Barack Obama’s first official public appearance since leaving office got the full attention of CNN and MSNBC today but not Fox News Channel. After cutting to the 44th POTUS’ remarks at the University of Chicago on Monday morning, the former home of Bill O’Reilly then went to the White House and President Donald Trump’s strident lunch with U.N. Security Council ambassadors.
With no small irony, the remarks Obama made in his adopted hometown were almost a prophecy of how his return to the public stage would be covered.
“Because of changes in the media, we now have a situation in which everybody is listening to people who already agree with them,” said the two-term Democrat in what is the first of a series of appearances he is set to make in the domestic and international arena. Obama added that the media fracturing is causing people to “further and further reinforcing their own realities to the neglect of a common reality that allows us to have a healthy debate and then try to find common ground and move solutions forward.”
Mentioning “people yelling at each other” and how “polarized” things have become, the fracturing of media and siloing of audiences for media divisions was a topic Obama returned to again and again in Chicago this morning. Coming off a series of luxury vacations with well-heeled supporters like David Geffen, Obama did not mention his successor once by name or implication today.
Revealing their demographic divides, the Time Warner- and Comcast-owned cable newers stayed with Obama’s low-key sit-down with students and subsequent Q&A. On the other hand, the Rupert Murdoch-owned FNC first went to Trump and then back to their regular scheduled Outnumbered. (UPDATE: CNN cut away from the relatively news-free Obama event at around 9:55 AM PST.)
Whether or not Trump was thinking today of that old LBJ move of getting in front of a camera to divert attention from a rival is unclear. Certainly, however, the ratings-obsessed ex-Celebrity Apprentice host couldn’t have been unaware that upstaging the well promoted return to the public stage of his predecessor was an media opportunity in the making.
Fox News told Deadline that its approach was to monitor the Obama event for news and cover in that context. Admittedly, besides actually showing up and giving his heard-before comments about the state of media, there was not much meat in what Obama served up today.
Earlier today, as he closed in on his 100th day in office Saturday, the current POTUS took to his Twitter feed to slam the media environment even harder that the measured Obama did – with specific emphasis on specific outlets.
The two fake news polls released yesterday, ABC & NBC, while containing some very positive info, were totally wrong in General E. Watch!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 24, 2017