How Can Cable News Better Cover Trump? Politicos Weigh In

Michael Steele, Zerlina Maxwell and James Carville speak at Politicon 2018 - Getty - H 2018
Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images

Strategists and television personalities had no shortage of ideas at the annual Politicon conference in Los Angeles: "I think we have to be careful about the breathlessness."

Cable news programming is either must-see entertainment or splintering the fabric of the country, depending on whom you ask. Over the first 21 months of Donald Trump's presidency, the medium's three biggest players — Fox News, CNN and MSNBC — have achieved record ratings while struggling to keep up with a fast-paced news cycle that seems to turn on a dime — or a tweet.

Over a weekend of programming at the fourth annual Politicon convention in Los Angeles, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with people who know cable firsthand about how it can better cover the Trump administration and the president's orbit. Here's what they had to say:

Former presidential candidate Chris Christie (ABC News contributor): "The networks could do better by just listening a little bit, and not feeling as if they need to be an advocate for a position. But, I don't anticipate that's going to happen anytime soon."

Kasie Hunt (MSNBC anchor): "I think we have to be careful about the breathlessness.... I think it's important to try to keep your perspective."

David Urban (CNN pro-Trump contributor): "I think cable news in general could kind of stop the hysteria. Every time the president does something, it's not the end of the world.... I think these networks should try to stick to a little bit more news, less opinion. There's a dearth of hard news anymore."

Ari Melber (MSNBC anchor): "On The Beat, we try to be careful to assess whether any given fireworks have significance. News value has to mean something more than 'this is wild' or entertaining. I think that's a challenge for all reporters.... 'OMG Donald Trump insulted someone or said something wild' may work up to a point, but I don't believe that's a good foundation for a news reporter segment. Second to that would be, we should always keep an eye on the pressures within both parties or in any other political movements, but the endless checking of whether a Republican politicians are standing up to him on any given issue doesn't move the ball that much, or doesn't inform the audience that much."

James Carville (Former CNN, Fox News personality): "Like everything else in the world, some of it is really good, some of it is pretty vapid. I just think there's a lot of difference in the knowledge and experience of a lot of guests out there, and that's what drives a lot of cable TV, are the guests. You can imagine what I think of [Fox News'] coverage, but their people like it."

Former Republican Party chairman Michael Steele (MSNBC contributor): "Don't follow every bright-shining object that he throws out there, because they're all distractions. They're all distractions.... You're already beginning to see that change. Even Fox News now is like, we're not covering these rallies to the fullest extent that they have in the past. So, I think that awakening is happening with the media a little bit, because it is about, at the end, self-respect. You can't just be just another sycophant, who is pushing back what Trump is saying and tweeting."

Dan Bongino (NRATV contributor, Fox News guest): "When I go to Fox and they put a liberal on, I promise you that's a real liberal.... The problem with CNN and MSNBC is they get these fake conservatives on there and everybody's like, 'OK, Trump stinks,' and everybody agrees. What kind of debate is that? You're not getting a real take on what Trump's doing, if you're interested. If you're not, and you just hate the guy, by all means keep feeding this garbage in."

Gianno Caldwell (Fox News contributor): "With other networks outside of Fox, sometimes it appears there's a stacking of the deck of people that hate Trump.... It seems as though there is a little more animus when it comes to other networks with regard to the Trump presidency."