Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters
President Donald Trump tweeted in response to Fox News or Fox Business programs he was watching at least 657 times in 2019 — nearly 10 percent of his total tweets that year — according to a Media Matters review. He live-tweeted 36 different Fox programs, doing so most frequently in response to the Fox News morning show Fox & Friends, which he tweeted about at least 206 times.
President Donald Trump tweeted in response to Fox News or Fox Business programs he was watching at least 657 times in 2019 — nearly 10 percent of his total tweets that year — according to a Media Matters review. Trump’s passion for Fox and his eagerness to act on the advice of its commentators is well-documented. So is his habit of watching Fox programming — often on delay using a DVR — and tweeting out responses to what he sees on his television, described here as “live-tweeting.” I have studied this Trump-Fox feedback loop since October 2017, tracking Trump’s often belligerent or self-aggrandizing Twitter rants back to the particular Fox segments which spurred them and sharing my findings on Twitter. I noted that Trump spent the first day of 2019, for example, tweeting praise for his former aide Sebastian Gorka’s book minutes after he appeared on Fox & Friends, while on the last day of the year he approvingly quoted network commentators a few hours after they weighed in on his administration’s various scandals.
This study provides a comprehensive review of Trump’s 2019 live tweets, and it complements my December report on how the president’s Fox fixation drove federal policy and national politics all year long. For this study, I reviewed all of the Trump tweets I had previously identified as the result of the president live-tweeting his television, the overwhelming majority of which were in response to the Fox channels. I recorded the networks and shows to which the tweets responded, as well as the topics and targets Trump discussed and the personalities he quoted.
- Key findings
- Trump live-tweeted all networks 681 times in 2019. Of those, 559 tweets responded to Fox News, 98 to Fox Business, and 24 were scattered across other broadcast and cable networks.
- His 657 live tweets of Fox programming represent 9.5 percent of his total tweets that year and an average of nearly two live tweets per day.
- He sent at least one Fox live tweet on 202 days.
- His highest one-day total was 10 Fox live tweets on December 18, the day the House of Representatives voted to impeach him. He sent 97 Fox live tweets in December, the most of any month in 2019.
- He live-tweeted 36 different Fox shows.
- He tweeted more frequently about Fox’s weekday shows than its weekend ones.
- As the year went on, he increased both the range of Fox shows he live-tweeted and the frequency of his live tweets.
- He sent 206 live tweets about Fox & Friends, his highest total of any show by a factor of more than three.
- He sent 136 live tweets combined about Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight and Fox News’ prime-time block of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity, and The Ingraham Angle.
- Nearly half of his Fox live tweets responded to weekday shows that air before noon.
- Of his Fox live tweets, 45 percent were about either the Russia investigation or Ukraine scandal.
- He sent 10 live tweets promoting books authored by people he was watching on Fox.
- He quoted Fox commentary, chyrons, or graphics in 51 percent of his live tweets. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade was the person he quoted most frequently.
- Trump live-tweeted all networks 681 times in 2019. Of those, 559 tweets responded to Fox News, 98 to Fox Business, and 24 were scattered across other broadcast and cable networks.
By focusing solely on the president’s live tweets, the study represents, by nature, a floor for the president’s obsession with his television. It does not include tweets that the president may have sent in response to television programming but which I could not identify as such. Nor does it include Trump’s frequent tweets of raw video of Fox segments, or his regular retweets of Fox commentators, or other tweets referencing Fox such as the 11 he sent in 2019 promoting his own upcoming Fox interviews, none of which constitute live-tweeting.
But the data provides a window into how Trump consumes news, revealing a president who is immersed in and fueled by Fox’s often conspiratorial and disinformation-laced programming, who prefers the rantings of its hosts to expert analysis, and whose dashed-off responses to its reporting can dramatically alter the political landscape.
The timing and content of the live tweets suggest they largely fit into at least one of three categories. They show Trump trying to fend off a host of scandals by catapulting the talking points of his televised allies into the mainstream; distracted in crucial moments by the rancor and propaganda coming from his television; and so driven by television news programming that he seems almost physically unable to deprive himself of it.
