Trump’s flip-flopping feelings about Fox were on full display last week. After the network ran a segment on Wednesday featuring a Democratic National Committee spokesperson discussing the upcoming debate, Trump sent a tweet chastising Fox for its coverage.
“The New @FoxNews is letting millions of GREAT people down!” Trump tweeted Wednesday. “We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us anymore!”
The next day, Trump called in to Fox radio host Brian Kilmeade’s show and rated various Fox reporters’ coverage of him. On Saturday, Trump praised the network on Twitter, in particular talk show host Sean Hannity and other Fox shows that are “Fair (or great) for your favorite President, me!”
GQ political correspondent Julia Ioffe said the suggestion that a news outlet would be “working” for the president reminds her of the way authoritarian leaders elsewhere view their own state-run media networks.
“It’s Dear Leader state-run TV,” Ioffe said. “The only difference is that the authoritarian leaders are a little bit more subtle in hiding their tracks and don’t air their grievances like this on the air.”
Fox has been known for its favorable coverage of the Trump administration, and for the revolving door of ex-Trump staffers starting jobs at Fox News and vice versa. Yet another example of that came Friday when Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney said he doesn’t believe Trump has ever lied to the American people.
David Zurawik, the Baltimore Sun media critic, said Varney’s comments recalled “state-run TV behind the iron curtain 1991 Czechoslovakia.”
But regardless of how Fox’s coverage of the president looks from one day to the next, it’s unlikely viewers would leave the network at the president’s urging, the analysts said on Sunday. While he didn’t mention it explicitly Wednesday, Trump has in the past promoted a smaller conservative channel, OANN, which has positioned itself as friendly to the president.
That may be why Fox has repeatedly declined to comment on this or more than a dozen previous attacks by Trump on the network, while other news outlets targeted by the president have vigorously defended their coverage. Fox News declined to comment on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” segment.
“Fox knows it has the leverage in this relationship,” said Elaina Plott, a CNN analyst and White House correspondent for The Atlantic.
“I think that if Donald Trump were to try to command his supporters to, what, go start to watch OANN exclusively? I mean, no, it’s not going to happen. It’s one of those few moments, I think, when you look at the president’s dynamic with any entity, person, in the United States, that they are the ones that actually hold the cards here,” Plott said.
While the network declined to comment on Trump’s remarks, Fox senior political analyst Brit Hume replied to Trump on Wednesday, saying: “Fox News isn’t supposed to work for you.”