Opinion | 'Fox & Friends' host Brian Kilmeade stumbles over Trump – The Washington Post – The Washington Post

Opinion | 'Fox & Friends' host Brian Kilmeade stumbles over Trump – The Washington Post – The Washington Post

This post has been updated.
During his time in the White House, Donald Trump was such a devoted viewer of “Fox & Friends” that the show’s co-hosts once asked him on air to turn the White House lights on and off, just to confirm that he was watching. The lights appeared to be blinking, though “Fox & Friends” disclosed that it was just a visual trick.
Though Trump is now gone from the White House, he casts a shadow over the curvy couch nonetheless. In a chat with fellow co-hosts Steve Doocy and Ainsley Earhardt on Thursday, Brian Kilmeade revealed how he values the show’s audience — its audience of one, that is.
“If the former president’s watching, you should know — the numbers you’re relaying, you didn’t come up with those numbers, right?” Kilmeade said of a CNN poll finding that 55 percent of people who are Republican or lean Republican want someone other than Trump to be the party’s presidential nominee.
“CNN came up with them,” responded Doocy, to which Kilmeade said that CNN is “right as often as Halley’s Comet comes by.” Doocy then wondered aloud why they’d been talking about the poll in the first place. To which Kilmeade replied: “I’m just saying, if Donald Trump is watching, if Donald Trump is watching, just let him know we didn’t come up with that number. That’s what the poll said.”
“Absolutely,” said Doocy.
Immediate context for this on-air idiocy dates to last Monday, when Trump blasted “Fox & Friends” for its discussion of another poll. “That show has been terrible — gone to the ‘dark side,’ ” Trump wrote in a post on his social media network, Truth Social. So Kilmeade appeared to have some making-up to do.
The wider context for this on-air idiocy is a morning cable news show that on Jan. 20, 2021, lost its gushing pipeline to political relevance, if not dominance. While in office, Trump regularly scanned “Fox & Friends” for governing tips: He appeared on the show for multiple marathon interviews; tweeted his reactions to commentary on the program; he once temporarily reversed White House policy on pending surveillance legislation because of a pundit’s appeal on the program. In short, he regularly broadcast his dependence on the most pathetic morning program in TV news history.
“I think virtually no one in the media has lost more influence” since Trump’s loss, says Matthew Gertz, senior fellow at Media Matters for America and chronicler of Trump’s partnership with “Fox & Friends.” A spokeswoman for Fox News challenged Gertz’s analysis, saying that the program has been No. 1 in its time slot for the past 20 years.
So what does a lousy morning show do after it loses the president of the United States as its viewer in chief? “Garden-variety Republican propaganda,” says Gertz. That means immigration, culture-war topics, bashing President Biden and more of that ilk.
This part of the “Fox & Friends” portfolio is a paint-by-numbers operation: Just take whatever Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson said on their Fox programs the previous night and repackage it with fresh commentary and speculation. So: Slam the Biden team for linguistic tiptoeing around “recession”; focus on “huge” news about Hunter Biden; examine the harmful impact of Biden policies on farmers; compare the Biden White House to Russia.
When the segments move from rote denunciations of Democrats to coverage of Republicans, things get more complicated. Jockeying for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination is afoot, and if there’s one scenario that terrifies Fox News producers, it’s getting crosswise with the politician who emerges victorious from that scramble. How the network treats each candidate — Did it do a softball interview with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis? Is it ripping Trump at every turn? — receives microscopic vetting from political reporters. On Friday, for example, the New York Times published a carefully reported piece on the moments when Fox News has ignored Trump speeches and events.
The Fox News Primary, in other words, is a tense time at Fox News. Especially when Trump is in the mix; during the 2016 primary, for instance, he attacked anchor Megyn Kelly, then with Fox, after she challenged him at a Republican debate. The drama roiled both Fox and the Republican Party. As the 2024 race nears, says Gertz, “you run into a problem where any critical coverage of any candidate benefits another candidate. You could see schisms breaking out on shows more favorable to Trump versus shows more favorable to DeSantis.”
Perhaps this dynamic was playing out with the “Fox & Friends” crew this past week — an effort to treat Trump like anyone else while also serving him a dollop of the show’s erstwhile bootlicking. That the groveling came from Kilmeade added a baffling element in light of the host’s previous comments criticizing Trump for claiming the 2020 election was stolen; Kilmeade has previously insisted that it was an “outright lie” for Trump to discredit Arizona election results, highlighted the importance of accepting the election results and moving on, and said that Trump was “unhinged” after the election.
Now there’s the “dark side” for you.
Fox News likes to cast itself as the populist network, a place where the hosts stand up for American workers. Yet there was Kilmeade, privileging a power-hungry coastal elite over the millions of viewers tuning in from kitchens and gyms across the country. Now that’s journalistic transparency for you.
Inconsistencies and contradictions probably don’t worry Kilmeade too much. (The Erik Wemple Blog requested an interview with the host; we’re still waiting.) Though his show’s ratings dived after Trump’s November 2020 loss, they’ve since recovered and often exceed the combined audience of competing shows on CNN and MSNBC.
So what’s stopping him from indulging a little Trump sycophancy? Nothing.
This post originally misspelled “Halley’s Comet.”
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