Guy Farmer: President Trump vs. Fox News
President Trump recently proved once again he doesn’t understand the role of a free press in a democratic (small “d”) society by criticizing his favorite TV network, Fox News, for granting valuable air time to Democrat/Socialist presidential candidate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum conducted a one-hour “town hall” conversation with Sanders, who acquitted himself rather well on the conservative network although he really didn’t explain how he was going to pay for “free” health care and college education for everyone. Our self-centered, thin-skinned president said it was “weird” to see “Crazy Bernie” on Fox and asserted Baier and Ms. MacCallum were too nice to Sanders. Trump also complained many of his supporters were barred from attending the event in blue-collar Bethlehem, Pa.
Apparently, Trump thinks he gets to call the shots at Fox because its leading opinion personalities — Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity (who should be on the White House payroll if he isn’t already) — love everything about Trump and always defend him, no matter what he does or says. What the president doesn’t understand, however, is the clear separation between straight, unbiased Fox News journalists like Baier, Ms. MacCallum and Chris Wallace, and the ultra-conservative opinion side of the network, which features prime-timers Hannity, Carlson and Ms. Ingraham along with a merry band of angry right-wingers including Mark Levin — “The Great One,” according to Hannity — and fire-breathing Judge Jeanine Pirro, among others. Trump also loves the network’s morning show, “Fox and Friends,” which loves him right back.
Lest you think I’m only bashing Trump and Fox’s right-wingers, let me add quickly far left “progressive” TV networks CNN and MSNBC are just as bad, or worse. CNN’s Don Lemon and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, among several others, are clearly suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) and have long since abandoned any pretense of being fair and objective. Those networks have had to retract several fatally flawed stories and their low viewership tells us how voters feel about them. In fact, CNN now has fewer viewers than the Food Network.
Trump seems to think it’s Fox’s job to serve as his personal public relations agency and often reacts to network attempts to be fair and balanced, its former motto. He has criticized little-known weekend anchors Leland Vittert and Arthel Neville and recently blasted the network for hiring Donna Brazile, the former Democratic National Committee interim chairperson who has generated lively discussions on the popular afternoon show, “The Five,” along with another lifelong Democrat, journalist Juan Williams. I can only imagine what the president thinks of Fox’s gay and liberal midday news anchor, Shepard Smith, who regularly bashes Trump.
What seems to be happening at Fox is its aging owner, 88-year-old Australian/American Rupert Murdock, is gradually ceding control of his media empire to his sons, conservative Lachlan, who became Fox’s CEO in March, and liberal-leaning James, who recently donated to the upstart presidential campaign of bright, young South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the Democrats’ current Flavor of the Month, who replaced previous Flavor of the Month Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, a 47-year-old skateboarder who’s running on an ill-defined “I’ll be anything you want me to be” platform.
Lachlan Murdock recently hired former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, a Trump favorite, as executive vice president of the newly revamped Fox organization, thereby maintaining a close connection between Fox and the Trump White House. Despite this close tie, however, respected Fox News journalists like Bret Baier and Chris Wallace continue to maintain a healthy distance between themselves and the president.
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.