When the stakes were highest in 2019 — as the president faced looming impeachment proceedings, tensions with North Korea, faltering trade deals, and Iranian-backed attacks on a U.S. Embassy in Iraq — Trump retreated to Fox and relied on its messaging.
How often does Trump live-tweet?
Trump sent 681 live tweets in 2019, 657 of them in response to Fox shows. Trump’s 2019 live tweets demonstrate that he spent the year consuming vast quantities of Fox programming, to the virtual exclusion of other television news outlets. Of his 681 live tweets, 657 came in response to either the conservative network Fox News (559 live tweets) or its sister network, Fox Business (98 live tweets). Trump also sent eight live tweets in response to One America News Network, a far-right Fox competitor that Trump has praised in order to encourage Fox to hew even closer to his line. His remaining 16 live tweets over the course of the year were split between CBS (1 live tweet), CNBC (3), CNN (2), MSNBC (5) and NBC (5).
Nearly one in 10 of Trump’s 2019 tweets were Fox live tweets. Trump’s Fox live tweets represent 9.5 percent of all tweets Trump sent in 2019, according to the Trump Twitter Archive, and an average of 1.8 Fox live tweets per day.
Trump sent at least one Fox live tweet on more than half the days of the year, and he sent as many as 10 Fox live tweets in a single day. Trump live-tweeted Fox programming on 202 different days in 2019, averaging 16.8 days per month in which he live-tweeted Fox at least once. The president sent Fox live tweets on as many as 24 days in a single month, which he did in both October and December. He had 10 separate streaks live-tweeting Fox for six or more consecutive days, and he did so 11 days in a row from July 21 to July 31. On 21 separate days, he sent seven or more Fox live tweets, topping out with 10 Fox live tweets on December 18, the day the House voted to impeach him.
Trump’s live tweets increased in frequency as the year went on, with more than 100 in December. The last four months of the year were among the five months he live-tweeted the most, and his December totals (102 live tweets, 97 of Fox networks) were his highest of 2019 by more than 10 percent. This suggests that he was watching more television and using Fox’s programming to shape his response as the House of Representatives began impeachment hearings into his conduct. He live-tweeted the least in February, with 23 tweets, 22 of which were of Fox shows.
With some Fox live tweets, Trump tried to shape narratives during political crises. In the moments of greatest political peril for his administration, Trump heavily relied on Fox to shape the messaging coming from his Twitter account. He live-tweeted Fox commentary about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election both the night before and during Mueller’s congressional testimony, and he channeled its commentators’ supportive takes on the morning the House voted to impeach him.
At other times, Trump’s Fox live-tweeting seems to indicate that the president is being distracted from his duties by his television. As Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm, bore down on the U.S. coastline in late August and early September, Trump sent more than 20 Fox live tweets covering topics that ranged from the FBI’s purported “coup” against him to the “very successful Trade battle with China” to criticisms of his presidency by the actor Debra Messing. Before leaving for a nuclear summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the president turned on Fox & Friends and tweeted about film director Spike Lee. While flying between Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, where he was to comfort grieving families of victims of recent mass shootings, he watched Fox and lashed out at former Vice President Joe Biden and then-Fox host Shepard Smith.
The timing of some of Trump’s live tweets suggests an unwillingness to turn off the television. He seems to have watched Fox and sent tweets in response on New Year’s Day and Christmas Day; fired off two live tweets on the evening of Valentine’s Day and nine the morning of January 22, his wedding anniversary; and neglected to wish his adult daughter Tiffany a happy birthday on Twitter while sending Fox live tweets that day quoting Greg Gutfeld and attacking Chris Wallace.
Which Fox shows does Trump live-tweet?
