Have Donald Trump’s Attacks on CNN Hurt Ratings?

POTUS’ ongoing beef with the network hasn’t pushed viewers away

Last Updated: February 23, 2017 @ 12:54 PM

As part of his administration’s campaign against media critics who have been labeled “the opposition party,” Donald Trump has been publicly feuding with CNN for the majority of 2017. He even used a Black History Month event on Wednesday morning to, once again, label the news network as “fake news.”

But the president’s frequent insults have not done anything to hurt CNN’s ratings, so far.

CNN was up double digits in January compared to the same month in 2016, beating MSNBC in both total day and primetime viewers. CNN’s primetime lineup averaged 1.16 million total viewers, up 38 percent from last year. The rating is good enough to make CNN the ninth most-watched network among all of cable, ahead of heavyweights including TNT, FX, AMC and Adult Swim.

CNN’s January year-over-year growth was even more significant among the key news demo of adults age 25-54, up 42 percent from 2016, with an average primetime demo viewership of 385,000.

Perhaps that’s why, while he’s called news organizations he has issues with “failing”, he hasn’t used that word to describe CNN.

Trump’s beef with CNN picked up steam back on Jan. 11, when then president-elect held his first press conference in 167 days and was still fuming over the network reporting that both Trump and Obama were briefed on a Russia dossier that was eventually published by BuzzFeed.

When CNN’s Jim Acosta tried to ask a question, the president-elect declined, pointing at Acosta saying, “You are fake news.” In what some media watchdogs thought they would never see, rival Fox News even spoke out in CNN’s defense.

Trump hasn’t let up since, and as Politico reported on Tuesday, the White House temporarily stopped sending surrogates to appear on CNN.

But while Trump might be trying to discredit certain news orgs, TV historian and Syracuse University journalism professor Robert Thompson told TheWrap that at least “half the voters” would be just fine with CNN being known as the network Trump doesn’t like.

“Trump’s thoughts on CNN had been clear, for some time now,” Thompson said. “If people are going to tune out of CNN because of what Donald Trump says, they’ve probably already done that.”

As Politico pointed out, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway have not appeared on CNN in recent weeks. This isn’t CNN’s decision, despite public calls for news organizations to stop taking Conway seriously. Jake Tapper has mentioned that invitations have been extended to the Trump Administration to appear on the last two editions of Sunday political show “State of the Union,” but those invitations weren’t accepted.

How did that work out? “State of the Union” is up 33 percent in total viewers and 72 percent among the news demo from January 2016. In fact, CNN beat Fox and MSNBC among the key news demo of adults age 25-54 at noon ET during the two episodes that didn’t feature the likes of Conway or Spicer.

“I think the era of access journalism as we’ve known it is over,” CNN World Wide president Jeff Zucker recently told New York Magazine. “I think our credibility is higher than ever, and our viewership is higher than ever, and our reporting is as strong as ever.”

Meanwhile, less than 24 hours after Politico’s report, the White House scheduled Deputy Assistant to the President Sebastian Gorka to appear on CNN in the 4 p.m. ET hour on Wednesday.

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