Many in the media were torching President Trump for citing "ratings" as a reason for announcing his pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio late last week, after initially criticizing him for trying to pardon Arpaio "quietly."
The media flip-flop started after the White House announced the pardon Friday evening, along with a military directive on transgender servicemembers and the ousting of adviser Sebastian Gorka. All three news items came as Hurricane Harvey was beginning to batter the Texas shoreline.
During a joint press conference Monday at the White House with Finland President Sauli Niinisto, a Fox News correspondent asked Trump about the pardon and suggested it was purposefully done "in the middle of Hurricane Harvey hitting on Friday night."
CNN had also accused the White House of attempting to push the pardon through with little notice, writing in an online article that, "The hurricane provided cover, ensuring that the controversial storylines wouldn't dominate TV news broadcasts, websites or front pages of the next morning's newspapers."
David Graham at the Atlantic wrote that the news from the White House had been released "quietly" and that "the transgender ban and Arpaio pardon bear all the hallmarks of the [Friday] news dump... as a massive hurricane commands national attention."
"Look, that was certainly the time to do it," NPR's Domenico Montanaro said Saturday. "In Washington, it's the classic Friday night dump."
When Trump was asked about the Arpaio pardon at Monday's press conference, his answer addressed the controversy and suggested that the timing would actually have drawn more attention to the pardon, not less.
"Well, a lot of people think it was the right thing to do, John," he said. "And actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally."
At that point, the media flipped, and started accusing Trump of using the specter of the storm to get more publicity for his pardon.
Two opinion pieces published in Thursday's print edition of the New York Times said Trump's ratings comment exposed something ugly about his character.
Trump "revealed his morally bankrupt soul during the storm when he said that he timed his pardon of the racist former sheriff Joe Arpaio to coincide with the hurricane's landfall because he assumed that it would garner ‘far higher' TV ratings than usual," Anthea Butler, a religion writer, wrote in the Times.
Liberal columnist Charles Blow said Trump's comment was an admission that he "used the horror and anxious anticipation of a monster storm menacing millions of Americans — particularly in Houston whose population is 44 percent Hispanic — in a political calculation to get more ratings and more eyeballs…"
John Harwood of CNBC said on Twitter that the remark demonstrated Trump has "more interest in performance art than duties."
On Monday, CNN's Jim Sciutto and Dana Bash mulled it over with Sciutto calling it "quite disconnected with the suffering we're seeing [in Texas]" and Bash calling it "abhorrent."