In the studio with the program Trump loves and the rest of the media loves to hate as it becomes the eye of the president’s media hurricane, with ratings and revenue soaring and its controversial hosts reveling in their new relevance: “It’s just so exciting. All of it. I look at this as exciting and interesting.”
Brian Kilmeade was on a soccer field in Maryland on June 30 when his Fox & Friends co-hosts Steve Doocy and Ainsley Earhardt began debating President Donald Trump’s latest Twitter outburst. In a multipost tirade a day earlier, Trump had attacked Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski with the bizarre claim that she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” when she visited Mar-a-Lago over New Year’s. The swipe drew condemnation from the usual Trump detractors (much of the media, women’s groups, Hollywood, Democrats) but also from Republicans, and it pointedly reignited the debate about Trump’s history of misogynist statements that had many predicting the demise of his presidential bid.
Much to his (professional) disappointment, Kilmeade — who lives with his wife and three children on Long Island, where he grew up — was watching his oldest daughter, Kaitlyn, compete in a soccer tournament that Friday morning. “I see the president tweeted out the thing about the other morning show, and I’m thinking, I wish I was on the air,” he says. “It’s just so exciting. All of it. I look at this as exciting and interesting.”
Kilmeade and Earhardt take issue with Trump’s tweets. “I don’t think it’s OK for the president to insult a woman in that way,” she tells me. “We’re all human beings, we’re doing the best we can, and to go after someone’s looks is inappropriate.” But while Earhardt made that point on the air that morning, when guest Geraldo Rivera, a Fox News Channel contributor, asserted that Trump should recognize that the “lowball” tweet “went too far,” she stopped, looked at the camera and interjected: “Our viewers are disagreeing with you. We’re getting a lot of emails.”
Those viewers, of course, largely are Trump fans; four in 10 Trump voters named Fox News as their main source for 2016 election news, according to a January study by the Pew Research Center. At a time when media consumption — and, increasingly, the perception of the news media itself — has been politicized to a degree not seen in decades, Fox & Friends has become a crucial strategic front for the president’s war on the outlets he doesn’t like. Trump doesn’t just watch Fox & Friends religiously; he often seems to take his talking points and even his policy cues directly from its content. Like it or not, thanks to its First Fan, the show may be the most influential news program in America.
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