If you are a cable news junkie, you’ve likely noticed that Fox News has pulled back from its habit of airing President Trump’s rallies live and uninterrupted. With Fox once again bypassing Trump’s Wednesday night rally, the president decided to call into the network twice in less than 12 hours for lengthy on-air chats.
Seeing that the network has foregone giving him unimpeded airtime as his rallies have increased, is the president trying out a new strategy of phoning into Fox News to get his message out to his core audience and air his grievances? And does this relate to a report that Trump is “no longer ratings gold”?
In case you missed it, Politico pointed out that in recent weeks, as Trump has ramped up his number of campaign rallies ahead of the midterms, Fox News has pulled back from broadcasting them on air, instead going with its normal primetime programming. (The network has continued to livestream them online.) As Politico noted, the rallies’ viewership numbers have been the same or even below Fox’s normal primetime programming, likely causing Fox to see less benefit in airing them in full, especially as they’d also be missing out on advertising revenue during that time.
One standout nugget in the Politico piece was a senior White House official telling the outlet that they were “unsure why the network would decide to cut away from presidential rallies, saying officials planned ‘to look into that’ and wouldn’t be surprised if White House communications director Bill Shine, a former Fox News executive, was in touch with former colleagues about the trend.”
Another Trump associate told Politico that “the president sees the lack of rally coverage on the network as a huge loss on the state and local level for Republicans because they’re certainly not going to get any of that on other cable networks,” adding that if Fox stops “taking them completely, that might create a problem.”
“Trump is a massive consumer of the media, so he may be disappointed,” the source concluded.
And, lo and behold, we got two phoners scheduled in short time with Fox News after that piece hit — one with Shannon Bream in the 11 PM hour last night and this morning’s 47-minute behemoth with Fox & Friends. Based on press releases sent out by the Fox News for these two interviews, it is clear that the network was given short notice of the president’s availability and willingness to call in.
Meanwhile, the interviews themselves were essentially just rehashes of his recent rallies. Neither call made much news, instead mixing in some of Trump’s greatest hits — John McCain’s ObamaCare vote, build the wall, “I draw the biggest crowds” — with ramblings about more recent topics, such as Eric Holder’s “kick’em” remarks, the New York Times anonymous op-ed, holding rallies during a hurricane, Devin Nunes deserving the Medal of Honor and Kanye West coming for lunch, among other subjects.
Obviously, this is all speculative, and this could just be a situation that the president was feeling really chatty over the past day (besides the two Fox call-ins, he sat with the Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito for an interview on Wednesday night). But one has to think the president saw — or was at least told about — the Politico piece. And we all know how fragile the commander-in-chief’s ego is, especially when it comes to ratings and TV coverage.
Trump’s next rally is Friday night at 7 PM in Ohio. If Fox doesn’t broadcast it in full, will we see more phoners quickly scheduled with Fox right after? I guess we just need to wait and see.