President Trump says he wants to change the channel on Fox News, the cable network that helped make his political career and whose hosts have consistently defended his administration.
Trump lashed out at Fox on Wednesday morning, accusing the network in tweets of “heavily promoting the Democrats,” and adding, “The New @FoxNews is letting millions of GREAT people down! We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us anymore!”
The tweets were the latest, and perhaps the bluntest, criticisms of Fox that Trump has broadcast to his nearly 64 million Twitter followers, despite unwavering support from Fox’s top-rated opinion programs. In the past, the symbiosis between Fox and the Trump administration has been so close that critics have called the network “state TV ,” effectively branding it a propaganda organ.
Trump’s morning fusillade followed Fox anchor Sandra Smith’s interview of Xochitl Hinojosa, the communications director for the Democratic National Committee, in which she discussed next month’s Democratic presidential debate, among other things.
The president’s blast at Fox wasn’t new — he has attacked Fox anchor Shepard Smith and newly hired contributor Donna Brazile, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee, among others at the network in recent months — but it was revealing.
There are two potential interpretations of Trump’s comment that “Fox isn’t working for us anymore.” One is that the president is generally disdainful of the network; the other suggests Trump believes Fox is an arm of his administration and reelection campaign. The latter notion is one that people at Fox reject.
Brit Hume, a longtime Fox analyst and host, responded to Trump on Twitter, writing, “Fox News isn’t supposed to work for you.”
Trump’s comments were also consistent with past critiques: He has railed against any criticism uttered by commentators appearing on Fox, including by Brazile and Juan Williams, the network’s left-leaning pundit. He has also attacked its polling, claiming that it is biased in favor of Democrats.
Throughout, Fox has remained officially silent. Its spokespeople have not offered a rebuttal to the president’s criticism. A spokesperson once again declined to comment on Wednesday.
The president’s anti-Fox tweets serve as a kind of counterweight against Democrats’ accusation that the network is far too sympathetic in its news coverage of and commentary about Trump.
In fact, the nexus between Fox and Trump has long been close. Starting in 2011, Fox gave Trump a regular slot on “Fox & Friends,” its daily morning program, in which Trump promoted his political ideas, including his discredited “birther” conspiracy theory against President Barack Obama, in preparation for his presidential campaign in 2015.
Several former Fox commentators and personalities, such as national security adviser John Bolton and former State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, joined Trump’s administration directly from the network. Bill Shine, a former Fox executive, was briefly Trump’s communications director.
Trump has given many interviews to Fox, including to its biggest star, Sean Hannity, who has campaigned on Trump’s behalf and frequently offers him private advice.
Last week, Fox hired former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders to be an on-air commentator.
But that appears to not be good enough for Trump.
“HOPELESS & CLUELESS!” he thundered on Twitter Wednesday. “They should go all the way LEFT and I will still find a way to Win.”
Earlier this month, in a tweet trashing CNN (“Fake News”) and Shepard Smith, Trump said he turns to One America News Network (OAN) as an alternative. OAN, based in San Diego and founded in 2013, is consistently pro-Trump, but it is far smaller and less influential among Trump supporters than Fox. The privately owned network said in June that it reaches 35 million homes, mostly via DirecTV and Verizon Fios, a fraction of the 90 million or so homes that can access Fox.
Further, Fox is typically the most-watched network on cable, while OAN has a negligible audience at most hours of the day.