Kanye West’s visit to the White House — not as a musical guest, but as a potential policy adviser — was hailed by conservatives and rewarded with glowing coverage on Fox News.
Prime-time anchor Tucker Carlson could barely contain himself, admitting the musical artist came across as a bit scattered but calling West’s comments in the Oval Office on Thursday amazing, poignant and brave.
“Listen carefully to what he said,” Carlson said Thursday night. “Sprinkled throughout his ramblings are flashes of truth, real insights into the way the world actually is rather than the way they tell us it is. Nobody else is allowed to talk this way. Go ahead and try it at work, you’ll get fired. West doesn’t care. And that makes him dangerous to a system that is based almost entirely on piety and lying. If you’re benefiting from a system like that, Kanye West must be crushed.”
Hours later, “Fox & Friends” teed up Trump-supporting sisters Lynnette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson to praise West’s White House visit — and to attack the way “the left-wing media are spinning it.”
It wasn’t always this way.
For years, Fox News hosts, contributors and anchors have used rap artists as a foil to make political points. Here’s a brief list of some of the ways the network talked about hip-hop and rappers during the Barack Obama years.
The kerfuffle began in the world of conservative media when words of a poem that hip-hop artist Common had performed at a Def Poetry Slam were dredged up and posted online. Common, long lionized by lovers of so-called conscious rap for his sophisticated wordplay and R&B-inflected beats, had spoken critically of President George W. Bush and bemoaned police conduct, rapping that he had a “black strap to make the cops run" and “Burn a Bush cause for peace he no push no button.”
Sites like the Daily Caller, which Carlson co-founded, ran the lyrics in full and sneered at the content.
“You’ll get extra credit for counting the death threats,” the writer wrote. “There is no extra credit for identifying spelling errors.”
Fox ran headlines online that called Common “vile” and “cop-killer rapper.” Sarah Palin weighed in on Twitter, and Sean Hannity devoted a large portion of his show to it.
“It baffles me that this is the person the White House chooses to set as an example for our kids,” Hannity said. “This is not a guy we want our kids to listen to.”
But the White House was not swayed.
“The noise of outside outrage didn’t penetrate the relaxed, melodic atmosphere of the East Room, where Common was just another member of a varied cast of poets,” The Washington Post’s Dan Zak wrote of the event.
Jay-Z is one of the most successful rappers of his generation, with a career spanning more than two decades and business interests across the worlds of fashion, music streaming, clubs and restaurants. But he is also an avowed supporter of Democrats such as Obama, and in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton.
Fox has noticed.
After Obama visited Jay-Z’s 40/40 club for a fundraiser in the months before the 2012 election, Sean Hannity honed in on the rapper’s rough-and-tumble upbringing.
“For only 40,000 bucks,” he said of the fundraiser, “you could have rubbed shoulders with a president and a rapper who has admitted to selling crack and shooting his own brother."
Beyoncé, too, has been a target of anchors on the network for the social messages she has embedded in her work — like her homage to the Black Panthers during the halftime show of the 2016 Super Bowl — and also, at least in the mind of former anchor Bill O’Reilly, for being too racy. (Jay-Z and Beyoncé are married.)
In the Trump era, Fox has also continued to run negative coverage of Jay-Z, who has been outspoken in his criticism of President Trump.
In 2016, a Fox News anchor questioned the rapper Rick Ross’s presence at the White House after TMZ reported his court-mandated ankle monitor went off at the event. Ross had been charged with misdemeanor kidnapping and assault after he and a bodyguard allegedly assaulted two service workers who threw a party at his house without permission in 2015.
“Is this the kind of role model that our president thinks our kids need?” The host asked. “Ironically, Ross was invited there to support a program meant to keep young black people out of trouble.”
Ross and bodyguard Nadrian Lateef James were later sentenced to five years of probation after pleading no contest to the charges.
The Los Angeles-reared rapper, who, like Common, is known for the sophistication of his lyrics and beats, fell into the network’s sights after a politically charged appearance at the BET Awards in 2015. Lamar performed his song “Alright” from the top of a police car that was marred with graffiti. Fox ran a clip of the performance afterward, and host Eric Bolling noted that the song lyrics were critical of the police.
“Uh, I don’t like it,” Fox personality Kimberly Guilfoyle said.
“Not helpful at all,” Geraldo Rivera chimed in. “This is why I say that hip-hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years. This is exactly the wrong message.”
Of course, before he became beloved by the pro-Trump crowd, West had earned some of the conservative world’s ire for his many high-profile antics, including going off script to skewer Bush during a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina and cutting off Taylor Swift at the VMAs. (Obama called him a jackass in a famous hot mic incident.) Jill Dobson, then a Fox News correspondent, grouped Kanye West with other “gangsta” rappers like Lil Wayne and Jay-Z, calling him sarcastically “the ultimate gentleman, as Taylor Swift knows” to refute a statement Common made about how Obama was helping elevate rap music.
“I believe it’s Kenyay,” host Greg Gutfeld said, making an incomprehensible joke about Kanye’s name.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Kendrick Lamar song from the album “DAMN.” that featured a clip from Fox News. It was “BLOOD,” not “DNA.”