Fox News Is President Trump's Favorite TV Channel

Apr 8, 2018
Originally published on April 9, 2018 10:51 am
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Fox News is President Trump's favorite channel. He reportedly tapes episodes of "Judge Jeanine" that he may have missed.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JUDGE JEANINE")

JEANINE PIRRO: The difference between President Trump and other presidents is his transparency. No political correctness. What you see is what you get - successful negotiator.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He promotes segments of Sean Hannity's show on Twitter.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HANNITY")

SEAN HANNITY: All right. Tonight, President Trump is on a complete tear by continuing to keep his promises and enact the agenda that you, the American people, voted for.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And reports he watches on "Fox & Friends" actually influence policy.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX & FRIENDS")

PETE HEGSETH: We talked about this group of migrants, 1,200 marching to America...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just last week, after a segment on a caravan of Central American migrants, President Trump called his defense secretary to the White House. And he's now deployed National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. Fox News may be the most important news organization in America right now simply because it has a devoted audience inside the Oval Office of one. David Folkenflik is our media correspondent and our resident Fox expert. He told me what the president sees when he turns on the network.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Well, I think the first part of it is an almost continual bath of affirmation, particularly on the opinion side, which is really the dominant parts of the day that he cites and the dominant part of the day that people tend to watch.

Within that affirmation, you're hearing a lot of concerns being raised, a lot of policies being suggested, a lot of personnel being touted, many of them from the payroll of Fox itself at times, ways in which people are trying to appeal to try to bend the administration this way or that by simply appealing to the guy in the Oval Office himself.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that's because they feel like that's the best way to get through to him?

FOLKENFLIK: They're not wrong. They know this because of Trump's Twitter feed. He talks about it all the time. There have been incredible analyses done, particularly a guy over at Media Matters. It's definitely a, you know, liberal left outfit designed to bird-dogging conservatives in media and particularly Fox News.

But let's be clear. They really itemize and have shown a stimulus response when issues and even catchphrases are used on "Fox & Friends." The number of minutes that elapse before they surface in the president's Twitter feed is often in the single or double digits at most.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So has Trump changed Fox News? Was it always this way?

FOLKENFLIK: Look. Fox was, from the very beginning, designed to appeal to an audience of conservatives and other folks who felt that the media was, in a sense, dominated by coastal elites and cosmopolitan thinking that left them behind. I think that's gotten pure over the years. It's become more ideologically conservative. And it's become more partisanly Republican.

And under Rupert Murdoch, who really has a disdain for Trump as a leader and as a thinker but had decided to put sort of all his chips on Trump in early 2016, has it gotten incredible access to the White House. Subsequently, Fox has really gone very hard in that direction.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But they have had a lot of impact, for example, in the Scott Pruitt issue. There's been a drumbeat for him to resign. And Fox has sort of played a role in that.

FOLKENFLIK: Sure. I think Ed Henry, a senior correspondent over there, performed a valuable service. Pruitt's, you know, sat for an interview with Henry. And Henry asked him some tough good questions about at least some of the major, major questionable judgments that Pruitt seems to have made during his relatively brief tenure at the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

It's worth noting that this doesn't cut entirely against Republican or Trump administration interests in that the Trump administration right now seems to be divided. We've had leaks in recent days of the chief of staff's interest, John Kelly, in getting Pruitt out of there, out of the cabinet because there's just one or two or three scandals too many.

But, you know, let's credit Henry, who among some other senior journalists there are capable of doing good work. And he did so in this instance.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And we've also seen this kind of rotating cast of figures, people that were in the White House and end up in Fox News or people who were on Fox News and end up in the White House. It also seems to be sort of cyclical staffing thing that's happening.

FOLKENFLIK: It seems as though there's a Lazy Susan that you're kind of turning around. And at one point, people show up at la Fox News. Another point, they show up in the White House. And then, they come back. John Bolton, the new national security adviser, was a longtime Fox paid analyst.

This happened in previous administrations. You'd see Karl Rove left the George W. Bush White House. He became an analyst there. But now, you're seeing this way in which the president is - he talks about his kitchen cabinet, but so much of that seems drawn from Fox's airwaves, people like Sean Hannity, people like the hosts of "Fox & Friends," Kimberly Guilfoyle for a while, Jeanine Pirro, who has a weekend show, you know.

You could almost run out of fingers on your hands very quickly to think of the number of people that Trump turns to for advice directly. The president believes in Fox News, not only as a source of information and news and developments but, essentially, in thinking in what his mind is strategically about the world and about the nation.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik. Thank you so much.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.