"Fox & Friends" co-hosts, from left, Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade appear in January 2018 on their set in New York. (Richard Drew/AP)
Media critic

Steve Doocy has earned his mark of distinction from President Trump.

The longtime co-host of the rotten morning program “Fox & Friends” is among the network anchors who have been graded by Trump on loyalty. The news comes from a fresh story by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer:

Trump has told confidants that he has ranked the loyalty of many reporters, on a scale of 1 to 10. Bret Baier, Fox News’ chief political anchor, is a 6; Hannity a solid 10. Steve Doocy, the co-host of “Fox & Friends,” is so adoring that Trump gives him a 12.

How does a “Fox & Friends” star secure such extra credit? Well, by surrendering all independent thinking for years and years and years. To take an example that we’ve discussed previously in this space: Back in October 2010, “Fox & Friends” was talking with Donald Trump about international affairs. Trump trotted out a tired talking point: "We don’t have our talented people. ... I do a lot of business with China. ... You try doing business in China — it’s impossible. Yet they come here and make everything. Problem is, we don’t make anything anymore. We make it in China and other countries,” said the real estate mogul. Two months later, Trump sat on the “Fox & Friends” couch and again railed against China: “When I look at the jobs numbers and I see what’s going on in China, where it’s booming — you know why it’s booming? Because they’re making all our products.”

Doocy had a thought: “We don’t make anything anymore.” Trump agreed with Doocy’s repetition of his own talking point: “We don’t make anything," said the future president.

Consider that this moment of supreme sycophancy occurred months before Trump secured his weekly call-in gig to provide commentary for “Fox & Friends" and years before Trump kicked off his 2016 presidential campaign. The “12” ranking for Doocy is spot-on, a reflection of a deep knowledge of Fox News won through hours upon hours of watching. We know through Mark Leibovich of the New York Times that Trump — a fan of TiVo — isn’t above wasting his hours watching a recorded version of “Fox & Friends.” Hour after hour after hour, Doocy has proved extraordinarily willing to repeat White House spin and extraordinarily unwilling to challenge the president, while longtime colleague Brian Kilmeade has occasionally shown evidence of journalistic familiarity.

On one level, Trump’s loyalty scale advances a well-rehearsed Fox News defense — namely, that there’s a divide between the network’s straight-news and opinion brokers. Whenever people like Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson or Doocy say something ridiculous, that is, the response from the network’s PR shop is that these fellows work on the opinion side of the operation — as if the rules bearing on opinionators allow for racism, misogyny and political activism. It’s a cynical spin on the traditional newspaper’s news-editorial separation. (And there’s some cross-pollination, too. Just last year, Fox News moved Porter Berry, former executive producer of “Hannity,” to a position overseeing all digital content, including news.)

Make no mistake, however: The Shepard Smiths and Bret Baiers can’t redeem the work of the Sean Hannitys. When the Fox News audience surges, so does the misinformation.

Read more:

Erik Wemple: The Michael Cohen hearing felt like a Fox News rant

Erik Wemple: Fox News host boosts Mar-a-Lago

Erik Wemple: Fox News is finally getting its national emergency

Paul Waldman: Welcome to the Fox News presidency

Erik Wemple: Where’s the fact check, Fox News?