President Trump started his Friday the same way he begins many days: watching and live-tweeting “Fox & Friends.” But Friday was special because one of the show's co-hosts, Steve Doocy, was not in the program's New York studio; he was stationed outside the White House.
“Wow,” the president tweeted, “the highest rated (by far) morning show, @foxandfriends, is on the Front Lawn of the White House. Maybe I’ll have to take an unannounced trip down to see them?”
The awe appeared to be mutual.
“Wow,” co-host Brian Kilmeade said when Doocy read Trump's tweet on the air a short time later.
A remarkable scene ensued, with Doocy providing the play-by-play.
“You cannot see this,” Doocy told his colleagues and viewers, “but just about 50 feet over that way, there are about a hundred members of the Washington press corps, hoping the president makes history by actually come out to talk to one of the cameras on the North Lawn at his house.”
Eighteen minutes later, Fox News advised other news outlets that the president would indeed make an impromptu appearance on the air. Eight minutes after that, Trump emerged from the White House and was surrounded by reporters, as he made his way toward Doocy's position.
“You are about to see on the Fox News Channel something that has never happened, we believe, in the history of White House reporting,” Doocy said, imbuing the moment with maximum significance. “And that is, you know, the president of the United States is just outside the press room, and it looks as if he is en route to our location.”
As Trump moved through a throng of journalists, Doocy could not contain giddy laughter.
“This is crazy,” he said. “The president of the United States is coming up the driveway, in front of the West Wing. And I’ve got a feeling this is going to be really noisy, as everybody’s got a question. … Every single reporter here at the White House is now heading to the Fox booth.”
Trump was so engulfed that he failed to spot Doocy and walked past.
“Mr. President,” Doocy shouted. “Whoa! Over here.”
Doocy clipped a microphone onto the president's suit coat, and Trump asked, “Are we on already?”
“We’re on. We’re live,” Doocy replied.
“Wow,” said Trump.
“Wow” was the word of the day.
“I was mugged by the media,” Trump added, sounding slightly out of breath from his journey.
Doocy and the president discussed the Justice Department inspector general's report on the FBI and its investigation of Hillary Clinton's private email use as secretary of state. They talked about tariffs on China and Trump's birthday, which was Thursday.
Then Trump returned to the subject of the reporters who had mobbed him.
“If you noticed, when I came over, they were all saying about separating the families,” Trump said, referring to questions about his administration's crackdown on immigration. “And that’s a Democrat bill. That’s Democrats wanting to do that, and they could solve it very easily by getting together. But they think it’s a good election point; I think it’s a horrible election point for them.”
Trump's comments led to this exchange:
DOOCY: Ultimately Congress has got to change the law.
TRUMP: They gotta change the law.
DOOCY: But, at the same time, Mr. President, people say, “Look, you rip these families apart. Even though it is the law, it’s heartless.”
TRUMP: But it’s the law, and that’s what the Democrats gave us. And we’re willing to change it today, if they want to get in and negotiate.
What Trump and Doocy said was untrue. There is no law, passed by Democrats or anyone else, that requires immigration officers to separate families that arrive at U.S. borders seeking asylum or attempting to enter the country illegally.
The Trump administration has chosen to implement a policy of separating children from their parents as a “tough deterrent,” White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly explained in a recent interview on NPR.
Trump's affirming, counterfactual conversation with Doocy encapsulated his relationship with “Fox & Friends,” which reinforces his claims and enjoys the kind of access that was on display Friday.
“You guys aren’t fake,” the president told Doocy, at one point.
“Fox & Friends” is usually Trump's reality, and on Friday it was Trump's reality show.