It was revealed recently that President Donald Trump watches between four and eight hours of cable news each day. He typically comes into the office after 11 a.m. and is known for tweeting about his favorite show "Fox and Friends."
One report, however, claims Trump and Fox News are stuck in a positive feedback loop in which both are promoting each other and verifying each other's opinions. Now that Roger Ailes is gone, "Vanity Fair" argues that the president is the new programmer for the network.
Conversations about the future of Fox have brought executives, producers, and hosts to see Trump as a kind of "looming figure" over the network.
“When you worked at Fox, you knew that at any moment Roger Ailes was watching. Every day was like a job interview with Ailes. Now it’s the same way for Trump,” a Fox News contributor said.
“What he usually does is he’ll call after a show and say, ‘I really enjoyed that,’” a former Fox anchor said. “The highest compliment is, ‘I really learned something.’ Then you know he got a new policy idea.”
While Trump doesn't dictate talking points as Ailes did, the so-called "audience of one" has staff keenly aware what they say and do is being monitored. But unlike many Fox viewers, what Trump sees impacts more than just his millions in Twitter followers.
“He has the same embattled view as a typical Fox viewer—that ‘the liberal elites hate me; they’re trying to bring me down,’” one Fox executive said.
According to "Vanity Fair," however, the relationship "makes it extremely complicated to cover the administration’s near-constant conflagrations."
“They don’t want to see stuff about Michael Wolff. It’s depressing,” one staffer said about the Fire and Fury book. Instead, everyone is on board with attacking Hillary Clinton and her family.
So, the network is stuck with two options: they can report the news in it's entirety and risk upsetting the president or they can tell him what he wants to hear and score retweets that draw in his audience to their website. The business decision is to kowtow to the president. The relationship can be advantageous for both.
“He’s sort of viewed as this crazy person who calls all the time,” a Fox executive said.
While the network was once opposed to Trump it has now “become a safe space for Trump fans,” an executive noted. Fox hosts who weren't on board the Trump train suffered consequences. Bob Beckel, a former co-host of "The Five," spoke out against Trump and found an unsigned note in his office saying he needed to back off. Oddly enough, hosts and journalists like Chris Wallace and Shep Smith seem to be immune to the pressure and frequently report whatever they want. However, their shows air during an hour when Trump is generally not watching.
Meanwhile, those who have celebrated Trump have been promoted. Sean Hannity, Jesse Watters and Jeanine Pirro have all talked about right-wing conspiracy theories that Trump is the victim of an FBI-led coup. Pirro has been up front that her motives aren't even about the report or the punditry. She wants to come aboard the Trump train officially.
“I really want a job in this administration,” Pirro proclaimed while walking out of her makeup room, one person who witnessed it said.
While Pirro might celebrate the president's constant promotion to the network, others aren't comfortable.
“It’s freaky to see him tweeting at Fox & Friends,” one staffer said. “That doesn’t help us. We’re not state television.”