Though it’s always hard to tell when a fabulous negotiator is bluffing, Donald Trump appears scandalized by the media treatment he has received since he launched his presidential campaign five weeks ago. He blamed the media for misportraying his comments about Mexican immigrants at his kickoff speech on June 16 — even though those comments were unequivocal. And he’s blaming the media for doing the same thing regarding his Saturday remarks calling into question Sen. John McCain’s status as a war hero — even though those remarks were pretty clear. “I think when people looked at my statement, they said that it was right. It was just really messed up by the press, as usual, the media,” said Trump this morning. The real estate mogul and his backers have made a number of similar statements in recent weeks.
Perhaps Trump’s disappointment comes straight out of the bubble that he has built on the set of “Fox & Friends” in recent years. The hosts of the Fox News morning program, after all, have set quite a standard for sycophancy.
It was a steady engagement: Trump would share his views on the issues of the day with the “Fox & Friends” crew on Monday mornings. He’d talk and talk and talk as the hosts nodded in agreement. Anyone who has listened to a Trump speech these days would recognize the talking points, which ranged from how China is killing us to the insecurity of the U.S. border with Mexico to whatever else was on his mind that particular Monday morning.
Great partnership from the start. In an April 2011 appearance, Trump recounted how he’d stirred up some concerns with a position he’d previously outlined on Fox News: “I very simply said that Iran is going to take over Iraq and if that’s going to happen, we should just stay there and take the oil. They want the oil….We deneutered Iraq; Iran’s going to walk in, take it over, take over the second-largest oil fields in the world. That’s going to happen. That would mean that all those soldiers who died and been wounded and everything else would have died in vain.”
No pushback from “Fox & Friends.” Just look at the communal head-nodding on the set, as showcased toward the end of the video below:
Another lowlight came in June 2013. After U.S. news organizations published stories based on leaks from National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, Trump said: “There is still a thing called execution…we’re not going to have a country any longer.” Instead of perhaps pressing Trump on going overboard in suggesting the death penalty for leaking government documents, “Fox & Friends” sought only to endorse the point. “But the president’s talking about global warming on Tuesday,” ripped co-host Brian Kilmeade. “He’s not even addressing this!” Trump responded by talking about how in the 1920s, magazines were concerned about “global cooling.”
Though Trump bagged his regular gig on “Fox & Friends” when he declared as a candidate, there’s nothing stopping the program from bringing him on as a presidential candidate. That happened this morning, and the results did not constitute a new low for “Fox & Friends,” though that’s by no means an endorsement. Herewith a one-sentence summation of just how “Fox & Friends” treated its old pal.
Co-hosts Steve Doocy, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Kilmeade showed video of Trump yesterday doxxing Sen. Lindsey Graham at a South Carolina speech, a stunt that Trump said he’d done for “fun” and for which he had no regrets, leading to an observation from Doocy about how Trump is like a “Navy SEAL” who “never backs down” — an appropriate trait for the United States of America to adopt, responded Trump, who fielded a question from Kilmeade about whether the famed author of “The Art of the Deal” would have handled Iran differently (of course he would have), teeing up a statement from Doocy that “you appear to be doing your thing and doing it well,” later noting that the family members of Americans killed by undocumented immigrants “were saluting you on Capitol Hill yesterday”: All comments that Trump enjoyed and affirmed, even as he took a slightly difficult inquiry from Hasselbeck about his McCain-war-hero remarks, which was followed by more unthinkable fluff (Kilmeade: “You are doing something nobody thought possible.”) and yet more unthinkable fluff, as Hasselbeck asked Trump who else in the field is for real and would make a “good partner for you moving forward,” a clear suggestion that Trump would win the Republican nomination, though the candidate perhaps missed the point, saying, “Donald Trump is real,” to which both Doocy and Hasselbeck responded sequentially, “There you go.”
That sentence abridges 12½ minutes of airtime on “Fox & Friends,” which is the leading morning program on cable television news by a mile, despite its persistent swerves into sheer idiocy. That’s pretty much a double segment of free advertising for a presidential contender. How much do Trump’s competitors value such exposure? Well, just look at what Trump said yesterday. Several years back, Graham, the senator from South Carolina who’s running against Trump and many others, asked the mogul for a “good reference” for “Fox & Friends.” Via that request, Graham apparently passed along his phone number to Trump, who read off the digits yesterday on the campaign trail. “I wonder if it would be possible for you to call Fox,” Graham said, according to Trump. He then gave a shout-out to “Fox & Friends”: “Because, you know, until I ran that little thing I do just for fun — ‘Fox & Friends’ are so great — Brian and Steve and Elisabeth — they’re great people, right? They’re great,” said Trump on the stump.
The Republican establishment has worried that Trump’s travels in recent weeks have dragged down the party’s brand. Those worries may well prove legitimate. Yet “Fox & Friends” needn’t be concerned about a similar dynamic stemming from its association with Trump, given its already-well-proven awfulness. This is one brand that not even Trump can sully.