Polls taken after the 2016 election showed that most Americans hoped that President Trump would rein in his distracting tweets. Well, it's one year later, and he hasn't done that. The blunt, sometimes misleading messages he tweets have consistently made headlines throughout his presidency, often at the expense of more important stories.
Of course, even if Trump's tweets draw attention away from pressing issues, that doesn't mean that the tweets themselves aren't important. Twitter is one of the major avenues through which Americans hear Trump's rhetoric. Plus, people across the world use Trump's tweets for insight into his psyche and policy intentions. After seeing how Twitter has enabled tensions to escalate between the United States and North Korea, it's hard to argue that Trump's tweets are meaningless.
Still, his tweets often receive an amount of media coverage that is disproportionate to their significance. And when Trump tries to draw our attention to something, it's important to consider whether there's something from which he's trying to draw our attention away.
Here are 9 times that Trump's tweets distracted us from the issues we should have been focusing on.
Chatter About Inauguration Crowds
Remember when everyone was outraged that Trump lied about the size of his inauguration crowds? On Jan. 24 he posted a photo that he claimed was taken during the ceremony, although it was dated the day after. Many media outlets covered the image, noting the erroneous date, even though there was a more important story brewing: The New York Times broke the news that Trump planned to order the construction of the border wall the next day (which he did — though Congress still hasn't approved funding for the wall), as well as roll out other policies curtailing immigration that week (which turned out to be the first iteration of the "Muslim Ban").
Getting Riled Up Over A University's Right To Choose Its Guests
Trump threatened to shrink U.C. Berkeley's federal funding after the university canceled a planned talk by Milo Yiannopoulos. While much of the media got caught up in a discussion of whether or not Yiannopoulos should have been allowed to speak, bill H.R.861 was submitted to Congress, which — if it is passed — would completely "terminate the Environmental Protection Agency."
When Everybody Talked About Ivanka Trump's Clothing Line
When Trump complained about Nordstrom dropping Ivanka Trump's clothing line, he made that event into a major story of the week. It took focus away from a U.S. military raid in Yemen that killed civilians, including an 8-year-old American girl, and an American soldier, Chief Petty Officer William Owens.
The False Claim That Obama Wiretapped Trump
In early March, Trump took to Twitter to claim that President Obama had wiretapped his phones while he was still in office. A flurry of accusations and denials from both sides ensued. Meanwhile, the Justice Department revealed that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had met twice with the Russian ambassador to the United States in 2016, even though he didn't mention that contact during his confirmation hearing. Sessions then recused himself from the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.
Trump Disses Journalists, Again
Trump body-shaming women — in this case, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski — is certainly terrible, but it's nothing new for him. What was new in late June was the Senate trying to pass its Obamacare replacement plan, the "Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017." The Congressional Budget Office released a daunting score for the bill few days prior to the Mika and Joe scandal, but nevertheless, Trump bashing the journalists became a giant story.
That Terrible CNN Meme
Trump tweeted a video of himself beating up a figure with a "CNN" head. You probably remember the meme, and championing violence against journalists is definitely disturbing. But there are some stories you may not remember as clearly from that week, like when the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity asked state leaders for personal information about all voters, or when Trump threatened escalation in Syria, saying that the government would "pay a heavy price" if it launched another chemical weapons attack.
Still All About Clinton In 2017
Trump tried to force us all to talk about Clinton again, and he succeeded. But that same day, Mike Pence broke a tie in Congress, voting to let the Senate begin debate on replacing the Affordable Care Act.
The Never-Ending 2016 Election
When Clinton released her book What Happened, Trump took the opportunity to brag again about his electoral victory, and the media took his bait. A less-covered story was that Russian operatives organized U.S. anti-immigrant protests using Facebook, as The Daily Beast reported.
Co-Opting The NFL Protest Narrative
The weekend after Hurricane Maria wreaked devastation across Puerto Rico, Trump dedicated himself to tweeting about how NFL players shouldn't be allowed to kneel during the National Anthem as a means of protest. With these messages, he drew attention away from not only the crisis in Puerto Rico, but also the reason why NFL players were protesting in the first place: Persistent racism in the United States, and in particular, police brutality against black and brown people.
In late September, Trump tweeted that Facebook was biased against him. Although the tweet was petty, Mark Zuckerberg apparently deemed it noteworthy enough to respond to. While this drama was unfolding, Immigration and Customs Enforcement was conducting raids on sanctuary cities across the country.
In all likelihood, Trump will continue to spew ridiculous tweets. But that doesn't mean that we have to satisfy him by continuing to put them in the spotlight. And who knows: Maybe Trump will stop tweeting if he no longer gets attention for it.