Jun 6, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump's week of viral quicksand

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Stories about President Trump's photo op at St. John's church after peaceful protesters were forcefully cleared from the area averaged the most online attention of any issue about the president this week.

Why it matters: Trump's force-over-compassion approach to the demonstrators protesting the murder of George Floyd had Republican allies backpedaling to keep a distance — and led to a wave of condemnations that got plenty of online traction on their own.

The blowback against Trump was strong and swift all week:

While the photo op generated the most average interactions, the fallout after Twitter placed a warning label on Trump's "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" tweet for glorifying violence generated the most total interactions, according to NewsWhip data.

  • That's largely due to the volume of stories on the topic. There were 7x as many items written about Trump and Twitter and other social media platforms as there were about the stroll to St. John's.

Between the lines: Trump seemingly backed himself into a corner all week long, but gave some room for his Republican allies to stand with him in his fight against Twitter.

  • Trump and his allies accused Twitter of overreaching and asked why similar measures weren't taken against leaders of authoritarian regimes elsewhere in the world.
  • He then signed an executive order aiming to shield social media companies from liability for content users post to their platforms.
  • But in private, allies warned Trump that the tweet could escalate racial tensions and hurt him politically, Axios' Jonathan Swan reported.

The bottom line: Trump's already sliding political standing does not appear to be improving. 67% think Trump has mostly increased racial tensions in the country, according to a new NPR/PBS/Marist poll.

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