Neil Cavuto on Thursday offered Fox News’s most pointed rebuke over President Trump’s increasing complaints about his favorite mainstream cable news outlet — and apparent demand for more favorable coverage.
And Cavuto nailed it.
Let’s walk through what the Fox News host said, which came in response to a Trump tweet urging people to ditch Fox because it’s not “working for us anymore.” Below is the monologue in its entirety, with analysis sprinkled in:
CAVUTO: All right, well, I think the president watches Fox.
I also think he is getting sick of Fox, which is weird because I think he gets pretty fair coverage at Fox. But the president making clear to fact-check him is to be all but dead to him and his legion of supporters, who let me know in no uncertain terms I am either with him totally, or I am a never-Trumper fully.
There are no grays, no middle ground. You’re either all-in or you’re just out; loyal on everything or not to be trusted on anything.
Exactly right. What’s odd about Trump’s complaints is that he’s not really pointing to anything Fox gets wrong; he’s quibbling with the Democrats it has on-air — including Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa and Fox analysts Juan Williams and Donna Brazile — and suggesting they are afforded too much of a platform.
Trump tweeted Wednesday that Fox was “heavily promoting the Democrats” and said Hinojosa was “spewing out whatever she wanted with zero pushback by anchor” Sandra Smith.
He also attacked Williams, but didn’t seem to indicate that Williams said anything that was incorrect — just that he thought Williams was too “nasty” to him on-air despite being pleasant in person.
Trump’s other beef with Fox is with its polls, which are conducted by bipartisan pollsters and have long been in line with other surveys. After Fox released a bad poll for Trump earlier this month, Quinnipiac University released an even-worse one. Trump seems to believe Fox’s polls should be better for him than those from other outlets, which just isn’t how this works.
CAVUTO: Which could explain the president himself this week bashing Fox News yet again, urging his supporters to stop watching the channel, to quote tweet: “Fox isn’t working for us anymore.”
Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don’t work for you. I don’t work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you -- just report on you, to call balls and strikes on you.
My job, Mr. President — our job — here is to keep the score. It’s not settle scores. Now, in my case, to report the economic numbers when they’re good and when they’re bad, when the markets are soaring and when they’re tumbling, when trade talks look like they’re coming together and when they look like they’re falling apart. It is called being fair and balanced, Mr. President.
Yet it is fair to say you’re not a fan when that balance includes stuff you don’t like to hear or facts you don’t like to have questioned.
This last sentence is key. Again, Trump’s quibble seems to be with the lack of complete obsequiousness. But you can’t pretend that the trade war isn’t negatively impacting the U.S. economy. Trump’s tweets in recent weeks have suggested he counts on Fox to be a cheerleader at all times.
Then Cavuto started really getting into it:
CAVUTO: You’re only human. I get that. Who likes to be corrected? But you are the president. It comes with the job, just like checking what you say and do comes with my job.
After all, I’m not the one who said tariffs are a wonderful thing; you are.
Just like I’m not the one who said Mexico would pay for the wall; you did.
Just like I’m not the one who claimed that Russia didn’t meddle in the 2016 election; you did.
Now, I’m sorry you don’t like these facts being brought up, but they are not fake because I did. What would be fake is if I never did, if I ignored all the times you said you loved your old Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, until you didn’t, had no plans to dump your homeland security secretary, until you did, called Chinese President Xi Jinping an “enemy” just last week and a great leader this week.
Sometimes, you don't even wait that long. Last week, you expressed an appetite for background checks, before arguing just hours later our background checks are already strong.
These aren’t fake items. They’re real items, and you really said them, just like you never paid to silence a porn star, until it turns out you did, never ordered your former White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Bob Mueller, until we learn you tried.
Fake is when it’s wrong, Mr. President, not when it’s unpleasant, just like it isn’t and wasn’t fake when you said the “Access Hollywood” tape wasn’t real, when it was, or that you inherited a depression from Barack Obama, when you didn’t, or that you ripped quantitative easing when he was president, but are furious the Federal Reserve isn’t doing the same for you now that you’re president.
Yikes. As a laundry list of Trump’s not-so-greatest hits — and one airing on Fox News, no less — this is pretty biting.
As I’ve often said, the fact that Trump gets so much more critical coverage than positive — and that’s unmistakably true, as a Harvard survey has shown — is largely because he has so little regard for the truth and for rhetorical consistency. A president can’t spew 12,000 falsehoods and misleading claims and expect the media to find 12,000 good stories to counterbalance them. When Trump says things that utterly contradict himself, you can’t say he’s got a handle on the situation and knows what he’s doing.
CAVUTO: You’re entitled to your point of view, Mr. President, but you’re not entitled to your own set of facts.
Now, we can argue over whether you ever wanted to buy Greenland or disrupt hurricanes with nuclear weapons, but where seeds are planted, doubts are sown.
Trump’s reputation, in many ways, precedes him with his media coverage. The media’s No. 1 goal is the truth. When you have such a demonstrated history of saying false things, it becomes really difficult to take you at face value or give you the benefit of the doubt. Credibility is important in dealing with the media, and not everyone is entitled to an equal amount of it.
CAVUTO: You’re right to say the media isn’t fair to you, that they’re more inclined to report the bad than anything good about you. So it is no surprise you’re frustrated that more aren’t in line with you and that everyone at Fox might not be in lockstep with you. You might even think that those who are work for you.
They don't. I don't.
Hard as it is to fathom, Mr. President, just because you're the leader of the free world doesn't entitle you to a free pass, unfortunately, just a free press.
Cavuto tosses Trump something of an olive branch, conceding the president’s argument that the media isn’t fair to him. He even suggests Trump’s reaction is understandable. But that’s not the same as demanding that a certain outlet work for you.
I can even see an argument that Trump didn’t mean Fox should specifically work for him. But the full context of his commentary on it indicates that that’s what he believes. Saying that out loud put Fox journalists in the unenviable position of arguing they aren’t his sycophants. And whatever you feel about the network as a whole, Cavuto’s response was admirably full-throated.