Trump live-tweeted 36 different Fox shows in 2019, with Fox & Friends receiving by far the most attention. In 2019, Trump live-tweeted 36 different Fox shows, including every single regular Fox News series airing on weekends or weekdays. The programs Trump live-tweeted most frequently are Fox & Friends (206 live tweets), Fox & Friends Weekend Edition (64), America’s Newsroom (57), Lou Dobbs Tonight (45), Hannity (33), The Ingraham Angle (33), Mornings with Maria Bartiromo (29), America’s News HQ (28), Tucker Carlson Tonight (25), and Varney and Co. (15).
Nearly half of Trump’s live tweets were of shows that air on weekday mornings. Fox & Friends First, Fox & Friends, America’s Newsroom, FBN AM, Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, and Varney and Co., which all air on weekday mornings before noon, accounted for 318 tweets, 48 percent of Trump’s total Fox live tweets. That is consistent with Axios’ reporting, based on leaked copies of the president’s private schedule, that he usually spends weekday mornings in the residence watching TV and making phone calls. Another 157 Fox live tweets, 24 percent of the total, came in response to weekday shows that aired after 7 p.m. Otherwise, 22 percent of his live tweets (144 total) came in response to shows that aired on the weekend, while the remaining 7 percent (38 total) responded to weekday afternoon shows.
Trump favorite Fox & Friends is responsible for more than three in 10 Fox live tweets. It comes as little surprise that the greatest source of Trump’s live tweets was weekday morning Fox News show Fox & Friends, which airs for three hours each weekday and generated 31 percent of all Fox live tweets. Helmed by co-hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, and Brian Kilmeade, who are alternatively propagandists and buffoons, the program helped Trump gain a political footing by hosting him for weekly sessions beginning in 2011, and it now serves as both his personal morning briefing and the site of frequent interviews. Trump has regularly praised the program’s hosts as model journalists.
Trump also regularly live tweets other weekday morning Fox shows. After that program concludes at 9 a.m., the president seems to often stay on the same channel and watch Fox’s daytime “straight news” broadcast America’s Newsroom. At times, Trump will instead substitute Mornings with Maria Bartiromo and Varney and Co., Fox Business programs airing at the same time that provide a sunny take on economic news.
Other top sources of Trump’s live tweets feature pro-Trump hosts with ties to his administration. The weekend morning program Fox & Friends Weekend Edition and the weekday evening shows Lou Dobbs Tonight, Hannity, The Ingraham Angle, and Tucker Carlson Tonight all feature sycophantically pro-Trump hosts who either have served as personal advisers to the president, have been considered for roles in his administration, or both.
Trump tweets on weekdays more frequently than on weekends. Trump live-tweets Fox shows that air on weekdays, when previous presidents have been tightly scheduled, more frequently than he does those that air on weekends, when he often plays golf. He sent 513 Fox live tweets of weekday shows, averaging two live tweets per weekday, compared to 144 Fox live tweets of weekend shows, or 1.4 per weekend day.
Trump tweeted about more Fox shows toward the end of the year than at its beginning. Over the course of the year, the president expanded the range of the Fox shows he live-tweeted. In the first quarter of 2019, he live-tweeted 19 Fox shows at least once, a number which increased to 28 in the fourth quarter. The numbers are even more stark when reviewing the Fox shows he live-tweeted at least five times, which rose from seven in the first quarter of the year to 15 in the fourth quarter.
What topics does Trump live-tweet?
Trump’s Fox live tweets cover a variety of topics, with his focus shifting over the year. I reviewed Trump’s live tweets to determine whether they discussed the investigation into Russian interference; the scandal in which Trump abused his power in order to smear Biden, which led to his impeachment; immigration; economic issues; or foreign policy. The focus of Trump’s Fox live tweets shifted over the course of the year.
Topic: Ukraine scandal
Trump sent 182 Fox live tweets about the Ukraine scandal, 28 percent of his total Fox live tweets. Fox became central to Trump’s defense from the unfolding scandal surrounding his abuse of power in Ukraine over the last four months of the year, as new revelations triggered impeachment hearings and the passage of articles of impeachment. He sent a total of 182 Fox live tweets about the story, peaking with 56 in October and 57 in December. While he sent only a single tweet about the Ukraine scandal before September, the issue still drove 28 percent of his Fox live tweets for the entire year — and 58 percent of the live tweets over those final four months.
