The leader of the free world, a man who could order the launch of nuclear weapons, who has been signaling he wants to pull out of the Iran deal, whose travel ban is before the Supreme Court, spent half an hour ranting to Fox & Friends about his television viewing habits. The three hosts’ smiles and laughter grew increasingly strained as it became slowly apparent that the president would not get off the line unless forcibly removed, that maybe the president did not realize he had anything better to do, that the president would have to be reminded by the hosts of Fox & Friends that He Surely Had A Busy Schedule And A Lot Going On.
“Fake news CNN actually gave the questions to the —” Trump began.
“Yes, but don’t worry about them,” Brian Kilmeade said, as though it were an ordinary thing to remind the president of the United States to stop ranting about the debate questions asked by CNN two years ago.
Then: “When you look at some of the others — you look at like a CNN, they’ll have a council of seven people and of the seven people every one of them is against me. I’m saying, where do we — where do they even find these people? I appreciate the —”
“I’m not your doctor, Mr. President,” Kilmeade tried again, finding himself in the totally expected and fine position of having to urge the leader of the free world to stop watching so much cable news since clearly it was upsetting him, “but I would — I would recommend you watch less of them.”
“I don’t watch things now. I can put it out of my mind and I never, ever thought that that would be possible. And you know what that does? It keeps you on the ball. It keeps you — you keep your sanity and it works very well,” said the president of the United States, who had called in to “Fox & Friends” to yell about the cable news he was watching, while everyone on the panel stared into the camera with the hollow, shark-like gaze of people realizing that hell is empty and all the devils are here. “But last night I did watch — ”
“Mr. President, I have one question,” Ainsley Earhardt tried, as though the leader of the free world were not shouting like someone she hoped never to sit next to at Thanksgiving again.
“I did watch a liar-leaker — ” Here Steve Doocy laughed a hollow, uncomfortable laugh, as though by the mechanical motion of laughter he could stave off the dawning realization of the horror of his position, trying to get the president of the United States, spouting unhinged factless theories about conspiracy, off the television before he caused himself legal trouble, “and his performance, by the way, was horrible.”
It began to be clear that he would never leave, that they would be trapped here with him as long as the sun burned, with people from other Fox departments having to run in periodically with sandwiches and bottled water as the president continued to speak in one great, burning, horrible loop, that these would be the clothes that they would die in, and that, worst of all, they would learn nothing. Maybe in the fourth hour they would start to get a glimpse of the kind of man Trump really was, inside. If he were just left to talk long enough, he might start sloughing off the onion layers of his personality and reveal things about his heart and his childhood that no one had ever before been told. But already they could tell that this would not be the case. This was not the kind of interview where if you just sat there long enough you would discover something new; it would simply get more and more alarming as it doubled back on itself, it would be an interview drawn by M.C. Escher or Salvador Dalí where you were trapped and circling around and around in a dream-landscape with a nightmare physics that bore no resemblance to reality and every clock in the studio melted.
“And you look at the corruption at the top of the FBI. It’s a disgrace. And our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point I won’t,” Trump said.
“Okay,” said Kilmeade, as though that were not a horrifying and alarming statement in every regard.
“Our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia. There is no collusion with me — ”
“All right,” Earnhardt said, trying frantically to remember whether America had agreed on any kind of safe word before the election.
” — and Russia, and everyone knows it,” Trump said.
“Everyone,” Kilmeade said. “We could talk to you all day but it looks like — ”
“Sure,” Trump said.
” — you have a million things to do.”
“Well, you could have,” Trump began.
“But I hope you can join us again, Mr. President,” Kilmeade said, since Fox decorum I guess prohibited shouting, “GET OFF THE PHONE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY.”
And the president kept going! Here is how the Fox News transcript of the exchange ends.
EARHARDT: Thank you so much for much for being with us.
TRUMP: And, Ainsley, good luck with your book. It’s going to be a winner.
EARHARDT: Thank you. Thank you so much.
DOOCY: And happy birthday to Melania.
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
KILMEADE: We’ll see you next Thursday, Mr. President.
TRUMP: OK, thank you.
KILMEADE: The phone line’s open.
TRUMP: Sounds OK.
DOOCY: Call in again some time.
EARHARDT: Thank you.
TRUMP: Good. Thank you, bye.
KILMEADE: Very nice of you to call in.
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