Politico, along with the Morning Consult, released the results of a poll that concludes that a plurality of Americans, 46 percent, think that the media just makes up stories about President Donald Trump. 37 percent do not believe that the press engages in publishing fiction as fact and 17 percent are not sure. More Republicans than Democrats agree that the media publishes lies about the president. However, Americans, by and large, do not believe that the press should be punished by the government for this alleged practice. So while the news media lacks credibility with the public, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution still does.

Media bias a long-standing problem

Conservatives have been complaining about a liberally biased media at least since the Franklin Roosevelt administration. However, media bias has traditionally been more subtle than out and out fabrication. The techniques include which stories get reported, how various public figures are treated in interviews according to their political party, misleading images, the use of anonymous sources, and even tone of voice. The intent is to deceive and to present a slanted view of reality. Until recently the practice fell short of what is now called fake news.

How Memogate changed perceptions of the media

In 2004, then CBS News anchor Dan Rather broadcast a story that suggested that then-President George W.

Bush had evaded the Vietnam era draft by using his connections to get a posting in the Texas Air National Guard. Moreover, the story stated that the younger Bush did not fulfill his obligations as a Guard pilot.

The problem with the story is that it depended on fabricated memos that used fonts that were unlikely to be available in the early 1970s.

Rather and his producers either did not vet the memos or they knew the documents were fake and ran the story anyway, motivated by a desire to take down the then president who was engaged in a reelection campaign. Bush won reelection and Rather, some executives, and a CBS producer lost their jobs in disgrace.

Trump takes advantage of skepticism of the media

President Trump has made adroit use of social media to sow doubt about unfavorable stories about him in the press. With the plurality of Americans think that much of what they see on the news is made up, Trump finds a ready audience. The time when a few heroic reporters could take down a president, as was the case during Watergate, is long past. People will see something about the president on the news that is unfavorable to him (as is almost always the case) and will tune it out. Besides, with the rise of alternative outlets such as Fox News, conservative talk radio, and a myriad of news sites on the Internet, people have a wealth of outlets that match their worldview.