Tommy Fisher runs a construction company called Fisher Industries. Fisher believes that he and his company have built a better mousetrap — or, more accurately, a better migrant barrier that could be rapidly implemented on the border with Mexico. But securing a government contract, particularly for a job as politically tricky as the border wall, is no easy feat.
So Fisher did what anyone would do who wants to attract the eye of decision-makers in Washington: He lobbied. For the border wall, there’s one politician in particular whose blessing would be important and for that politician, there’s one lobbying mechanism in particular that’s effective. As Fisher was well aware.
To reach that politician — President Trump — Fisher appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends” for a sit-down interview on March 5. He was on Maria Bartiromo’s morning show on Fox Business Network on April 3. Early the next morning, he was interviewed on the Fox News early morning talk show “Fox and Friends First.” Asked if he supported Trump’s effort to build the wall, Fisher said he did.
On April 16, his company was covered on Fox News’ show “Special Report with Bret Baier.” The segment was used the next morning in another “Fox and Friends First” segment. On April 21, the news show “Fox Report” covered Fisher’s proposal, including a pretaped interview with him.
The pinnacle of that effort, though, came on Sean Hannity’s program on April 25.
“What’s the latest with the wall?” Hannity asked his guest, who was joining him by phone. “What’s the latest on that situation and what is — I don’t know if you heard about this contractor that said he can build a whole wall for a lot cheaper than anybody else and get it done by 2020. Are you aware of that?”
The guest, President Trump, had.
“Yes, we are dealing with him, actually,” he said. “It’s Fisher, comes from North Dakota, recommended strongly by a great new senator as you know, Kevin Cramer. And they are real.”
Mission accomplished, as they say.
On Thursday, The Post’s Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey reported on just how successful Fisher’s bid for attention has been.
“In phone calls, White House meetings and conversations aboard Air Force One during the past several months,” they reported, “Trump has aggressively pushed Dickinson, N.D.-based Fisher Industries to Department of Homeland Security leaders and Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general of the Army Corps, according to the administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal discussions.”
Trump gave credit to Cramer. Who did Cramer credit? Here’s Miroff and Dawsey:
Cramer said Trump likes Fisher because he had seen him on television advocating for his version of the barrier: “He’s been very aggressive on TV,” Cramer said of the CEO.
“You know who else watches Fox News?” Cramer asked.
It’s not as though Fisher has cracked some previously unrealized code here. It has consistently been the case that Fox News has been leveraged in the Trump era to influence the president’s decision-making.
For example, there is the case of Kristian Saucier, a former sailor who had been convicted of taking unauthorized photos of a Navy submarine and sentenced to a year in prison. In March 2018, he appeared on “Fox and Friends” to plead his case for leniency, framing his actions in contrast to those of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
It’s often not entirely clear if Trump has been tuning in to particular Fox News programs (though reporters such as Media Matters’ Matt Gertz can often link Trump’s tweets back to Fox programming). It seems likely, though, that Trump saw Saucier’s appeal.
Within a week, Saucier was pardoned.
There have been a number of examples of Trump following the lead of Fox commentators as well. Those have, at times, been direct, as when Trump accused Britain of having surveilled him after hearing Fox News’s Andrew Napolitano make that claim. Napolitano was also part of a conversation in January of last year calling into question a renewal of a surveillance law that spurred a skeptical tweet from the president. (A few hours later, after having spoken with staff, Trump tweeted his support for the renewal.) On another occasion, Trump tweeted a false stat about terrorists that he had cribbed from a Fox report.
Trump’s expectations about the reliability of Fox News as a source of political information came into clear relief earlier this week. After the network aired a town hall event with Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg, Trump complained on Twitter about how Fox had “forgot[ten] the people who got them there” — Republicans.
The president has also hired based on what he sees on Fox News. His current national security adviser, John Bolton, was a regular Fox News contributor for years. Heather Nauert, who served as the spokesman for the State Department until recently, came from “Fox and Friends” and was, briefly, in the running to serve as U.N. ambassador. There are any number of other appointees who have come from the ranks of Fox’s various business entities.
Even politicians seem to benefit from regular Fox News appearances. In May of last year, Politico reported on then-Rep. Ron DeSantis’s (R-Fla.) effort to parlay regular Fox News appearances into a successful run at the governor’s seat in Florida. Trump endorsed DeSantis out of the blue, and DeSantis leaned into the endorsement. He won the primary easily and the general election last November by a narrow margin.
DeSantis got an early boost from Hannity, who has been reported to be in near-daily communication with the president. It seems more than possible that when Hannity asked Trump about Fisher on the air last month, it was only after the two had discussed the construction firm’s CEO in private.
As far as lobbying efforts go, Fisher’s was well-executed.