In a post-Roger-Ailes-and-Bill-O’Reilly world, the President’s favorite television show Fox & Friends seems like the only thing that’s holding Fox News together.
An in-depth report by Marisa Guthrie at the Hollywood Reporter goes behind the scenes of the news show, which has endured in spite of the various scandals that have plagued its other shows. Part of its success is, of course, that the President of the United States is the show’s most powerful and unabashed fan, watching it as part of his daily routine. Anyone paying close enough attention to the President’s Twitter feed will notice a direct correlation between the stories that hosts Brian Kilmeade, Steve Doocy and Ainsely Earhardt tell. That influence is terrifying, especially for a network that has stoked many of the individual fires that have led to the four-alarm conflagration currently burning in the White House right now.
As Fox News has been the one channel that has been friendliest to Donald Trump, allowing him “a platform to riff on politics back when he was contemplating a run in 2012,” Trump has been friendly in return. A brief glance at the President’s Twitter feed reveals a spate of @foxandfriends retweets and mentions. Despite his latest assertion that he has “very little time” to watch television, his behavior belies his words.
The anchors at Fox & Friends seem to use the President’s words to direct their own coverage, as well, completing the other half of the gross symbiotic relationship between the two. After Trump tweeted about Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski “bleeding badly from a face-lift,” Fox & Friends anchor Brian Kilmeade told Guthrie, “I see the president tweeted out the thing about the other morning show, and I’m thinking, I wish I was on the air. It’s just so exciting. All of it. I look at this as exciting and interesting.”
He continued, per THR:
“It was like a third-place team going on a 10-game winning streak because you went to play in the Olympics,” says the 53-year-old former sports reporter. “I’m watching this duel with these talk show hosts and the president. I’m thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, he just gave them ratings. And now everyone’s going to want to tune in, and that’s going to make my job harder.’ That’s a threat.”
CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post and scores of other reputable news source have been labeled as “fake news” by the President, but Fox News has escaped that designation. Staying in the good graces of the maniac running the country seems to be a priority. If telling a compelling story that strokes the President’s ego in a way that also titillates viewers is the way to ratings success, then why not lean into that tactic, hard?
“I think about that all the time, but I don’t think you can blame CNN or Fox or MSNBC for this; I think it really got bitter with the Clinton impeachment. You have really polarized factions going at it, and then you have three networks battling each other to tell a better, more compelling story,” Kilmeade told THR.
Most interesting of all is how the anchors at Fox and Friends view the work that they do as a course-correcting mechanism—the partisan nastiness and lack of objectivity is, according to Kilmeade, all part of a larger plan to steer America toward a more moderate center, I guess:
“We are a self-correcting country. We are going to head toward the middle because people are going to go, ‘Yeah, I’m fed up, too.’ And it will be the smart man or woman who is there waiting with the intellect, experience, charisma and leadership. We correct things in America. And I think that’s what’s going to happen.”
All of that’s fine and well, but what’s most alarming is that the “man or woman” at the center for the moment is Donald Trump.