President Trump’s romance with Fox News is hitting a rough patch.
While the White House still gets encouragement, support and even advice from the channel’s conservative morning and prime-time opinion hosts, Trump has begun to take aim at the occasional dissenting voices that appear during the day during straight news coverage.
Trump was apparently angered Wednesday morning when Fox News anchor Sandra Smith interviewed Xochitl Hinojosa, the communications director for the Democratic National Committee who discussed the candidate qualifications for the party’s next debate.
Trump complained that the interview was too soft and that Smith provided no pushback in the largely benign discussion about the party’s rules and recent poll numbers for the Democratic front-runners and organizational work being done for the 2020 campaign.
“Just watched @FoxNews heavily promoting the Democrats through their DNC Communications Director, spewing out whatever she wanted with zero pushback by anchor, @SandraSmithFox. Terrible considering that Fox couldn’t even land a debate, the Dems give them NOTHING! @CNN & @MSNBC....,” Trump wrote.
The White House had its side presented an hour later, when Trump spokesman Hogan Gidley appeared on a segment where he talked about the president’s accomplishments and how the White House was preparing emergency resources for Puerto Rico should it be affected by Hurricane Dorian.
Fox News had no comment on the tweets as it has made it a policy not to respond to the president’s statements about its personalities.
The tweet is the latest in a recent series in which Trump has gone after commentators and aspects of Fox News coverage that aren’t friendly to him. Other recent Twitter targets of Trump’s ire include “The Five” co-host Juan Williams, (“always nasty and wrong”), “Fox News Sunday” moderator Chris Wallace (“Fox is moving to the losing side”) and afternoon anchor Shepard Smith (“Fake News CNN is better”). They have all been recent targets of the president’s ire on social media.
Executives at other cable news networks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they believe Trump is upset that Fox News is giving any airtime at all to the Democratic Party.
Even with the channel’s conservative slant, Fox News is covering the candidates in the Democratic presidential primary and has produced hour-long “town hall” telecasts on candidates. The channel has also expressed its desire to present a Democratic primary debate despite the DNC’s decision to exclude it due to the fiery rhetoric of its commentators.
“He thinks of them as his publicity organ and they are not dispensing the message that he wants. I could see him being upset about it,” said one news executive.
Trump has been successful at silencing his critics in the Republican Party, who until recently have been reluctant to speak out against him. Fox News commentators continue to defend him, but falling poll numbers and wild fluctuations in the stock market related to the president’s trade war with China get straight-ahead coverage during the day.
Trump’s statements that Fox News is “no longer working for us” is damaging to the channel, which often points out that its news-gathering operation is separate from the opinion hosts such as Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, who devote much of their airtime attacking the president’s critics.
Fox News has also come under scrutiny for having a revolving door of on-air analysts and anchors who have landed jobs in the Trump administration. Former Trump White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has signed on to become a paid contributor for Fox News Channel.
Bret Baier, the anchor of Fox’s Washington-based newscast “Special Report,” addressed the president directly on the air after a tweet that suggested the channel “was not what it used to be” and was no longer providing support.
“Mr. President, we’ve invited you on Special Report many times,” Baier said. “We’d love to have you back on. You’ve talked to George Stephanopoulos and Chuck Todd, come on back. Me, Chris Wallace, the news side cover it fair, balanced and unafraid.”
Christopher Ruddy, a friend of Trump’s who operates the conservative TV channel Newsmax, said the president’s dissatisfaction with Fox News indicates there is room for more than one conservative-leaning TV outlet.
“People are tired of Fox and perhaps the President is tiring of it too,” Ruddy said in an email. “I think the country needs more than one liberal channel and it has several. We also need more than one conservative leaning channel — and now we have it with Newsmax.”