Fox News And The Trump Presidency: State Run Media, Or A Media Run State?

A new report demonstrates that the relationship between Fox News Channel and the Trump Administration is much closer and more pervasive than previously believed.

Yesterday, The New Yorker“The Making Of The Fox News White House” published a major report by Jane Mayer on the relationship between Fox News and the Trump Administration titled that is well-worth your attention. The article is far too long and too detailed to fairly excerpt here, but there are plenty of potential blockbuster bits of information that could resonate going forward:

There’s much more in the report, which I again recommend reading in full, regarding the close relationship between the White House and Fox News Channel,a relationship perhaps best summarized at the moment by pointing out the fact that Bill Shine, who had previously served as a top Executive at Fox News Channel, working closely with Roger Ailes and having close relationships with current and former Fox News hosts such as Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, is now the White House Communications Director and reportedly maintains contact with former co-workers at FNC in his new position at the White House. In addition to that, of course, there’s the fact that Fox News Channel seems to be the President’s primary source of information to the point where it has become possible to time his regular tweetstorms about one topic or another based on some report that had aired on the network prior to the time the material was posted on Twitter. It’s also worth noting that the President has granted more interviews to Fox News hosts than he has to hosts on any other broadcast or cable news network. Indeed, while Trump has been interviewed by NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, he has never been interviewed on MSNBC and hasn’t sat for an interview with anyone from CNN in a very long time.

Some of the items reported above, such as the decision by a Fox News Editor to suppress the Stormy Daniels story, the fact that Ailes apparently gave Trump access to at least some of the debate questions in the first Presidential debate, and the pressure that Trump apparently applied for his Administration to intervene in the Time Warner/AT&T merger purely out of political spite against Time-Warner’s CNN for its coverage of his Administration, are potentially major stories. While they don’t necessarily raise legal problems for either the President or Fox News, they do demonstrate the extent to which this President has tied himself into a media outlet to an extent that no other President before him has done.

In the past, I have referred to Fox News Channel as “State Run Media” due to its obsequious coverage of the President and the fact that many of its hosts mimic the President’s rhetoric about everything from the Mueller investigation to his criticism of other media companies. Based on Mayer’s report, though, it’s arguably just as fair to label the Trump Presidency as a “Media Run State” based on the outsized influence that Fox News, its hosts, and its former executives have on Administration policy and on the President’s rhetoric. Indeed, based on that rhetoric it seems as though Trump is more inclined to believe what he sees on Fox & Friends than he is to believe his own advisers, intelligence officials, and military aides. The influence is such that it seems pretty clear that if someone wants to influence the President the best way to do so is to make sure that your concerns get positive coverage on Fox News Channel. It’s not supposed to work this way, of course, but nonetheless here we are.

As the saying goes, read the whole thing.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Media, Politicians, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Teve says:

    But many people who have watched and worked with Fox over the years, including some leading conservatives, regard Fox’s deepening Trump orthodoxy with alarm. Bill Kristol, who was a paid contributor to Fox News until 2012 and is a prominent Never Trumper, said of the network, “It’s changed a lot. Before, it was conservative, but it wasn’t crazy. Now it’s just propaganda.” Joe Peyronnin, a professor of journalism at N.Y.U., was an early president of Fox News, in the mid-nineties. “I’ve never seen anything like it before,” he says of Fox. “It’s as if the President had his own press organization. It’s not healthy.”

    The essay about Fox Geezer Syndrome, written by a young conservative who said he couldn’t even talk to his older relatives anymore, because Fox had made them crazy, came out in 2014, before they became Trump’s propaganda outlet. Hard to imagine how terrible it is now.

  2. CSK says:

    And some Trumpkins are complaining because Fox has become too left-wing. Seriously.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    It’s also worth noting that the President has granted more interviews to Fox News hosts than he has to hosts on any other broadcast or cable news network.

    IIRC, he has been interviewed on FOX more than all the other’s combined, something like 34-10.

  4. Teve says:

    Blair Levin, at that time the chief of staff at the F.C.C. and now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, says, “Fox’s great insight wasn’t necessarily that there was a great desire for a conservative point of view.” More erudite conservatives, he says, such as William F. Buckley, Jr., and Bill Kristol, couldn’t have succeeded as Fox has. Levin observes, “The genius was seeing that there’s an attraction to fear-based, anger-based politics that has to do with class and race.”

    you don’t say!

