A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
As President Trump frets over his sliding poll numbers, even going so far as to privately unload on his campaign manager, he is doubling down on his Fox-centric media strategy. Fox News announced Wednesday that the President will participate in a town hall on Sunday with Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.
During the last Fox News town hall with Trump, you’ll remember that anchors Bill Hemmer and Harris Faulkner allowed him to peddle misinformation and even cite a fringe conspiratorial outlet with no meaningful push back. So it’s no wonder that Trump has agreed to appear for an additional town hall, marking yet another television appearance on Fox for Trump. Trump, who hasn’t appeared for a sit-down television interview with another network in recent memory, has made time in recent weeks for Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, and the cast of “Fox & Friends.”
The announcement of Fox’s Sunday evening event capped a day in which the conservative network continued to have unprecedented access to the White House. Jared Kushner appeared on “Fox & Friends,” astonishingly dubbing the United States’ coronavirus response to be a “success story” – something Kushner would have never been able to get away scot-free with saying on a credible news network.
Mike Pompeo, who has only appeared on Fox News this month, in terms of major domestic TV interviews, joined “Fox & Friends” to condemn China’s “communist disinformation.” Pompeo also later appeared on Shannon Bream’s show. (A State Department spokesperson responded: “In the month of April, Secretary Pompeo completed over 90 interviews across print, TV and radio. We regret that only six of those interviews were with Fox.”)
And Kayleigh McEnany, who has only appeared on Fox News since taking over as White House press secretary more than two weeks ago, though to her credit she has held gaggles with reporters, appeared again on Fox Business with Trump pal Lou Dobbs Wednesday night.
It’s important to note that Trump has repeatedly taken questions from reporters at news conferences over the last few weeks. But it’s also important to note that a press briefing is not the same as a sit-down interview. The briefings occur on Trump’s turf, where he commands the room/venue and sets the rules. If he doesn’t like a question, for instance, he can just move on to the next question – something that he can’t quite do during a formal sit-down interview with a skilled anchor.
And while the White House is putting task force officials on other networks, including CNN, between the big interviews Fox is receiving and the town hall announcement, it’s difficult to deny the network is being granted unparalleled access.
Is this a viable strategy?
If Trump aims to shore up support from his base, granting Fox News limitless access is a great strategy. But if he’s truly worried about his slipping poll numbers, and ultimately losing the election to Joe Biden, he’ll need to move beyond the Fox lane at some point. Fox reaches a lot of viewers, but it only speaks to a fraction of the country…