According to Fox News host Howard Kurtz, meeting US President Donald Trump in person isn’t all that different to watching him on TV or following him on Twitter.
“He is not that different off-camera as the guy you see on the screen,” Kurtz, the presenter of Fox News’ MediaBuzz show and author of new book Media Madness, told The New Daily over the phone at the end of a long week in America’s ever-furious 24-hour news cycle.
“He is boastful, bombastic, self-confident and doesn’t always choose his words very carefully. He is a street fighter who shoots from the hip and makes impulsive decisions and the country and especially the establishment press, are still getting used to him.”
Kurtz first met the future President in 1987 during the promotion rounds for Trump’s best-selling book The Art of the Deal and has spoken to him several times since. Even back then the New York property magnate told Kurtz if he took a tilt at the presidency, he would win.
A former reporter for The Washington Post who has also worked at CNN, Kurtz said he’s willing to call out partisan reporters, including his fellow Fox presenters.
“I’m a down-the-middle, old-fashioned former newspaper guy, who calls out the press for bias and mistake or misjudgement but also holds the President accountable when he says things that are untrue or exaggerated,” he explained.
“The result is that I manage to tick off both sides in an increasingly polarised American culture where there seems to be less appetite among partisans to entertain arguments form the other side.”
Addressing Fox’s perceived pro-Trump bias, he said: “For one thing, I regularly criticise Fox, just I have criticised my previous employer. Fox news division actually cover the President pretty fairly, and studies have shown this.
“Fox’s most prominent opinion commentators are very supportive of Trump, and the network’s detractors try to brand that as being the face of Fox, but just like any newspaper, there are the news pages and the opinion pages, so I think that’s a bum rap. You also have two competing cable news networks, CNN and MSNBC, which seem to be playing to a largely anti-Trump audience.”
Trump is the “antithesis” of the media-massaged President who weighs up every syllable and vets every pronouncement, Kurtz added.
“He has utterly transformed the presidency in a way that his fans love, his detractors hate, and the media still can’t quite believe,” he said.
“This is a President who kicks the hell out of the press on a daily basis, sometimes even cursing them by name, and of course that feeds into not only a defensiveness, but a desire to punch back.
“It’s a battle between the establishment, of which the media are a part, and an insurgent with no government experience who certainly makes mistakes and picks fights, but was able to use that pugilistic style to get himself elected.”
Can he see an end to war? “I would love to be more optimistic, but I think Trump is so invested in using the media as a foil to detract from his own missteps, and so much of the media are making lots of money by relentlessly beating up on the President, that I don’t see the prospect of a truce any time soon.”
Howard Kurtz’s Media Madness, published in Australia by NewSouth, is out now.