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: Well you know, Shep Smith is still there, and have you watched Chris Wallace lately? He actually said Sarah Sanders was being untruthful!

  6. Mikey says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: My Trumpie friends won’t even watch Shep anymore. They consider him an apostate.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mikey: He is gay….

  8. Kylopod says:

    @Mikey: During Wallace’s interview of Jon Stewart some years back, Stewart pointed out what most of us consider obvious: Fox keeps people like Wallace and Shep around so the network can maintain a pretense of balance and respectability.

    But more recently, I ran across an intriguing conspiracy theory: the idea that Shep’s got something on them, some kind of leverage that allows him to keep a show where he blows apart the right-wing narrative on a fairly regular basis. He does it a lot more blatantly than Wallace, and it goes beyond the usual tokenism we’ve come to expect from Fox. Besides, does Fox really care about maintaining the “fair and balanced” facade anymore, even as just as way to annoy liberals? I’d think they’re way past that at this point.

  9. CSK says:


    Bret Baier is suspect as well.

  10. Sleeping Dog says:

    Mikey, you have Trumpie friends? Oh you’re now suspect…

  11. Mikey says:

    @Sleeping Dog: I did 20 years in the military. I have plenty of Trumpie friends.

  12. Kathy says:

    This would explain why El Cheeto’s disapproval rating doesn’t move much. If those inclined to support him get all or most of their news from pro-Cheeto propaganda sources (lots of those online as well), thinking they’re getting “fair and balanced” coverage, they should naturally believe even God can’t hold a candle to the Orange Clown.

  13. Teve says:

    @Kylopod: they dropped the Fair and Balanced slogan like 2 years ago.

    BTW Trump’s having a Twitter meltdown this morning.

  14. gVOR08 says:

    From Marc Hetherington, Prius or Pickup?, quoting onetime FOX contributor Tobin Smith

    According to Smith, Ailes envisioned Fox News as a network for people “55 to dead,” viewers who “look like me . . . white guys in mostly Red State counties who sit on their couch with the remote in their hand all day and night.” In Smith’s retelling, Ailes said, “After the producers/host scares the shit out of them, I want to see YOU tear those smug condescending know-it-all East Coast liberals to pieces . . . limb by limb . . . until they jump up out of their LaZ boy [sic] and scream ‘Way to go Toby . . . you KILLED that libtard!’”

    Fox succeeded in everything Ailes envisioned, Smith observed. By marketing a powerful drug to a susceptible population (what Smith called “the most vulnerable and gullible senior Americans”), Fox gives those viewers “visceral gut feelings of outrage relieved by the most powerful emotions of all . . . the thrill of your tribe’s victory over its enemy and the ultimate triumph of good over evil.”

    FOX discovered the obvious, that they could make a lot of money telling people only what they want to hear. And the GOPs discovered that with our antidemocratic representation they could maintain power appealing only to the most gullible. (Which seems to include an awful lot of country club Republicans.)

  15. Kathy says:


    BTW Trump’s having a Twitter meltdown this morning.

    Oh, it must be one of those days that end in “y” I’ve heard so much about.

  16. charon says:


    During Wallace’s interview of Jon Stewart some years back, Stewart pointed out what most of us consider obvious: Fox keeps people like Wallace and Shep around so the network can maintain a pretense of balance and respectability.

    It isn’t just the network pretending. Fox viewers can (and do) point to them to claim they are seeing all sides.

  17. Franklin says:

    Interesting report and good post, Doug. Apparently, not *all* of the media is the “enemy”.

    And way off topic, in case Michael Reynolds/Grant finds this message, but he might get a kick out of this: YA book yanked by author, formerly a “sensitivity reader”, for being insensitive. Of course he’s been beating that drum for awhile, and here’s more confirmation. (And also – just read his Cyprus book: great read, curious what percentage is autobiographical!)

  18. Teve says:

    Ailes, meanwhile, joined Trump’s debate team, further erasing the line between Fox and conservative politicians. Ailes also began developing a plan to go into business with Trump. The Sunday before the election, Ailes called Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign chairman, and said that he’d been talking with Trump about launching Trump TV, a nationalist competitor to Fox. Ailes was so excited that he was willing to forfeit his severance payment from Fox, which was attached to a non-compete agreement. He asked Bannon to join the venture and to start planning it as soon as Trump lost the election.

