Former president Barack Obama in December 2017 in Chicago. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
Media critic

There was a time when Fox News, along with its cable-news brethren, found the national debt to be a compelling story. Spikes in such coverage, as our colleague Philip Bump has pointed out, occurred pretty steadily in the Obama years, when Republicans deployed spending scares against the Democratic president.

A report by the Congressional Budget Office in late June raised an alarm about the tax cuts pushed by President Trump, citing impacts on the national debt and the prospect of a financial crisis. “The federal debt currently stands at about $15 trillion, or 78% of the size of U.S. economy. If current trends continue, it will roughly equal the size of the economy within a decade, the budget office said. The last time the debt burden hit that level was just after World War II,” noted a write-up in the Los Angeles Times. “The biggest problem in the coming decade stems from last year’s tax cut. It is estimated to increase the deficit by more than $2.3 trillion over the decade.”

The CBO report had a tough time getting noticed, given all the attention to Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s treatment at a Virginia restaurant, Supreme Court decisions and the rest of the Trump-era noise.

Leave it to Brian Kilmeade, of the reliably Trump-sycophantic “Fox & Friends,” to raise the profile of the national debt, right in the middle of the Trump administration.

On Friday’s show, “Fox & Friends” was hanging out at another diner, interviewing patrons and stirring up bonhomie all across the United States of America. Typically what happens in these ham-and-eggs interviews is that people talk about how things are improving under Trump, though sometimes the proceedings go awry — as when a guy thrust a “FOX LIES” sign into a taping. And so it was that co-host Ainsley Earhardt this morning summed up the quote of a Florida diner customer as saying that the Trump economy was the very best of his life. That set off a little chat.

“Probably true,” said co-host Pete Hegseth, the same man who introduced — technically, “interviewed” — Trump at a Montana rally.

Co-host Brian Kilmeade responded, “So far, it seems — except for the $21 trillion in debt — that kind of bothers me.”

Hegseth: “You can only take care of one thing at a time, Brian. One thing at a time.”

Earhardt: “What’s one more trillion?”

Check the debt clock: Kilmeade had it right.

As The Post’s Avi Selk noted this week, Kilmeade has been more inclined than his fellow couch-sitters to take issue with Trump, as when the co-host this week criticized the president for his mocking of Christine Blasey Ford. There have been other occasions as well.

The theory of the Erik Wemple Blog is that Kilmeade got shamed when, during the presidential campaign, he didn’t sufficiently oppose Trump promoting the National Enquirer’s cockamamie story about Ted Cruz’s father and the JFK assassination. People noticed. “I do regret not following up after he said Ted Cruz’s dad was with Lee Harvey Oswald. Kind of totally got me by surprise personally,” Kilmeade later said on his radio show. “I let myself down on that, and I’ve been kicking myself ever since.”

Could that explain why Kilmeade expresses at least minimal skepticism of Trump’s claims from time to time? We requested an interview, but Fox News said it would “pass” on the opportunity. Whatever the provenance, Kilmeade will surely keep these moments in careful check. Going too far, after all, might imperil the grand distinction between “Fox & Friends” and normal TV journalism, and Fox News won’t stand for that.

(H/T Mediaite)