The cozy relationship between Donald Trump and Fox News is not news to anyone who’s paid attention to politics for the past several years. But the depth of the love affair will be.
In a her New Yorker article, “The Making of the Fox News White House,” Jane Mayer lays out new evidence of just how close Fox News and the White House have grown over the past two years. As one expert put it, “It’s the closest we’ve come to having state TV.” Also, Mayer appears to have uncovered a little something that may one day come up in impeachment hearings.
Here are Mayer’s eight most eye-popping and ridiculous revelations:
Trump rates the loyalty of Fox News personalities, and Hannity isn’t at the top.
Trump has told confidants that he has ranked the loyalty of many reporters, on a scale of 1 to 10. Bret Baier, Fox News’ chief political anchor, is a 6; Hannity a solid 10. Steve Doocy, the co-host of “Fox & Friends,” is so adoring that Trump gives him a 12.
But Trump still loves Hannity.
Sean Hannity has told colleagues that he speaks to the president virtually every night, after his show ends, at 10 p.m. According to the Washington Post, White House advisers have taken to calling Hannity the Shadow Chief of Staff. A Republican political expert who has a paid contract with Fox News told me that Hannity has essentially become a “West Wing adviser,” attributing this development, in part, to the “utter breakdown of any normal decision-making in the White House.”
Trump seeks, and receives, advice from even the most D-list Fox News personalities.
Pete Hegseth and Lou Dobbs, hosts on Fox Business, have each been patched into Oval Office meetings, by speakerphone, to offer policy advice.
Rupert Murdoch makes fun of Trump behind his back, but the president doesn’t care.
According to Michael Wolff’s 2018 book, “Fire and Fury,” Murdoch derided Trump as “a fucking idiot” after a conversation about immigration. The aide says Trump knows that Murdoch has denigrated him behind his back, but “it doesn’t seem to matter” that much. Several sources confirmed to me that Murdoch regales friends with Trump’s latest inanities.
Prior to the first GOP primary debate in 2015, Roger Ailes may have tipped off Trump about Megyn Kelly’s question regarding his history of disparaging women.
A pair of Fox insiders and a source close to Trump believe that Ailes informed the Trump campaign about Kelly’s question. Two of those sources say that they know of the tipoff from a purported eyewitness. In addition, a former Trump campaign aide says that a Fox contact gave him advance notice of a different debate question, which asked the candidates whether they would support the Republican nominee, regardless of who won.
A FoxNews.com reporter had the Stormy Daniels story in the fall of 2016, but it never ran.
[Diana] Falzone’s story didn’t run — it kept being passed off from one editor to the next. After getting one noncommittal answer after another from her editors, Falzone at last heard from [Ken] LaCorte, who was then the head of FoxNews.com. Falzone told colleagues that LaCorte said to her, “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.” LaCorte denies telling Falzone this, but one of Falzone’s colleagues confirms having heard her account at the time.
Trump allegedly ordered Gary Cohn to pressure the Justice Department into blocking AT&T from purchasing Time Warner.
Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs, evidently understood that it would be highly improper for a President to use the Justice Department to undermine two of the most powerful companies in the country as punishment for unfavorable news coverage, and as a reward for a competing news organization that boosted him. According to the source, as Cohn walked out of the meeting he told Kelly, “Don’t you fucking dare call the Justice Department. We are not going to do business that way.”
Former Fox host and current Donald Trump Jr. girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle farmed out her show prep to a viewer in Georgia, who threatened Mayer when she got in touch.
To the astonishment of colleagues, the Fox co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle often prepared for “The Five” by relying on information provided to her by an avid fan: a viewer from Georgia named David Townsend, who had no affiliation either with Fox News or with journalism. She’d share the day’s planned topics with Townsend, and then he’d e-mail her suggested content. A former colleague of Guilfoyle’s says, “It was a joke among the production assistants — they were, like, ‘Wait till you hear this!’ She actually got research from him! It was the subject of hilarity.” …
When I asked Townsend about his e-mails to Guilfoyle, he said, “Mind your own business. I’m just a Fox fan. I’m a keyboard warrior. I’m a nobody.” He said, “I’ve sent stuff to various people at Fox for years, and I don’t get a penny for it,” and added, “I don’t know what tree you’re barking up but you better be careful.”