President is staffing — or casting — from Fox TV
Washington — President Donald Trump’s favorite TV network is increasingly serving as a West Wing casting call, as the president reshapes his administration with camera-ready personalities.
Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, is a former U.N. ambassador, a White House veteran — and perhaps most importantly, a Fox News channel talking head. Bolton’s appointment, rushed out late Thursday, follows Trump’s recent attempt to recruit Fox guest Joseph diGenova for his legal team.
Bolton went on Fox to discuss his selection and said it happened so quickly that “I think I’m still a Fox News contributor.”
Another recent TV-land addition to the Trump White House is veteran CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow as top economic adviser. Other Fox faces on Trump’s team: rising State Department star Heather Nauert, a former Fox News anchor; communications adviser Mercedes Schlapp and Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh. The latter two are both former Fox commentators.
“He’s looking for people who are ready to be part of that television White House,” said Kendall Phillips, a communication and rhetorical studies professor at Syracuse University. “This is the Fox television presidency all the way up and down.”
DiGenova, who has accused FBI officials of trying to “frame” Trump for nonexistent crimes, will not be joining the legal team because of “conflicts,” said Trump counsel Jay Sekulow on Sunday. Sekulow, however, said diGenova and his wife, attorney Victoria Toensing, also a frequent commentator on Fox, would not be prevented from helping Trump “in other legal matters.”
Trump’s affinity for Fox News is by now well-documented. He has bestowed more interviews on the network than any other news outlet and is an avid viewer. People close to the president say he thinks Fox provides the best coverage of his untraditional presidency. It also provides him a window into conservative thinking, with commentary from Republican lawmakers and right-wing thinkers — many of who are speaking directly to the audience in the Oval Office.
On-air personalities Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham are favorites of Trump, who also speaks to them privately. This past week Trump promoted Hannity on Twitter, saying: “@seanhannity on @foxandfriends now! Great! 8:18 A.M.”
The president’s early-morning tweets often appear to be reaction to Fox programming. On Friday, for example, Trump tweeted he was “considering” a veto of a massive spending bill needed to keep the government open not long after it was assailed on “Fox and Friends” as a “swamp budget.”
Fox News came in for criticism this past week from CNN chief Jeff Zucker, who on Thursday attacked the rival network by saying it has become a propaganda machine that is “doing an incredible disservice to the country.”
Zucker spoke at the Financial Times Future of News conference two days after a former Fox military analyst quit, claiming he was ashamed at the way the network’s opinion hosts were backing Trump. Zucker said that analyst, Ralph Peters, voiced what a lot of people have been thinking about Fox in the post-Roger Ailes era.