Inside Donald Trump’s Media Diet

Texts, Truths and Fox: How Trump consumes his news in 2024.

Apr 24, 2024 - 07:25
Inside Donald Trump’s Media Diet

Donald Trump has always had a symbiotic relationship with the media. Back when he was a Manhattan bachelor and real estate mogul, he would feed tabloids fodder about his dating and dealmaking. He remained a savvy media player as president, wielding his knowledge of influencing news narratives to divert and distract. Even as he railed against the “fake news,” he was obsessed with how the press portrayed him, keeping track of TV ratings and cable coverage so closely that officials knew to appear on certain shows to deliver a message to him.

Now, as he makes his third run for president, the media landscape of 2024 is markedly different than it was in 2016, in no small part due to Trump himself. Trump remains no less obsessed, but this has changed some of how Trump engages with the media. Twitter is now X but the real MAGA crowd is on Truth Social. Fox still matters, but OAN and Steve Bannon’s The War Room also thrive online. And this time around, Trump and his team have also been strategic about appearing on podcasts that reach younger or more diverse audiences. But while Trump has dabbled in this new universe, some things haven’t changed: He still prefers reading print papers and will catch recordings from his favorite cable news shows.

Here are six things to know about how Trump gets his news and interacts with the media as he runs his third presidential campaign:


Fox Is Now a Frenemy

From Trump’s trip down the golden escalator at Trump Tower through his presidency, right-leaning Fox News commentators and Trump were mostly aligned. But in recent years, it has been on the rocks for a variety of reasons, from his belief that its coverage unfairly boosted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign to the network’s caution in the wake of settling a massive defamation lawsuit by Dominion Systems after some of its stars promoted conspiracies about the 2020 election.

But throughout the ups and downs, Trump has continued to tune in. Trump likes host Jesse Watters, whose "frat-bro" conservative commentary took the primetime spot once held by Tucker Carlson, and, of course, his longtime friend Sean Hannity’s 9 p.m. show.

He also watches Fox News Business’ Mornings with Maria, hosted by Maria Bartiromo, whom he did an interview with in February, and he regularly catches Fox & Friends — although Trump frequently complains about host Steve Doocy, who has emerged as the morning show’s resident skeptic thanks to a newwillingness to challenge conservative orthodoxy on air. “Whatever happened to that guy???” Trump posted on Truth Social in January.


ICYMI Trump Texts

Perhaps the biggest shift in Trump’s news consumption has come thanks to the fact that he now sends and receives text messages, which started not long after he announced his third bid for the presidency. Before Trump learned to use the iMessage feature on his iPhone, his news consumption was limited to what he caught on television, read in the papers, or what was deemed worthy of a print-out by one of his aides.

Now, anyone with Trump’s phone number can text him an interesting article or, much to the chagrin of some of his aides, an outlandish blog post. Texting, one person familiar with Trump’s media habits noted, has opened up a much broader ecosystem. “If you’re limited to Fox News, the TV news, and print news, it’s filtered by editors and writers and journalists. … Now the news can be from any Tom, Dick, or Harry blog that could be sent to Trump,” they said. And sometimes, those blog posts end up on Truth Social. (In case you’re wondering, Trump’s texts are a lot like his tweets — misspellings, punctuation!, CAPITALIZATIONS and all, according to those who text with him.)


There's Plenty of Doomscrolling on Truth Social

A quick perusal of Trump’s Truth Social account can give you a pretty good idea of the kind of information coming across his desk or iPhone screen. Over the course of one week, for example, his feed included links to the Wall Street Journal editorial page, The Daily Mail, Fox News digital, the New York Post, Breitbart, Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller and Newsmax.

But there were also plenty of more obscure or far-right sites blasted out to Trump’s 6.97 million followers, like far-right commentator Laura Loomer’s website, Paul Ingrassia’s Substack, Claremont Institute chairman Tom Klingenstein’s blog, the Restoring Godly Country blog run by Rebecca Lavrez (better known as the “J6 Praying Grandma”) and a link to a site called

When the narrative fits, he’ll even share commentary from unexpected voices. For example, he posted a PDF of an Elie Honing article in New York magazine about his ongoing criminal trial, and shared an editorial by Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. “Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, firmly in the liberal camp and firmly anti-Trump, expressed worries about the precedent the Trump case could set. From her column this week …”


To Get Through, Know the Gatekeepers

If someone wants Trump to see a specific news story, and they don’t have the former president’s digits, their best bet is to go through one of Trump’s close aides who often travel with him, including senior adviser Jason Miller, communications director Steven Cheung, press secretary Karoline Leavitt, deputy director of communications Margo Martin or press aide Natalie Harp.

Trump still prefers to read the news the old-fashioned way on paper, which is often printed out by Harp, a former One America News anchor turned ever-present assistant at his side. She is always prepared to print off an article or flag news stories to him even when he is out on the golf course or on his private plane. Down in Palm Beach, Trump keeps paper subscriptions for the New York Times and the New York Post, according to a person familiar. “Conservative media, liberal media,” the person said, “he’s very well read on what both sides are saying.”


He's Always Watching

Just like he did in the White House, the former president keeps a close eye on his defenders and detractors on television. His aides will share selected clips and Trump tries to catch people live. If he likes their TV performance, he is known to dial up the commentator, send them a Sharpie scrawled note, or even shoot off a post online, like he has done recently with people like North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, GOP strategist Garret Ventry and conservative lawyer Mike Davis.

And he keeps tabs on what top reporters write about him. “He likes [New York Times] reporters Maggie [Haberman] and [Jonathan] Swan when they’re good. He hates them when they’re bad,” one Trump official said. Trump also pays attention to the headlines and photos attached to stories. He has his favorite photographers, like “genius” Doug Mills of the New York Times, who has covered him as a photojournalist in the White House and throughout the 2024 campaign.


A Source Familiar … Named Trump

In conversations with journalists Trump quickly transitions from “on the record” to “off the record” like a seasoned media pro. And for as much as he calls the media “fake news,” he still has long standing reporter-source relationships — and not just with the expected late-night news anchors at Fox. A few reporters who shall remain nameless have the former president’s iPhone number and have been known to get a scoop directly from the horse’s mouth.

At times it has caused a splash because Trump is always willing to play ball with reporters — even if his press aides aren’t thrilled. When Kevin McCarthy was fighting to win the speakership in early 2023, NBC’s Garrett Haake dialed up Trump to ask if he was sticking by the California representative. "We'll see what happens. We'll see how it all works out,” Trump said, much to the chagrin of his communications team and McCarthy allies who were looking for a lifeline. In the end, he took control of the narrative himself, going to his own Truth Social to post that he did back McCarthy.