Meadows’ messages illustrate exactly how close Fox News and President Trump are.
Throughout the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, when Donald Trump’s political universe crumbled in the aftermath of his election defeat, he received counsel and assistance from a variety of sources.
Trump sought advice from his own employees as he screamed about non-existent election fraud. He also received assistance from friends and allies like as Rudy Giuliani.
Trump’s White House, on the other hand, was receiving advice from some of Fox News’ most well-known characters, in a degree of cooperation seldom, if ever, seen in top-level politics.
Leaked text conversations from the phone of Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff between the November election and the January 6 insurgency, showed direct communications between Trump’s team and Fox anchors Sean Hannity and Maria Bartiromo.
The messages, obtained by CNN, demonstrate how the barriers between Fox News and the Trump White House blurred dramatically in the last months of Trump’s presidency. On election day in 2021, Hannity, Fox News’ second-most-watched personality, texted Meadows, asking which states he needed to “push” — to get people to vote.
On November 29, an hour before Trump was to sit down for his first interview since losing the election, he got some assistance with his preparation from Bartiromo, who provided Meadows a list of questions along with a suggestion.
“Please make sure he doesn’t go off on tangents,” Bartiromo wrote, a request that was eventually ignored.
Between November 3 and January 20, when Joe Biden was inaugurated, Meadows exchanged more than 80 text conversations with Hannity. Meadows supplied 2,319 communications to the House select committee probing the Capitol assault, which CNN acquired.
They show Hannity providing and receiving guidance from the White House at different times. After requesting guidance on where he might assist in voter turnout, Hannity would later provide Meadows advice on how Trump may contest the election results.
According to Angelo Carusone, president and CEO of Media Matters for America, the consequences of a Fox News-Trump White House alliance are “dangerous.”
“Because without some very strong propaganda weapons, you can’t have any sort of viable authoritarian or anti-democratic atmosphere.” “And once you have this type of synchronization, you essentially have a really crucial factor for driving a broad variety of policies,” Carusone said.
Over the three-month period, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and Brian Kilmeade were all in communication with Meadows to varied degrees, implying that a plethora of Fox News personalities had their own lines into the White House. Text messages obtained by the select committee earlier revealed Ingraham and Kilmeade asking with Trump to intercede as his fans crowded the Capitol.
“Hey, Mark, the president has to order everyone in the Capitol to leave.” This is causing us all pain. Ingraham stated, “He is undermining his legacy.”
Following the publication of the messages, Hannity, who was very minimally penalized by Fox News after appearing on stage at a Trump rally in 2018, tangentially addressed the texts on his weekly program.
“Yes, I’m a journalist,” Hannity said.
“I’m on the Fox News Channel, which is a news network, but I’m not a journalist.” I present myself as a discussion show host.” (In a 2017 interview with the New York Times, Hannity said, “I’m a journalist.”) “However, I work as an advocate or opinion journalist.”)
Right-wing media and Republican governments have often collaborated. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Scott McClellan, George W Bush’s press secretary, admitted working with Fox News on “talking points,” while Rolling Stone reported that John Moody, a top Fox News executive during the Roger Ailes era, wrote a memo to staff saying that Bush’s “political courage and tactical cunning are worth noting in our reporting throughout the day.”
Carusone said that although the network and Bush’s staff “were in tight agreement” in 2004, “they still felt autonomous” this time. As chairman and CEO of Fox News, Ailes had complete authority over the network’s editorial policy and would determine all of the network’s decisions. There was no Ailes-like figure to manage the coverage as Trump flailed in the last days of his administration.
“There was no checkpoint. “It’s not like the White House used to coordinate with all the hosts,” Carusone said.
“They were working together with Roger Ailes, who was in charge of the editorial meetings.” He was serving as a channel for communication. It was like a free-for-all in this scenario.”
The contact between Fox News and Trump’s administration seems to have been reciprocal. Politicians looked to be leading the charge throughout Bush’s presidency, with Fox News defending the president’s policies.
It wasn’t always apparent who was in control of policy under Trump. From September 2018 to August 2020, Trump “tweeted in reaction to Fox News or Fox Business programs he was viewing,” according to Media Matters.
To journalists, Bartiromo’s questioning of Trump’s staff may seem to be the most heinous crime.
“1Q This election is rigged, as you’ve said several times… And the evidence is on your side. Let we begin there. What is the truth? Describe the events that occurred here. Then I’ll go into the details of the deception, including the statistical impossibilities of Biden’s sorcery (federalist). Please keep an eye out for him going off on tangents. We want to know that he is capable, that he is a warrior, and that he will triumph. This isn’t about him anymore. This is all about ??? I’ll also question him about how big tech and the media influence ejection. I’ll get to GA runoffs and then vaccinations towards the end,” Bartiromo emailed Meadows an hour before the November interview.
According to CNN, the interview echoed the questions in Bartiromo’s note.
The rise of cable TV news, which began in the 1980s and accelerated through the 1990s – the Fox News channel debuted in 1996 – prompted a shift in acceptable, or permitted, journalistic standards, according to Heather Hendershot, an MIT professor of film and media who studies TV news and conservative media.
“In the pre-cable, network era, if it was discovered that an anchorperson or reporter had provided questions in advance of an interview with a politician, he or she would obviously be fired – with no room for discussion,” said Hendershot, who is writing a book about how coverage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention contributed to a loss of faith in the US media.
“This would be seen not only as a political error, but maybe even more so as a professional gaffe.” This kind of activity was prohibited under journalistic standards.
“In 1963, CBS’ Walter Cronkite had an interview with JFK. The president declared immediately after the interview that he was displeased with it and wanted a ‘do-over.’ Cronkite made no hesitation: that was not an option. They’d replay the interview in its entirety.”
Today, Hendershot added, one might easily picture a president or politician being displeased with an interview question and requesting a second chance to respond.
“Would this be acceptable to a network correspondent?” stated Hendershot.
“I doubt it. Would Fox News go along with it? Yes, but only if you’re a Republican politician.”