While President Donald Trump is off to a rocky, even chaotic, start by many accounts -- with the “highest disapproval for a new elected president since polls began tracking those results,” according to CNN -- at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week, he was cheered as a success.
Trump has waged a war on the press, regularly seeking to undermine critical media outlets while elevating propagandists who applaud his every move. CPAC attendees have heard the message loud and clear, saying they favor outlets like Fox News and Breitbart for their information over the supposedly dishonest mainstream media.
Trump again played to that anti-media fervor when he spoke at the conference Friday, accusing certain media outlets of being "an enemy of the people."
A year after many CPAC attendees said they didn't want Trump to attend the annual D.C.-area event, prompting him to stay away, the majority of the conferencegoers who spoke to Media Matters this week rated his first month in office positively. Many said he's living up to his promises, including on issues like immigration, foreign affairs, and business relations. And both conservative media voices and regular attendees were unified in their support.
“I think it’s been fantastic,” said Lars Larson, a syndicated conservative radio talk host. “He’s moving at the speed of business, and everybody else is having to adjust. The media is having to adjust to the idea that they have a president who will push back when appropriate. The media has to adjust to the fact that he moves fast and the rest of the government moves slow.”
As for chaos, Larson added, “I think the chaos is almost entirely created -- the impression of chaos. I don’t know how in the world someone could take over any operation, chief executive, bring in 4,000 new employees in the span of 30 days -- how do you do that without some missteps?”
Larry O’Connor, a local D.C. talk radio host and online editor at The Weekly Standard, added that Trump is “doing what he promised and you can’t ask for more than that.”
As for media coverage of Trump, he joined others in saying, “The media has fallen into a bit of a trap of propping themselves up as the last bastion of truth when they criticize the White House for playing fast and loose with the facts, but they didn’t seem to care about it for the past eight years.”
Rick Tyler, an MSNBC and Sirius Radio commentator and former Newt Gingrich aide and Ted Cruz spokesperson, said, “On balance, I think he is doing very well. Stylistically, he’s been terrible.”
Asked why many at CPAC who didn't want him around last year are welcoming him with open arms today, Tyler said one reason is that he won the election.
“There are a lot of reasons why," he said. “One is that he beat Hillary Clinton. He got two pipelines back in, he won major coal rights. … He is trying to create a rational immigration system.”
John Fredericks, a Virginia-based radio talk show host, called Trump’s first month “phenomenal, unbelievable. If you are a Trump supporter, this has been the most phenomenal first month because he is in the face of his detractors.”
Like many at the conference, he says Trump owes no apologies: “He's turning the whole Washington elite media on its head. It's the great disruption of his time. You’ve got to start by breaking the system to pieces, then you can get things done.”
The conference's non-media attendees -- many of them students -- were even stronger in their praise of Trump’s first few weeks. And they, too, attacked the press.
“I like him a lot. He's doing what he said he could do,” said Jennifer Perrautt, a University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, student who spoke as she waited in line to see Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday. “On immigration and on wanting to overturn Obamacare.”
Like most at the conference, Perrautt is a Fox News viewer. Asked about other mainstream outlets, she said: “I don’t really like it. They always try to paint him in a bad light. They nitpick everything he says.”
Isabella Olson of Fond du Lac, WI, a Fox News viewer and a member of the University of Wisconsin College Republicans, agreed.
“I’m happy with what he's doing. He's doing what he said he would. I’m happy for the immigration moves,” she said, later adding about the media, “They've mistreated him. They say he's evil.”
Kathy Frey, an attendee from Edina, MN, said she and her friend drove to D.C. to see Trump and help support him this week.
“I love him. Every day is Christmas,” she said. “He’s fulfilling his promises. We need a thriving economy, and I trust he will do what is needed.”
As for media coverage of Trump, she called it “horrendous, negative and not to be trusted. They should be objective. We don’t have objective media.” Frey said her news sources are Fox News and The Wall Street Journal.
Her friend Barb Sutter, also a Fox News fan, added that she was “impressed at the [Trump] work ethic. He never made a secret of what he would do.”