Fox News: Donald Trump’s state TV?
Has Fox News “become propaganda” for the White House? asked Jane Mayer in The New Yorker. The cable network has abandoned any journalistic pretenses in order to do Trump’s bidding. Fox insiders believe the late network chief Roger Ailes tipped Trump off to Meghan Kelly’s pointed questions before a 2015 GOP primary debate. The network also shelved a story during the campaign about hush money paid to the candidate’s alleged mistress, porn star Stormy Daniels. When the reporter pressed for an explanation, a Fox executive replied that their boss, Rupert Murdoch, “wants Donald Trump to win, so just let it go.” Once in office, Trump worked to return the favors, allegedly directing his top aides in 2017 to pressure the Justice Department to block a merger between AT&T and Time Warner, which owns Fox competitor CNN. He’s looking out for more than just his preferred news source: “Fox has been both his shield and his sword.”
This is hardly the first White House to have “close ties with media outlets,” said Nicole Hemmer in CNN.com. The legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee was practically best friends with John Kennedy, and Post columnist Drew Pearson “traded favors with Lyndon Johnson.” Time Inc. owner Henry Luce “single-handedly engineered” the Republican presidential nomination in 1940. With all that said, Trump’s relationship with Fox is “unprecedented,” and Fox is closer to a state news channel than “anything the United States has ever known.” Trump reportedly ranks journalists’ loyalty “on a scale of 1 to 10,” said Erik Wemple in WashingtonPost.com. Naturally, Fox anchor Sean Hannity is a 10. Fox & Friends’ Steve Doocy “is so adoring that Trump gives him a 12.”
Cable’s most-watched news network makes for an “enormously influential” mouthpiece, said Matthew Yglesias in Vox.com. “Everybody knows” Trump watches Fox day and night, hires staff directly from the network—including his new communications director, Bill Shine—and strategizes on the phone almost daily with Murdoch and Hannity. Yet Fox’s political influence somehow remains underappreciated. One study found that without Fox News, John McCain’s share of the vote would have been 6.3 points lower in 2008, an “extinction-level landslide” for the Democrats. Without Fox, George W. Bush wouldn’t have been elected in 2004, nor Donald Trump in 2016. Trump seems to understand this. “Propaganda television,” after all, is keeping his presidency afloat. ■