Trump relied upon Fox & Friends and Hannity for messaging. Trump leaned in particular on the messaging from Fox & Friends on the Ukraine scandal, which spurred 58 live tweets and guided his effort to shape the day’s media coverage, and Hannity, which generated 18. Fifty-five percent of Trump’s 2019 live tweets of Sean Hannity’s show came in response to the Ukraine story, and the night before the first impeachment hearing, Trump quoted Hannity’s attacks on the “phony showtrial” and praised him as an “amazing warrior.” Trump’s highlighting of Hannity’s spin is particularly apt given the key role his show played in originally helping to generate the scandal.
Trump’s Ukraine live tweets feature Fox’s attacks on Democrats and declarations of his innocence. Trump’s Ukraine live tweets highlighted attacks by Fox personalities on the whistleblower, Joe Biden’s son Hunter, congressional Democrats, the media, and impeachment witnesses, as well as their denials that Trump had acted inappropriately or committed an impeachable offense, arguments that the process was unfair and impeachment unpopular, and even the possibility that his removal could trigger a “Civil War like fracture.
Topic: Russia probe
Trump sent 116 Fox live tweets about the Russia probe, 18 percent of his total Fox live tweets. Trump’s communications strategy in responding to Mueller’s investigation involved a steady stream of live tweets of Fox’s programming on the subject. He sent a total of 116 such live tweets over the course of the year, with at least six every month but January and November and a high of 18 in May, as conservatives sought to change the narrative from Mueller’s report to an investigation into the investigators. Trump sent as many or more Fox live tweets about the Russia probe than any of the other four topics I reviewed every month from February through August, a period during which Mueller ended his investigation, submitted and saw published his final report, spoke publicly on its results, and testified before Congress.
Trump relied upon Fox & Friends and Lou Dobbs Tonight for messaging. Trump sent 27 Fox & Friends live tweets and 14 Lou Dobbs Tonight live tweets about the Russia probe. He sent more Dobbs live tweets about the Russia probe than about any other topic, representing 31 percent of his total live tweets of the program. Lou Dobbs offers a particularly propagandistic take on Trump that stands out even at Fox, and the president privately consults him for advice.
Trump’s Fox live tweets promote claims of his innocence, levy attacks on his perceived enemies. Trump used Fox segments to argue, in his own words or by quoting commentators on the network, that “The whole Russia thing was a Hoax” and the president himself “DID NOTHING WRONG,” that Democrats engaged in “abuses of power” in investigating him, that people at the FBI are guilty of “TREASON” for trying to “overthrow” him “through an illegal coup” and initiating a “complete setup” of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and that the media had been pushing a “Russia Collusion Hoax.”
Trump sent 61 Fox live tweets about immigration, 9 percent of his total Fox live tweets. Trump sent 61 Fox live tweets about immigration in 2019, representing 9 percent of his total Fox live tweets that year. His 21 immigration tweets in January were his highest total on the topic in the year and the most of any topic I tracked that month. He sent at least one Fox live tweet on immigration in every month except October and at least six during three separate months.
Trump used Fox’s immigration coverage to shape his messaging after shutting down the government. Twenty-one of Trump’s Fox live tweets on immigration came in January, after Trump responded to the network’s demands by partially shutting down the federal government in order to get more funding for a border wall. Trump used Fox programming to suggest that he was winning the shutdown debate, amplify commentators calling for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, highlight reporting about crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and in Mexico, and stoke fears about migrant caravans. During the shutdown, Trump reportedly sought strategic advice from Fox hosts, relied on their talking points during a national address, and sat for multiple interviews with the network’s hosts. Other live tweets later in the year highlighted the need for and construction of the border wall, praise from Fox commentators for Trump’s immigration policy, and attacks on Democratic opposition to his policy.
