The Corner

Politics & Policy

President Trump and Fox News

Bill O’Reilly on the set of The O’Reilly Factor in 2015 (Brendan McDermid / Reuters)

The relationship between President Trump and Fox News is very important. Future historians and biographers will have to take it into account. Indeed, the relationship between Fox News and American conservatism is very important.

The Trump administration is dotted with Fox News personalities, or former ones. Bill Shine, the former co-president of the network, has just been appointed communications director. More important, President Trump gets much of his news from Fox, and broadcasts it, or re-broadcasts it, to the world.

Some people think that the Trump-Fox connection is a great and good thing. Others, the opposite. Either way, the connection matters.

On Tuesday, the president issued a startling tweet: “Just out that the Obama Administration granted citizenship, during the terrible Iran Deal negotiation, to 2,500 Iranians – including to government officials. How big (and bad) is that?” Very big and bad, it would seem.

Where had the president gotten his information? From Fox. And Fox had gotten it from an Iranian news agency, which quoted an Iranian politician who was hostile to the nuclear deal (now scuttled by Trump). Is the story true? Perhaps this will become clearer in coming days.

Early in the administration, the president wrote, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.” He had heard something on Fox News: the claim that President Obama had induced British intelligence to bug Trump Tower, in order to keep American fingerprints off the operation.

On Fox, people talk directly to the president. This happened last month, during a discussion of family separation at the U.S. border with Mexico. Ann Coulter looked into the camera and said, “These child actors weeping and crying on all the other networks 24/7 right now — do not fall for it, Mr. President.” To my knowledge, Trump did not respond to this statement, at least publicly.

As President Obama frequently went to 60 Minutes — and, more particularly, to Steve Kroft — for his interviews, President Trump goes to Fox. The latest was very comfortable for the president indeed. Therapeutic, even. Bill O’Reilly, ousted by the network last year, is frequently denigrated, for understandable reasons — but it should be remembered that he conducted a genuine news interview with Trump while at Fox, not long after the inauguration.

On the subject of the president’s “travel ban,” O’Reilly asked, “You wouldn’t do anything differently if you had it to do over again? Some of your people didn’t really know what the order was.” Then there was this:

O’Reilly: Do you respect Putin?

Trump: I do respect him, but —

O’Reilly: Do you? Why?

Trump: Well, I respect a lot of people . . .

O’Reilly: But he’s a killer, though. Putin’s a killer.

Trump: There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, you think our country’s so innocent?

One more sample:

O’Reilly: Is there any validity to the criticism of you that you say things you can’t back up factually, and as the president, if you say, for example, that there are 3 million illegal aliens who voted and then you don’t have the data to back it up, some people are gonna say that it’s irresponsible for a president to say that. Is there any validity to that?

Trump: Many people have come out and said I’m right. You know that.

O’Reilly: I know, but you’ve gotta have data to back that up.

Just as the president relies on Fox News, so do millions of Americans, which has a big effect on American conservatism. Fox is associated with conservatism, both by people on the left and by people on the right. Whether you think this is fortunate, unfortunate, or in between — it is so.

By the way, there was a mention of National Review in the press the other day, which tickled me (as we say in my native Midwest). The story was about the trial of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s onetime campaign manager. The judge in the case said, “I’m not going to ask jurors who they voted for, or anything of that sort.  We’re not going to determine whether people subscribe to some magazine called ‘Progressive’ or ‘National Review.’” He could have said, “We’re not going to determine whether people watch Fox or MSNBC” — but he didn’t . . .

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