President Trump spends many mornings — most mornings? — watching “Fox and Friends” on Fox News Channel. He regularly tunes into Fox News’ prime-time programming, too, and sometimes even plugs them on Twitter. Fox News airs ideas, and Trump reacts to or repeats them. Sometimes Fox then reacts to Trump and so on down the line. An orange-blond fox eating its own tail.
Savvy Fox News guests and hosts are aware that the most powerful person in the world is probably tuning in and have tried to leverage that by offering Trump advice or instruction. Advisers to the president reportedly try to influence him by planting ideas on Fox shows, as the AP reported this week.
“Some aides, convinced that Trump puts more stock in what he sees on TV than in his own aides’ advice, regularly phone prominent commentators and news hosts to provide talking points on everything from tax policy to Syria in hopes of influencing Trump,” Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin reported. “Similar strategies have also been embraced by foreign governments and outside groups trying to sway the president’s thinking.” A former sailor who pleaded guilty to a felony made his case for a pardon on “Fox News” — and got one.
As it turns out, that success may have been in the minority. Media Matters put together a video showing a number of people making direct requests of the president during Fox News programming or simply talking to him on the assumption that he was watching. We decided to evaluate those examples to see whether this tactic was successful, operating under the hypothesis that making explicit your appeal to the president may lack the subtlety necessary to get your way. For the most part, the advice was either ignored, irrelevant — or still pending.
June 20, 2017. Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa: Don’t let people go to North Korea
“Hey, Mr. President, how about putting on a travel ban to any American who’s crazy enough to go behind the kimchi curtain of North Korea and deal with the evil seed of Kim Jong mentally ill?”
Did this work? Well, maybe. In July, Trump announced a ban on Americans traveling to North Korea.
Aug. 20, 2017. Host Steve Hilton: Be a populist
“Mr. President, your supporters just want you to succeed and to make America great again. The way to do that is to stick to your populist agenda.”
Did this work? It’s subjective, depending on what part of Trump’s agenda is “populist” and how you evaluate his success on that metric.
Sep. 21, 2017. Retired Chicago police officer Peter Koconis: Send people to Chicago
“Well, if I’m talking to the president: Mr. President, send people here to help. Put boots on the ground here.”
Did this work? Trump said in June that he would send federal support to Chicago. ATF sent 20 agents to the city to help do ballistics testing that month. By the end of 2016, murders were down 15 percent, thanks to a decline that began in August.
Oct. 10, 2017. Host Neil Cavuto: Stop bad-mouthing Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)
“What if I told you it is the president himself who risks torpedoing [the tax cuts deal]? Mr. ‘Art of the Deal’ is killing the deal. I’m talking about your deal, Mr. President. I’m actually talking to you, Mr. President. You’ve got this, and yet you are losing this.”
Did this work? It did not.
Tax cuts passed anyway, with Corker’s support. On Wednesday, Corker declared that if estimates that the cuts would spike the debt were correct, that vote “could well be one of the worst votes I’ve made.”
Oct. 15, 2017. Radio host Larry O’Connor: Ignore the Times
“A little advice for the commander in chief. Mr. President, do what the rest of us do: Ignore the New York Times.”
Did this work? It did not. O’Connor was warned, though, that Trump might not hear his appeal on that particular Sunday afternoon.
“He’s golfing,” the Fox host said. “He may not be watching. Maybe he DVR’d it.”
Nov. 21, 2017. Host Brian Kilmeade: Don’t respond to LaVar Ball’s father on Twitter
“I want him to go away. Please. Please, Mr. President, don’t tweet back. I don’t want to talk about this tomorrow.”
Did this work? Kilmeade was warned: Co-host Steve Doocy was skeptical that it would, telling Kilmeade that “the president is going to tweet when the president wants to tweet.”
And sure enough:
Jan. 11, 2018. Judge Andrew Napolitano: Don’t support the FISA Act renewal
“Mr. President, this is not the way to go. Spying is valid to find the foreign agents among us, but it’s gotta be based on suspicion.”
Did this work? It did — briefly.
Trump, apparently watching, tweeted skepticism about the bill shortly after Napolitano spoke. But an hour-and-a-half later, after congressional leaders and White House staff scrambled, Trump revised his opinion.
Jan. 24, 2018. Host Steve Doocy: Don’t talk to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III
“Mr. President, whatever you do, don’t meet him face-to-face.”
Did this work? We shall see.
Feb. 20, 2018. Doocy: Good point about how Obama let Russia interfere
“Well, you know what, Mr. President? That’s a great point, because we know historically that President Obama told reporters after the election that he had told Putin in September before the election.”
Did this work? This wasn’t really advice, clearly, but it was a rare occasion in which the praise for Trump’s actions and behavior was not implicit.
It’s possible (or likely) that this tactic is becoming more common. In the past several weeks, multiple people have made direct requests of Trump, all of which are yet to be resolved.
March 24, 2018. Host Jesse Watters: Don’t talk to Mueller
“Let me repeat, Mr. President: Do not speak with special counsel Robert Mueller. But if you do, do it Crooked Hillary style.”
April 1, 2018. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.): Don’t pull troops from Syria
“Well, Mr. President, when it comes to Russia, read the Reagan playbook. When it comes to Syria, do not read the Obama playbook.”
April 9, 2018. Syrian American Council’s Bassam Rifai: Take out Assad’s air force
“President Trump, I’m speaking to you directly. Do not take the same mistakes that President Obama had made. The action that you had taken in Khan Shaykhun to take out the air base there, that was important, and that was strong.”
After the Media Matters video came out, Graham made another direct appeal to the president.
April 10, 2018. Graham: Don’t interfere with Mueller
“So Mr. President, if you’re watching, I think you’re going to be fine unless you screw this up. Let the process play out. I don’t think you colluded with the Russians, but Mueller will soon tell us.”
We may get an answer on whether this was effective shortly.