    “What are you talking about?” Bannon recalls replying. “We’re going to win.”

    “Stop the bullshit,” Ailes responded. “It’s going to be a blowout. It’ll be over by eight o’clock.”

  19. Teve says:

    Fox hosts sometimes reverse their opinions in order to toe the Trump line: Hannity, who in the Obama era called negotiations with North Korea “disturbing,” now calls such efforts a “huge foreign-policy win.”

  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    Oh, thanks for reading A SUDDEN DEATH IN CYPRUS. The backstory details are often (not always) true. For example I really did try to sell vanilla wafers door-to-door from a plastic medical bag… and then stole my grandmother’s money. And the girl in the window moment is real but unlike Mitre I had the good sense to hold onto her. That was the basic conceit of the Mitre character – he’s a version of me if I had not met, moved in with and married Katherine.

    Mitre will return to redefine the business of art theft (in Amsterdam,) in about a year. In fact writing the final scene is what I’m avoiding by being here.

    I saw the YA thing but I’ve decided to stay out of it. Being right too soon is as useless as being wrong. Sometimes you just have to shake your head, step back and let people figure shit out on their own, usually in a messier, more painful way than if they’d just listened to logic. It won’t matter that two years from now I’ll have been proven right on every disputed point, I’ll still be a son of a bitch because I didn’t wait patiently for the rest of the class before blurting out the answer.

  21. Sleeping Dog says:

    That’s a good explanation, the clouds of suspicion have cleared.

  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: They’re just echoing Mark Levin, who says stuff like that to promote is own Levin TV (podcast) brand as “the only place” to get real, unmanaged by the left news. THE TRUTH [tm], if you will.

  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @charon: So did my mom. The interesting thing was that she never watched Wallace or Smith. (They came on at times that she watched Trinity Broadcasting Network for the latest in Biblical Prophecy intersections with world events.)

  24. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Fox News: the Voelklischer Beobachter of America, 2021.

  25. Monala says:

    @Franklin: That’s sad. There are important conversations to be had about bias, representation, etc., but how do you do that without silencing people altogether? I remember frequently seeing one axiom on Tumblr (which is a big hangout for millennials into fan culture): “all of your favs are problematic.” The idea is that no matter what it is that you like, someone is going to find something problematic about it. So, acknowledge the problems, but continue to enjoy it anyway.

    I found it very interesting that 55% of YA readers are adults, according to the article. I can at least answer for my teenage daughter and her friends: they spend a lot of time online reading novels written by amateurs, presumably other teenagers, on fiction writing sites. I imagine that since those writers aren’t published authors, they are a lot freer from the policing that seems to go on in YA publishing.

  26. Franklin says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Thanks for the insight and wisdom!

  27. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:


    Besides, does Fox really care about maintaining the “fair and balanced” facade anymore, even as just as way to annoy liberals?

    Fox News relationship with their viewers is similar to an abusive relationship, where the abusive boyfriend/spouse makes his or her victims lose his or her trust on friends and relatives, just to control him or her. Fox News and right wing media in general needs to sell the idea that anything that’s not right wing media is unreliable, just to control their viewers.

  28. An Interested Party says:

    This is funny coming from someone who works for a network that constantly shills for an elderly man who regularly throws childish temper tantrums…

  29. Franklin says:

    @An Interested Party: While it’s true that Trump is childish, I don’t think anybody’s ever called him adorable.

  30. An Interested Party says:

    While it’s true that Trump is childish, I don’t think anybody’s ever called him adorable.

    True dat…well, maybe Stormy Daniels would call him that if he paid her enough, although I’ll bet there isn’t enough money in the world to make Melania call him that…

  31. de stijl says:


    Fox News: the Voelklischer Beobachter of America, 2021.

    With a healthy dose of Der Stürmer leavened in as well, just substituting Mexicans and Guatemalans for the Jews. Xenophobic caricatures intended to scare the rubes into fealty and compliance.

    Fox is ill-served by Trump (and earlier Bush 43). They kinda suck at defense when they’re essentially defending obviously unfit Presidents who are demonstrably bad in that job who are grasping towards untenable goals and also humanoid tortoise Mitch McConnell.

    Fox is built for offense and works better when Rs are in the minority and the President is a D (that Obama was black was a bonus).

    Good on the attack; obviously vulnerable defending.