Jane Meyer, a journalist for The New Yorker magazine, recently wrote this piece outlining how Fox News has become an outlet for pro-Trump political propaganda, complete with a revolving door between Fox News and the Trump Administration.
In the early 1990’s, Fox acquired broadcast rights to broadcast National Football League (NFL) games on Sunday afternoons with games predominantly featuring teams from the National Football Conference (NFC), starting with the 1994 season (Fox, which initially built its sports division, Fox Sports, around the NFL, but has now acquired broadcast rights to many other sporting events, has held the rights to the NFC-heavy Sunday afternoon NFL broadcast rights package to this day). There was an underlying political motivation behind Fox acquiring NFL broadcast rights, to the point that one could argue that the rise of the modern far-right in American politics had its roots Fox acquiring NFL broadcast rights:
Murdoch could not have foreseen that Trump would become President, but he was a visionary about the niche audience that became Trump’s base. In 1994, Murdoch laid out an audacious plan to Reed Hundt, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission under President Bill Clinton. Murdoch, who had been a U.S. citizen for less than a decade, invited Hundt to his Benedict Canyon estate for dinner. After the meal, Murdoch led him outside to take in the glittering view of the Los Angeles Basin, and confided that he planned to launch a radical new television network. Unlike the three established networks, which vied for the same centrist viewers, his creation would follow the unapologetically lowbrow model of the tabloids that he published in Australia and England, and appeal to a narrow audience that would be entirely his. His core viewers, he said, would be football fans; with this aim in mind, he had just bought the rights to broadcast N.F.L. games. Hundt told me, “What he was really saying was that he was going after a working-class audience. He was going to carve out a base—what would become the Trump base.”Source
Keep in mind that, prior to 1994, when Fox acquired NFL broadcast rights, Fox was a minor television network, much like the CW (which is jointly owned by CBS Corporation and AT&T’s Warner Media) is nowadays. Since 1994, Fox has expanded into cable television (with FX, FS1, FS2, the Big Ten Network, Fox Business Network, and Fox News Channel, among others), a large sports division with broadcast rights to major sporting events, and a cable “news” channel delivering far-right political propaganda 24 hours per day, every day. Fox is still, in some aspects, not as much of a player in regards to broadcast (i.e., over-the-air) television as the original Big Three networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC). For example, Fox does not air much in the way of network news programming like the Big Three networks do, with Fox News Sunday, a Sunday morning political talk show, being the only news program of any kind on the Fox over-the-air network, with Fox News Channel being a far-right propaganda outlet masquerading as a cable news channel, and Fox, with rare exceptions for sports events (such as numerous matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup men’s soccer tournament), does not air any network programming in a morning or afternoon time slot on weekdays. However, if not for the Fox broadcast network gaining NFL broadcast rights in 1994, Fox would probably be a minor player in the television landscape today instead of the large and powerful media empire that is in real-life.
Meyer’s piece also mentions an instance where Fox News organized and aired a Republican presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio. Meyer described how Trump was given advance knowledge of some debate questions that were asked by Megyn Kelly, then a Fox News employee and one of the moderators of the debate, as well as how Trump bullied the late Fox News boss Roger Ailes into ordering Fox to give Trump favorable treatment:
Against this strained backdrop, at the debate in Cleveland, Kelly asked Trump a famously tough question. “You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals,’ ” she said. Trump interrupted her with a snide quip: “Only Rosie O’Donnell!” The hall burst into laughter and applause.
Kelly kept pressing Trump: “You once told a contestant on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect President?” But he’d already won over Republican viewers. (Fox received a flood of e-mails, almost all of them anti-Kelly.) The showdown helped shape Trump’s image as shamelessly unsinkable. It also kicked off a feud between Trump and Fox, in which Trump briefly boycotted the channel, hurting its ratings and forcing Ailes to grovel. Four days after the debate, Trump tweeted that Ailes had “just called” and “assures me that ‘Trump’ will be treated fairly.”
Trump has made the debate a point of pride. He recently boasted to the Times that he’d won it despite being a novice, and despite the “crazy Megyn Kelly question.” Fox, however, may have given Trump a little help. A pair of Fox insiders and a source close to Trump believe that Ailes informed the Trump campaign about Kelly’s question. Two of those sources say that they know of the tipoff from a purported eyewitness. In addition, a former Trump campaign aide says that a Fox contact gave him advance notice of a different debate question, which asked the candidates whether they would support the Republican nominee, regardless of who won. The former aide says that the heads-up was passed on to Trump, who was the only candidate who said that he wouldn’t automatically support the Party’s nominee—a position that burnished his image as an outsider.Source
This is extremely hypocritical, given that Trump loudly complained about Donna Brazille, then a political commentator for CNN who later became acting chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 general election, giving Hillary Clinton, who won the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 before losing the general election to Donald Trump despite winning a plurality of the national popular vote, advance knowledge of questions that were to be asked during a town hall event televised by CNN. Trump became a strong favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination by his debate performance in Cleveland, meaning that Fox News helped foment Trump’s political rise, something that a proper news organization should avoid doing in regards to any political figure at all costs.
I encourage everyone to read the entire Jane Meyer piece here, since the four paragraphs that I’ve quoted of it are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how Fox News played a significant role in Donald Trump’s political rise, and Meyer’s piece also describes the revolving door between the Trump Administration and Fox News.
It is the opinion of the author of this blog post that the Fairness Doctrine, which would have effectively prohibited Fox News from becoming a pro-Trump propaganda outlet, should be reinstated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).