President Donald Trump reportedly called his longtime friend, Fox News' "Judge" Jeanine Pirro, before unleashing a tweetstorm about the right-wing news network.
The Washington Post spoke to a person briefed on the call — and noted that the president regularly speaks to the Fox News host who's been off the air for a week after making Islamophobic comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
Earlier in the day on Sunday, Trump tweeted in defense of Pirro, urging the network to bring back the host and claiming that "Radical Left Democrats" and "the Fake News Media" have "all out campaigns" against Fox hosts "who are doing too well."
Bring back @JudgeJeanine Pirro. The Radical Left Democrats, working closely with their beloved partner, the Fake Ne… https://t.co/iANGppppsq— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1552828709.0
Later that afternoon, he tweeted in criticism of Fox News weekend anchors Arthel Neville and Leland Vittert — and of Shepard Smith, a more centrist host who has regularly fact-checked and criticized the president's claims.
Smith, Trump tweeted, is the network's "lowest rated anchor."
Were @FoxNews weekend anchors, @ArthelNeville and @LelandVittert, trained by CNN prior to their ratings collapse? I… https://t.co/CQssnACCYc— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1552846725.0
Two Fox staffers that spoke to the Post said they "could not figure out precisely what it was that had set him off" — and speculated that he may have been thinking about the upcoming report from special counsel Robert Mueller.
"A source familiar with the inner workings of Fox News said the president isn’t on the phone with producers or executives in charge of coverage," the Post reported, noting that Trump instead "calls opinion hosts with whom he has a preexisting relationship."