Former president George W. Bush suggested the media’s fragmentation was contributing to the difficulty of uniting the country, he said on NBC’s ‘Today’ show Monday.
Bush, who appeared on the show to promote his upcoming book of veterans’ portraits, told host Matt Lauer that “it’s hard to unify the country, though, with the news media being so split up.”
“When I was president, you mattered a lot more because there were like three of you,” he told Lauer. “Now there’s all kinds of information being bombarded out and people can say things anonymously… it’s a different world.”
But Bush also said he considered the media important as a check on power: "I consider the media to be indispensable to American democracy,” he said. “We need an independent media to hold people like me to account.”
“Power can very addictive,” he added. “Power can be very corrosive.”
Bush had declined to directly address his successor President Donald Trump’s comments on the media or actions on the country’s divisions, saying “it’s hard to compare times.”
"Everybody looks at the presidency when they campaign one way,” he said. “Then they get in office and find out there’s a reality to the job.
Lauer pressed: “Have you seen him do or say anything that would be an attempt to heal [the country’s divisions]?”
“I think you have to take a man for his word that he wants to unify the country,” Bush responded.
When asked about Trump’s attempt to institute a travel ban on several predominantly Muslim countries, however, Bush affirmed religious diversity as an American value.
"It’s very important for all of us to recognize one of our great strengths is for people to be able to worship the way they want,” he said. “A bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely.”
Bush’s daughter Jenna Bush Hager is a correspondent for NBC News.