A weekly window on the American political scene hosted by Liz Marlantes.

When Trump tweets, how should the media respond?

Why We Wrote This

To some, Trump’s tweets are simply a distraction from real news events. Others say they’re the president’s most direct form of communication with the world – and we should pay attention.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/File
Tweets by President Donald Trump about Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, were shown on a television monitor inside the hearing room as Mr. Cohen testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, while committee member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) looked on in Washington, February 27, 2019.

Dear readers:

It’s a perpetual question for the reporters who cover President Donald Trump: How to handle his tweets?

If you cover every blip and blast Mr. Trump sends out into the Twittersphere, some say, you are allowing the president to dictate the news cycle – and distracting attention from real events by hyping phony controversies.

If you ignore his tweets, however, some say you’re “normalizing” behavior that is at best unpresidential, and at worst alarming.

This morning, Mr. Trump lashed out at George Conway, the husband of presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway, calling him a “stone cold LOSER & husband from hell.” (Mr. Conway, a sharp critic of the president, had in recent days questioned Mr. Trump’s mental health.) Mr. Conway fired back: “You. Are. Nuts.”

The bizarre exchange came on the heels of a weekend tweetstorm, in which the president took aim at everything from a “Saturday Night Live” rerun to certain Fox News anchors. Most notably, Mr. Trump attacked the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, accusing him of having conspired with Democrats against him. Last night, Mr. McCain’s widow posted a hateful message she said she received from a Trump supporter as a result.

It all proved too much for even some allies. Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia told The Bulwark today that “the McCain family deserves better.” Utah Sen. Mitt Romney (R) tweeted: “I can’t understand why the president would, once again, disparage a man as exemplary as my friend John McCain.”

Which brings us back to the original – and perennial – question: Did we just fall down another Twitter rabbit hole? Or are the president’s tweets deserving of our attention and analysis?

“Trump has had lots of oh-my-God-did-you-see-what-he-just-tweeted days,” writes CNN’s Chris Cillizza. But, he contends, Twitter “is where the truest form of Trump comes out. It’s his Twitter feed – not official White House statements or signing ceremonies – where we find out what is on Trump’s mind.”

Regardless of how you view it, it’s what the president of the United States is choosing to say to the world.

Let us know what you’re thinking at csmpolitics@csmonitor.com.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.