The Washington Post Sunday
Welcome to the Fox News presidency
President Trump confirmed on Friday that State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, someone with only brief government service and limited experience in diplomacy and foreign affairs, will replace Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Nauert’s chief qualification is probably that before joining the Trump administration, she was best known as a co-host of the president’s favorite TV show, “Fox & Friends.”
There has never been a situation in which a media outlet has commingled with the government to this extent, creating one entity pursuing a common set of goals.
There are plenty of other ways Fox News and the Trump administration have joined hands. The White House communications director, Bill Shine, came to the job from Fox News, where he was accused of abetting the horrific sexual harassment allegedly perpetrated by network founder Roger Ailes. But because of his severance package, Shine works in the White House while literally still being on Fox News’s payroll. In addition to Nauert and Shine, a raft of high-ranking Trump administration officials seem to have gotten their jobs because Trump watched them on Fox News and liked what he saw.
Trump starts nearly every day by watching “Fox & Friends” and usually live-tweets what he sees there, setting the news agenda for the entire media. According to New York Magazine, on “most weeknights” after his show is done taping, Fox host Sean Hannity talks with the president. Trump also “considers Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs a close adviser.” Even Trump’s own staff members sometimes find that the best way to communicate with their boss is through Fox News.
What Trump has done in the White House is bring about the full realization of Ailes’s twisted vision of how TV and politics could intertwine. What Ailes created with Fox News is a creature that simultaneously accomplishes two goals: making huge profits and serving the interests of the Republican Party. Ailes never found a more perfect candidate than Trump, which is why, in 2011, Trump was given a weekly call-in segment on “Fox & Friends,” an absolutely essential tool in turning Trump from a TV personality into a political figure. Anger, resentment and fear are the pillars of the Fox News oeuvre, just as they are of the Trump presidency.
There’s one other key way in which Trump and Fox News are one and the same: Both have powerful voices, but both appeal only to a minority of the country. For Fox News, that’s perfectly fine — they can pull in a few million viewers each night and make handsome profits, even if most of the country isn’t buying what they’re selling. As Trump discovered in November when his effort at a profoundly Foxian campaign failed to forestall a Democratic wave, it doesn’t quite work if you’re the president. But he isn’t going to change now.