The unprecedented Trump–Fox News relationship
Presidents have long been close with media outlets. But this is different.
[Read the full article at CNN]
On Monday, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer published an explosive expose on "the Fox News White House," a deeply reported story alleging that the channel had killed a story about Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election and that President Trump tried to spike the AT&T–Time Warner merger apparently because he wasn't happy with the news coverage of his presidency by CNN, which is now owned by AT&T. The story makes clear in vivid detail that Mayer's answer to the headline question about Fox News—"Is it propaganda?"—is a resounding yes.
But for some readers, that still left a lingering question: Is it new? After all, presidents have had close ties with media outlets before. Didn't journalists provide cover for the Bush administration during the Iraq War? Didn't MSNBC's Chris Matthews declare he got "a thrill go up his leg" when he listened to Barack Obama's speeches? Haven't mainstream outlets carried water for presidents for decades?
Absolutely. Yet the relationship between Donald Trump and Fox News is distinctly different, bringing the channel closer to state television than anything the United States has ever known.
There's certainly precedent for some features of Trump's relationship with Fox News. American presidents have long cozied up to the press, seeking favorable coverage for their parties and agendas. And some journalists returned the favor, enjoying the access and prestige of being a White House insider. New York Times columnist Arthur Krock had long been close to John Kennedy, helping him with his senior thesis and even privately advising him on how to handle the CIA. Drew Pearson, a Washington Post columnist, regularly traded favors with Lyndon Johnson, including dropping investigations in exchange for political help and weighing in on speeches and strategy.
News outlets have also backed particular candidates, hoping to get their man in the White House. In 1940 Henry Luce, who owned Time, Life, and Fortune, single-handedly engineered Wendell Willkie's nomination. Not only did his magazines popularize the little-known candidate, Luce ensured the coverage was uniformly positive, often to the dismay of journalists working for him. "Take me off this train," begged one Time reporter covering Willkie. "All I can do is sit at my typewriter and write, 'Wendell Willkie is a wonderful man. Wendell Willkie is a wonderful man.'"