On the Symbiotic Relationship between President Trump and Fox News Channel

I find President Trump’s recent criticisms of Fox News Channel mildly curious. The President has chided Fox for taking Jeanine Pirro off the air for a couple of weeks for anti-Muslim remarks directed at MN U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, for adding former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile to its stable of commentators, and for hosting the Town Hall with VT Sen. Bernie Sanders; Mr. Trump has also slapped at Fox newsman Shepard Smith, presumably for not being sufficiently supportive of Administration claims. Such outbursts have caused me to wonder whether the President recognizes the seeming vulnerability in having what amounts to a propaganda arm that he does not actually control. If the leadership at Fox, miffed at Mr. Trump, would ever choose to make even a small shift in the tenor its coverage, it could perhaps have a lethal effect on his political fortunes. Fox wouldn’t have to like Democrats, or indeed, be overtly critical of Mr. Trump, to severely hamper his 2020 re-election bid; it would merely have to be a little less supportive of the President – on-air talking heads possibly spending a bit more time discussing the fact that he won’t release his tax returns, expressing relatively greater dismay at the revelations of his unsavory behavior likely to be disclosed in the Mueller Report, etc., etc. – to quell enthusiasm for Mr. Trump in a sufficient number of Fox viewers to potentially swing what promises to be a close election. (A loss by Mr. Trump would arguably be of little account to Fox from a business standpoint; Fox is a money machine no matter which party occupies the White House, and the outlet may well consider it easier and more fun to attack a Democratic President than to lead cheers for a Republican.) Lyndon Johnson is famously reported to have said that if he had lost Walter Cronkite with regard to the Vietnam War, he had lost Middle America. The President apparently feels that he has the dominant position in his relationship with Fox; I question whether such is the case.

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