead, we should work together in a bipartisan manner, as we did on the recently passed 2017 funding bill, to find a balanced approach to funding priorities that will support families, promote economic growth and provide for our national security.”  

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David Cicilline

U.S. Congressman

“If a budget is a statement of your priorities and values, then Donald Trump’s budget shows he doesn’t understand the challenges facing honest, hardworking Rhode Islanders. This is a budget written by the wealthiest Americans for the benefit of the wealthiest Americans. But it’s a setback for the middle class. It makes life harder for anyone who’s trying to punch a ticket to the middle class.”

Donald Trump has already proposed a huge tax cut for billionaires. But the budget he released today says everyone else is on their own. This budget eliminates hundreds of millions of dollars for job creation. It zeroes out funding for workforce training and good-paying manufacturing jobs in Rhode Island. And it makes it even harder for young people to succeed by cutting teacher training, eliminating afterschool funding, and making it harder to pay off student loans.”

This budget does nothing to address Rhode Island’s crumbling infrastructure. It eliminates the TIGER grant program, which is critical to supporting local infrastructure projects like the new commuter rail station in Pawtucket. And it cuts funding for public transit by $928 million.”

And most worrisome of all, this budget makes our towns and cities less safe. It actually cuts funding for firefighters. It cuts billions from the EPA and other resources to protect the water we drink and the air we breathe. And it slashes $978 million from the Army Corps of Engineers – meaning Rhode Island will be less prepared for hurricanes and have fewer resources to protect the quality of our waterways.”

Plain and simple, this is not a budget that any Member of Congress should be comfortable supporting. Along with my colleagues in the House Democratic Leadership, I will do everything I can to reverse these devastating cuts and shape a budget that invests in the future of our country and puts honest, hardworking families first.”

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Sheldon Whitehouse 

U.S. Senator

“This budget is reckless, plain and simple. The President proposes massive cuts to Medicaid, breaking yet another campaign promise. He seeks to decimate the federal government’s central command in the battle against the opioid crisis affecting communities from Burrillville to Westerly. He pursues tens of billions of dollars in cuts to student loans and loan forgiveness programs.

His plan would slash funding for research into life-saving cures; lay waste to endowments that support Rhode Island’s world-class cultural institutions; hamstring the EPA so big polluters can poison our air and water; and weaken NOAA, sapping critical resources for coastal economies like Rhode Island’s. The list goes on.

These senseless, irresponsible choices serve one purpose: to pave the way for tax cuts for the very wealthiest.  The good news is that this extremist proposal will go nowhere in the Senate. I look forward to moving past this political stunt of a budget and working on one the American people will support.”

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Jack Reed 

U.S. Senator

“President Trump’s budget is bad news for Rhode Island because it weakens our economy and places new burdens on families, businesses, and communities across the country. 

The Trump budget takes a less is more approach: less investment in education, health care, transportation and safety for the general public and more pollution, outsourcing jobs overseas, and tax breaks for the wealthy and well-connected.

This irresponsible budget would be a real setback for middle-class families and seniors in particular.  The $800 billion in Medicaid cuts could cause over 10 million low-income Americans to lose their health coverage.  If this budget were enacted, more elderly Americans could be forced to go from assisted living to living on the streets.  That is immoral and ill-advised.

The Trump cuts also threaten federal funding for public education, medical research, job training and economic development. These cuts are counterproductive and won’t achieve real cost-savings.  In fact, they would impede economic growth.

Families with limited incomes who are trying to make ends meet get hit hardest by the Trump budget.  It takes food, health care, and retirement security away from children, seniors, and people with disabilities while adding funds for an ineffective border wall and tax cuts for millionaires.  It eliminates the LIHEAP energy assistance program, Community Development Block Grants, and many other critical, cost-effective programs that have a positive impact on Rhode Island. 

While our military deserves to be well-funded, cutting diplomacy and foreign aid won’t help prevent war.  These are the wrong priorities for America and don’t reflect our core values.

I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to fight these disastrous cuts and enact a more balanced, fiscally responsible budget that focuses on job creation and strengthening the middle-class.”


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