Text messages released by the House Jan. 6 committee are a reminder how closely intertwined Fox News and former President Donald Trump's White House were during his presidency — several prominent opinion hosts privately pleaded for Trump to stop the Capitol siege by his supporters, and Sean Hannity appears to have also been in the loop on Trump's plans to overturn President Biden's victory.
But that only scratches the surface of the influence this "cable Cabinet of unofficial advisers" had on Trump and White House policy, The Washington Post reports.
"There were times the president would come down the next morning and say, 'Well, Sean thinks we should do this,' or, 'Judge Jeanine thinks we should do this,'" said former Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, referring to Hannity and Jeanine Pirro. The Fox News stars would offer Trump advice on policy and personnel, but "a lot of it was PR — what he should be saying and how he should be saying it; he should be going harder against wearing masks or whatever."
Grisham, who resigned after Jan. 6 and has written a book critical of Trump, said frustrated West Wing staffers would roll their eyes as they scrambled to respond to this mess of influencers. Alyssa Farah, a Trump White House communications director, said the goal of Trump's staff was to "try to get ahead of what advice you thought he was going to be given by these people," because their unofficial counsel "could completely change his mind on something."
Farah said Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Pirro, and Fox Business host Lou Dobbs had the most influence on Trump. Michael Pillsbury, an informal Trump adviser, told the Post he saw the biggest impact from Dobbs, whose show was canceled last February. Trump began embracing lawyer Sidney Powell and other election fabulists after watching them on Dobbs' show, and he was inclined to believe their patently false claims in part because he was seeing on TV, he added.
"It taught me the power of the young producers at Fox, and Fox Business especially," Pillsbury told the Post. "These young producers who are in their mid-20s. They come out of the conservative movement, they've never been in the government. They are presented with these reckless, fantastical accounts. And they believe them and put them on for ratings."