President Trump has repeatedly defended his use of Twitter by insisting that it is his outlet for speaking directly to his supporters. It is his voice, he argues, allowing him to present his point of view to the people of America without the “filter” — read: fact-checking — of the mainstream media.
Over the past three weeks, he’s increasingly been handing his personal megaphone over to someone else: the Fox News program “Fox and Friends.” Over the past two days, nearly half of Trump’s tweets have been retweets of items from the show. Over the past three weeks, one out of every 13 tweets from his @realDonaldTrump account have simply been retweets of @foxandfriends.
Since he was inaugurated, Trump has retweeted the show’s tweets 27 times and mentioned the show 45 times, including plugging two interviews of himself and one of his daughter Ivanka. In February, he declared that the program is “great.” The New York Times Magazine’s cover story this week looks at Washington in the era of Trump; in one scene, Trump is described by reporter Mark Leibovich as sitting and watching a recorded episode of “Fox and Friends” at 12:30 p.m. (In that conversation, Trump also defends his use of Twitter to Leibovich as being “my voice,” which he is not going to allow “them” to “take away.”)
It should not come as a surprise that Trump has embraced the show. Before he was president, he appeared on it every Monday morning, calling in to offer his thoughts on whatever important political subject was being tackled at the moment.
Nor should it come as a surprise given how gently the show has treated Trump’s presidency. The show’s Trump interviews are notoriously soft, and its day-to-day coverage of the administration is generally glowing. So “Fox and Friends” tweets, and those tweets are basically things that Trump would say anyway, so he retweets them.
On Monday, though, Trump went further. After the show reported that former FBI director James B. Comey had leaked top secret information to a friend, Trump ran with it.
James Comey leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION to the media. That is so illegal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2017
The problem, though, is that the “Fox and Friends” report was inaccurate.
The show, picking up a story from the Hill, reported that memos produced by Comey following his conversations with Trump included top secret information and that such information was included in a memo that Comey asked a friend to give to the New York Times. The Hill never reported that, though, and the show was forced to offer a correction, first on Twitter and then on air Tuesday morning.
Correction: Comey's memos did not have top secret info. The report says half were classified at secret or confidential level, not top secret
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) July 11, 2017
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) July 11, 2017
“Yesterday on this program,” host Steve Doocy said Tuesday, “we aired and tweeted a story saying former FBI director James Comey leaked memos containing top secret information. We were mistaken in that. According to the report, half of the memos contained information classified at the ‘secret’ or ‘confidential’ level, not ‘top secret.’ And the markings of the government documents which Mr. Comey leaked are at this point unclear.”
That last part is the more important part, of course: There’s no evidence at hand that Comey leaked anything classified, and, in fact, he testified under oath that what he gave to his friend to pass to Times reporters was not classified.
Despite that somewhat shaky correction, the show did not delete its original, erroneous tweet, which Trump retweeted on Monday morning.
Report accuses material James Comey leaked to a friend contained top secret information pic.twitter.com/Hkg4cAb6o9
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) July 10, 2017
Nor, of course, has Trump backed away from his unsubstantiated accusation that Comey broke the law.
That’s the thing about having access to the social-media voice of Donald Trump. As long as you’re putting out the message that Trump wants his base to hear, he’s happy to stick his megaphone in front of your mouth. If not? Well.
Since his inauguration, Trump has consistently lambasted the news media as propagating fake news, seizing on news reports about factual inaccuracies from outlets that he dislikes as proof that they cannot be trusted.
On June 27, for example, he tweeted this:
Wow, CNN had to retract big story on "Russia," with 3 employees forced to resign. What about all the other phony stories they do? FAKE NEWS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2017
He then retweeted “Fox and Friends” four times in a row.