Asked Thursday why he decided – seemingly out of the blue – to pardon conservative author Dinesh D’Souza, President Donald Trump said this (bolding is mine):
“Only because, only because of I felt from I don’t know him, I never met him. I called him last night, first time I’ve ever spoken to him. I said I’m pardoning you. Nobody asked me to do it.”
“I’ve always felt he was very unfairly treated. And a lot of people did, a lot of people did. What should have been a quick minor fine, like everybody else with the election stuff….what they did to him was horrible.”
“I always felt that he was … I didn’t know him. I read the papers. I see him on television.”
That’s a reminder – not that we should need one – of a) how much TV Trump actually watches and b) how much TV forms his views on, well, everything.
Trump’s schedule has “executive time” allotted several times a week – time in which he watches TV, taped and live, and tweets. Trump’s Twitter feed – today and almost every day – reflects how seriously he takes that time. His feed regularly features supportive quotes he hears while watching TV.
“People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back,” wrote The New York Times in December.
(Trump has denied he watches much TV at all. “I don’t get to watch much television,” Trump said last November. “Primarily because of documents. I’m reading documents. A lot.”)
It’s not just that Trump watches TV. It’s that TV serves not only as the lens through which he views the world – D’Souza being on TV made him someone Trump felt like he knew and was worthy of a presidential pardon – but also the way he learns about issues.
This exchange between “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd and Trump during the campaign illustrates how Trump looks to TV for information.
TODD: Who do you talk to for military advice right now?
TRUMP: Well, I watch the shows. I mean, I really see a lot of great — you know, when you watch your show and all of the other shows, and you have the generals.
The Point: It is not possible to overestimate the influence cable TV has over Trump. And we should never forget that.