Why Trump, DeSantis And Haley All Ended The Primary By Attacking Fox
As New Hampshire Republicans go to the polls, Donald Trump is issuing racist dog whistles about Nikki Haley’s name, Haley is suggesting that Trump is senile, and Ron DeSantis has dropped out and endorsed the former president. But in what may be the final days of the 2024 GOP presidential primary, the candidates are also united in a curious way: All three attacked Fox News, the right-wing media megaphone that plays an outsized role in Republican politics.
Haley repeatedly lashed out at Fox during a Tuesday morning Fox & Friends interview. First, she suggested the hosts might not “tell the truth” about her showing in New Hampshire. Then, after facing repeated questions about whether she would drop out if she loses that state, she replied, “I’m going to fight no matter what — I don’t care how much y’all want to coronate Donald Trump.”
“Coronate, lie, not tell the truth, what you said on the couch, I’m really wondering why you think we’re the enemy,” co-host Brian Kilmeade responded.
“Because I’ve looked at the media,” Haley replied. “Look at the media saying, ‘Oh, this is Donald Trump’s to have.’ Look at the political class all coalescing and saying, ‘Everybody needs to get out.’”
DeSantis similarly concluded his campaign in Iowa by criticizing Fox’s role in the primaries. He accused “conservative radio guys and Fox News people” of being unwilling to criticize Trump “because they’re so concerned that someone might yell at them,” and denounced Fox for letting Trump get away with “massive gaslighting” about his record with “no pushback” during a town hall.
They’re both correct: Fox wants to coronate Trump as the GOP presidential nominee, its hosts do not seriously criticize him in part because they fear an audience revolt, and its interviewers habitually allow Trump to lie to their viewers.
It’s commonplace for losing Republican primary candidates to blame Fox given the influential role its stars play in the process. As the 2016 presidential primary wound down, both Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) lashed out at the network for being in the tank for Trump (they were also correct).
But Trump has also been attacking Fox this week. He went afterFox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy as an “Unwatchable RINO” on Friday after Doocy fact-checked one of his falsehoods, and then panned the network as “one-sided” in its coverage of DeSantis and Haley on Monday, commenting, “No wonder the Republican base no longer cares about them.”
Trump’s latest criticisms extend a long-running fight between the two most powerful forces in Republican politics. Fox and its stars have been strong supporters of Trump, particularly during his presidency, when the network functioned as an extension of his White House. But Fox’s business model requires it to at least present the trappings of a normal news outlet to advertisers, and as such its employees do things like hosting his primary opponents and occasionally pointing out when he says things that aren’t true.
But Trump can’t handle such apostasy — he wants Fox to provide pure obsequiousness in the vein of former Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, of whom a top Fox executive once said, “The North Koreans do a more nuanced show.” And so while Trump frequently praises Fox hosts and regularly appears on the network, he also lashes out when Fox’s coverage is less than purely adulatory.
That puts Fox in a difficult position because, as DeSantis alluded in his critique of the network, Trump has shown the willingness and ability to get Fox viewers to switch to its competitors. The network appears to be responding by amping up its attacks on Haley — and by showering Trump with the sycophancy he craves.
That’s what we should expect Fox coverage to look like once the GOP primary is over, as its employees work to fulfill the network’s mission of electing Trump as president.
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters