The power of “Fox & Friends” was in sharp relief on Thursday morning, as President Trump quoted one of the show's graphics on Twitter and seemed to second-guess a position he had taken the night before because an on-air commentator urged him to reconsider.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Wednesday evening that the Trump administration wants Congress to reauthorize a section of the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act without amending the law to place new restrictions on information gathering.
“This amendment would reestablish the walls between intelligence and law enforcement that our country knocked down following the attacks of 9/11 in order to increase information sharing and improve our national security,” Sanders said. “The administration urges the House to reject this amendment and preserve the useful role FISA's Section 702 authority plays in protecting American lives.”
On “Fox & Friends,” host Steve Doocy remarked that “for the White House to be behind the part that will open more Americans up, that's surprising for the administration because it was the FISA — and essentially this whole program — that got Donald Trump in trouble with the Russian stuff.”
“I don't understand why Donald Trump is in favor of this,” added Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano. “His woes began with unlawful foreign surveillance and unconstitutional domestic surveillance of him before he was the president of the United States. And now he wants to institutionalize this.”
“Mr. President,” Napolitano continued, looking straight into the camera to address Trump directly, “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.”
An on-screen graphic during the segment read, “House votes on controversial FISA act today.” A short time later, Trump tweeted the same phrase in quotation marks and posed a question: “This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”
The president, it seemed, had just learned something from a cable-news morning show and seemed to be wondering whether his stance was the right one, after all.
Lest there be any doubt that Trump was indeed watching “Fox & Friends,” note that he mentioned the show by name in two other tweets on Thursday morning.
Whatever second thoughts the president entertained, he said in a follow-up tweet after “Fox & Friends” ended that he still supported reauthorization of the surveillance program.
The hosts of “Fox & Friends” appear to be fully aware of their influence — and to revel in it. New York Times television critic James Poniewozik wrote in July that “Fox & Friends” is “the most powerful TV show in America.”
“Mr. Doocy and [Brian] Kilmeade now offer strategic advice on health-care legislation,” Poniewozik added. “Politicians use the show as a kind of virtual Oval Office pitch meeting. In turn, Mr. Trump's live tweets set and reshape the show's focus.”
Fox News was so proud of the Times's declaration that “Fox & Friends” is “the most powerful TV show in America” that it took out a full-page ad in the Times to boast.