As it has been since Donald Trump started consolidating the Republican nomination for president in early 2016, Fox News and Fox Business remain almost entirely loyal to Trump. But in recent days the president has expressed frustration that the cable network isn’t entirely loyal to him — with no exceptions whatsoever.
The latest example of Trump’s growing frustration with Fox News came on Saturday when Trump tried to draw a connection between the ratings of shows on the network and their loyalty to him.
“Has anyone noticed that the top shows on @foxnews and cable ratings are those that are Fair (or great) to your favourite President, me!” Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @seanhannity for being the number one show on Cable Television!”
That tweet came three days after Trump unloaded on his once-beloved cable network in a string of tweets, writing in one, “The New @FoxNews is letting millions of GREAT people down! We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us anymore!”
But in an illustration of how much Trump still needs Fox News, between the time he posted his tweet about Fox News on Saturday and the end of the long Labor Day weekend, Trump posted no less than 14 tweets or retweets promoting Fox News and Fox Business programming either by quoting pro-Trump commentary from the network or featuring videos clips.
It’s well known that Trump has something of a symbiotic relationship with Fox News, particularly his beloved morning show, Fox & Friends, and Fox News’s prime-time hosts. It sometimes seems the president and his favourite Fox News personalities are in an exclusive conversation with one another for the whole nation to see, with Trump often live-tweeting or responding to coverage. Recently, though, Trump has distanced himself from parts of the network that can’t be counted on to cover him in a fawning fashion.
Fox News seemed to bristle at the criticism. Even anchor Brit Hume, who is usually one of the president’s biggest cheerleaders, seemed to think Trump’s August 28 tweet crossed a line.
“Fox News isn’t supposed to work for you,” Hume tweeted in response to the president. (The point Hume tried to make is debatable — Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro speaking at a Trump rally just before the 2016 election.)
Then, last Thursday, host Neil Cavuto closed his show with a monologue in which he directly addresses the president and said, “Mr President, we don’t work for you. I don’t work for you. … My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you. Just report on you.”
Trump has also recently started live-tweeting another, even more, Trump-friendly news outlet — One America News Network (OANN), a relatively obscure cable news network started explicitly in response to “bias” against Trump. The network frequently features members of his own family, like his daughter-in-law Lara Trump. Trump has promoted the relatively obscure network on a number of occasions this year as his apparent frustrations with Fox News have built up.
There are a few reasons that Trump seems to be suddenly souring on Fox News. It’s no accident that this criticism is coming as Trump is ramping up his reelection bid and as polling — including one recently conducted by Fox News — indicates he faces an uphill battle toward winning a second term. Trump’s motivations for suddenly turning on Fox illuminate just how little tolerance he has for criticism as well as how much loyalty he expects — including from America’s top-rated cable news network.