Fox & Friends, Fox & Friends Weekend Edition, and Lou Dobbs Tonight were the leading sources of Fox live tweets on immigration. Trump sent 22 live tweets of Fox & Friends immigration segments, 14 of Fox & Friends Weekend Edition segments, and seven of Lou Dobbs Tonight segments. Dobbs privately advised the president on his shutdown strategy, and the White House reportedly reached out to him in February seeking his support for a final deal to reopen the government.
Topic: Economic policy
Trump sent 94 tweets about economic policy, 14 percent of his total Fox live tweets. Ninety-four of Trump’s Fox live tweets dealt with his administration’s economic policy and record, constituting 14 percent of his total Fox live tweets. His highest total in any month came in December, when he had 17 Fox live tweets about economic issues. He sent Fox live tweets about economic policy in every month except for February and at least six Fox live tweets during eight different months, but the issue never rose higher than the second-most-discussed topic.
Fox & Friends and Mornings with Maria Bartiromo generated the most economic policy live tweets. Trump sent 24 live tweets of Fox & Friends and 11 of Mornings with Maria Bartiromo dealing with the topic. The latter figure made up 38 percent of Trump’s live tweets of Mornings with Maria Bartiromo. Bartiromo’s purported business news show frequently cheerleads for Trump’s administration and provides a platform for pro-Trump conspiracy theories.
Trump’s Fox live tweets largely trumpet good economic news. Trump’s live tweets highlight Fox personalities cheering for stock market highs and other positive economic indicators, praising the president for his tax cuts and overall economic record, and attacks on Democrats and the Federal Reserve.
Topic: Foreign policy
Trump sent 55 Fox live tweets about foreign policy, 8 percent of his total Fox live tweets. Fifty-five of Trump’s Fox live tweets dealt with his administration’s foreign policy, constituting 8 percent of his total Fox live tweets. His highest total in any month came in October, when he had 11 Fox live tweets. He sent Fox live tweets about foreign policy in every month except for February and at least six Fox live tweets during five different months.
Fox & Friends powered the highest number of Fox live tweets about foreign policy. Trump sent 14 Fox & Friends live tweets about foreign policy, the most of any show. No other Fox show triggered more than seven live tweets on the topic.
Trump’s Fox live tweets constantly threaten diplomatic incidents. While relatively few in number, Trump’s Fox live tweets about foreign policy have included hyperaggressive responses to incredibly complex diplomatic situations. Trump has, in response to Fox coverage in 2019, threatened “the official end of Iran”; accused a U.S. company of committing “treason” with the Chinese government; commented on tensions with North Korea and Chinese trade wars; urged the Israeli government to ban two Democratic congresswomen from entering the country; and attacked French domestic policy and a politician in the United Kingdom.
What targets does Trump live-tweet?
Trump sent 231 Fox live tweets attacking Democrats, 35 percent of his total Fox live tweets. Trump frequently responded positively to segments on Fox that treated Democrats as a malignant force in public life (a common theme on the network). He attacked the Democratic Party or specific Democrats in 231 of his Fox live tweets, 35 percent of that total. The numbers peaked at 52 in December and 40 in October, as the Ukraine scandal triggered an impeachment inquiry and then his impeachment in the House of Representatives. He live-tweeted Fox to attack Democrats every month of the year, and he sent at least 10 such tweets during 10 separate months.
Fox & Friends, Fox & Friends Weekend Edition, America’s Newsroom, Hannity, and The Ingraham Angle led to the most live tweets attacking Democrats. Trump sent 66 live tweets attacking Democrats in response to Fox & Friends, 28 in response to Fox & Friends Weekend Edition, 21 in response to America’s Newsroom, 15 in response to The Ingraham Angle, and 14 in response to Hannity. The latter two figures accounted for 45 percent and 42 percent of Trump’s total live tweets of those shows, respectively.
