Fox News In The Era Of Trump: 'It's Not Healthy,' Former Channel President Says
With Anthony Brooks
Former Fox News president Joe Peyronnin says the network is now President Trump’s “own press organization.” And that’s “not healthy.” He joins us.
Nicole Hemmer, assistant professor in presidential studies at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. Author of “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics.” (@pastpunditry)
Dylan Byers, senior media reporter at NBC News and MSNBC. (@DylanByers)
From The Reading List
New Yorker: “The Making of the Fox News White House” — “Hannity was treated in Texas like a member of the Administration because he virtually is one. The same can be said of Fox’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch. Fox has long been a bane of liberals, but in the past two years many people who watch the network closely, including some Fox alumni, say that it has evolved into something that hasn’t existed before in the United States. Nicole Hemmer, an assistant professor of Presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and the author of ‘Messengers of the Right,’ a history of the conservative media’s impact on American politics, says of Fox, ‘It’s the closest we’ve come to having state TV.’
“Hemmer argues that Fox—which, as the most watched cable news network, generates about $2.7 billion a year for its parent company, 21st Century Fox—acts as a force multiplier for Trump, solidifying his hold over the Republican Party and intensifying his support. ‘Fox is not just taking the temperature of the base—it’s raising the temperature,’ she says. ‘It’s a radicalization model.’ For both Trump and Fox, ‘fear is a business strategy—it keeps people watching.’ As the President has been beset by scandals, congressional hearings, and even talk of impeachment, Fox has been both his shield and his sword. The White House and Fox interact so seamlessly that it can be hard to determine, during a particular news cycle, which one is following the other’s lead. All day long, Trump retweets claims made on the network; his press secretary, Sarah Sanders, has largely stopped holding press conferences, but she has made some thirty appearances on such shows as “Fox & Friends” and ‘Hannity.’ Trump, Hemmer says, has ‘almost become a programmer.’
“Fox’s defenders view such criticism as unfounded and politically biased. Ken LaCorte, who was in senior management at Fox News for nearly twenty years, until 2016, and recently started his own news service, told me, ‘The people at Fox said the same thing about the press and Obama.’ Fox’s public-relations department offers numerous examples of its reporters and talk-show hosts challenging the Administration. Chris Wallace, a tough-minded and ecumenical interviewer, recently grilled Stephen Miller, a senior Trump adviser, on the need for a border wall, given that virtually all drugs seized at the border are discovered at checkpoints. Trump is not the first President to have a favorite media organization; James Madison and Andrew Jackson were each boosted by partisan newspapers. But many people who have watched and worked with Fox over the years, including some leading conservatives, regard Fox’s deepening Trump orthodoxy with alarm. Bill Kristol, who was a paid contributor to Fox News until 2012 and is a prominent Never Trumper, said of the network, ‘It’s changed a lot. Before, it was conservative, but it wasn’t crazy. Now it’s just propaganda.’ Joe Peyronnin, a professor of journalism at N.Y.U., was an early president of Fox News, in the mid-nineties. ‘I’ve never seen anything like it before,’ he says of Fox. ‘It’s as if the President had his own press organization. It’s not healthy.’ ”
FiveThirtyEight: “How Has Fox News Changed In The Trump Era?” — “sarahf(Sarah Frostenson, politics editor): In the latest issue of the New Yorker, reporter Jane Mayer suggests that Fox News has become a propaganda organ of the Trump administration, but who do you think really sets the agenda? Is President Trump influencing Fox or vice versa? And what does that mean for the state of journalism in the U.S., particularly in an era as politically polarized as ours?
“Also welcome Jay Rosen, who is joining us today from New York University!
“natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): I suppose it’s a cop-out to say that it’s a symbiotic relationship? But I think Fox is following Trump’s lead — and the ratings he produces — more than the other way around.
“One of the things I was wrongest about in the 2016 GOP primary was that once Fox went to war with Trump he’d have to back down (thinking of when Megyn Kelly asked him tough questions at that first debate, for example). But nope. He called their bluff.
“That’s the short-term history, though. In the long term, Fox did an awful lot to lay the groundwork for Trump.
“clare.malone (Clare Malone, senior political writer): Mayer points out this dynamic in the piece, about former chairman and CEO of Fox News Roger Ailes working with Fox to create the audience that would eventually come to love Trump. And in some ways, I think we have to concede that Trump was a member of that audience himself, before he ever ran.”
Washington Post: “Democratic National Committee rejects Fox News for debates, citing New Yorker article” — “The Democratic National Committee has decided to exclude Fox News Channel from televising any of its candidate debates during the 2019-2020 cycle as a result of published revelations detailing the cable network’s close ties to the Trump administration.
“In a statement Wednesday, DNC Chairman Tom Perez cited a story in the New Yorker magazine this week that detailed how Fox has promoted President Trump’s agenda. The article, titled ‘The Making of the Fox News White House,’ suggested that the news network had become a “propaganda” vehicle for Trump.
“‘I believe that a key pathway to victory is to continue to expand our electorate and reach all voters,’ said Perez in his statement to The Washington Post. ‘That is why I have made it a priority to talk to a broad array of potential media partners, including Fox News. Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates. Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates.’
“Hours later, Trump responded to the decision by suggesting he might seek to retaliate.”
Adam Waller produced this hour for broadcast.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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