Fox triggered racist Trump live tweets that overwhelmed the news cycle. Trump’s racist July tweets about Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD) and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Ilhan Omar (MN), Ayanna Pressley (MA), and Rashida Tlaib (MI) came in response to segments about them that ran on Fox & Friends Weekend Edition. Both sets of tweets generated media firestorms that lasted several days and caused widespread condemnations of the president’s comments.
Trump’s Fox live tweets target a wide range of Democrats. In addition to Cummings, Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley, and Tlaib, the laundry list of Democrats Trump attacked in response to Fox programming includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA), Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (NY), former Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT), former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (NY), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (CA), and now-presidential candidate Tom Steyer.
Trump sent 88 Fox live tweets attacking media, 13 percent of his total Fox live tweets. Fox personalities frequently lash out at news media outlets and individual journalists, and Trump frequently highlighted those attacks in his live tweets. He sent 88 live tweets attacking media outlets or personalities, which constituted 13 percent of his total Fox live tweets in 2019. He sent one such live tweet in every month of the year and at least five during 10 separate months. The number peaked with 15 such live tweets in September, amid scrutiny of his Ukraine abuse of power.
Trump sent the most Fox live tweets attacking the press in response to Fox & Friends, America’s Newsroom, and Tucker Carlson Tonight. Trump sent 25 live tweets attacking the media in response to Fox & Friends, 12 in response to America’s Newsroom, and nine in response to Tucker Carlson Tonight. An attack on the media was included in more than one-third of Trump’s live tweets of Tucker Carlson’s program.
Here are the mainstream journalists and media outlets Trump attacked in response to Fox programming. Along with several generic attacks on the “Fake News,” Trump sent live tweets in response to Fox programming that criticized outlets including ABC, NBC, CNN, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and singled out MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, CNN’s Don Lemon, and The New York Times’ Jonathan Weissman and Peter Baker.
Trump sent 19 Fox live tweets criticizing the network and its employees. Trump occasionally lashes out when he sees commentators on Fox criticizing his administration, either because he is constitutionally incapable of hearing even occasional criticism or as a strategy to work the refs. He sent 19 live tweets criticizing Fox in 2019, specifically calling out anchor Chris Wallace, correspondents John Roberts and Gillian Turner, and the network as a whole for its polling and for hosting Democrats like Schiff, presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA), contributor Juan Williams, and Democratic National Committee Communications Director Xochitl Hinojosa.
Who does Trump quote in live tweets?
Trump quoted Fox personalities or from its on-screen text in 51 percent of his Fox live tweets. Trump sent 336 Fox live tweets that quoted an on-air personality or on-screen text, doing so in 58 percent of his total Fox live tweets.
Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade is the person Trump quoted most frequently in Fox live tweets. Trump quoted Kilmeade, who once attempted to roast marshmallows on air with a plastic spoon, in 12 live tweets in 2019. Here are the rest of the top-10 list: Fox News host Steve Hilton (11 live tweets), Laura Ingraham (11), Dobbs (11), Doocy (9), Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz (8), Fox Business host Stuart Varney (8), Carlson (7), Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham (7), and pro-Trump attorney Alan Dershowitz (7). Trump also quoted Fox chyrons in 24 live tweets and Fox graphics in 7 live tweets.
Trump sent 10 tweets promoting the books of authors he had seen interviewed on Fox. Trump frequently tweets praise for books shortly after seeing their authors be interviewed on Fox. He sent 10 such tweets in 2019, promoting books by former Trump White House aides Sebastian Gorka and Michael Anton, former Trump Organization official George Sorial, conservative historian Doug Wead, conservative writers Victor Davis Hanson and Andrew McCarthy, Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz, and Fox host Jeanine Pirro.
Trump frequently promotes ludicrously over the top praise that aired on Fox. There are numerous examples of the president tweeting out the sort of ridiculously sycophantic commentary typically relegated to North Korean state television. Trump tweeted this quote from the April 30 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight:
And this one from the March 22 Fox & Friends:
And this one from the July 9 Fox & Friends:
And this one from Dobbs’ December 19 show: