Nel's New Day

March 4, 2019

State TV Fox Tied to DDT, Vice Versa

For several years, people have noted the close relationship between Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and Fox network as the faux news network has remained a combination of propagandist and feeder of falsities to the man inaugurated over two years ago. DDT has given Fox 44 exclusive interviews, with the number accelerating. In the past six months, DDT has tweeted over 200 Fox items to his 58 million followers. In the New Yorker, journalist and author Jane Mayer has detailed the relationship between DDT and Fox in an 11,000-word essay.

Instead of reflecting the news, Fox radicalizes the people with its fear-mongering. Conservative pundit Bill Kristol, employed by Fox as a contributor until 2012, said, “Before [Trump], it was conservative, but it wasn’t crazy. Now it’s just propaganda.” Sean Hannity has long been known as a confidant for DDT, often freely appearing at his dramatized events to toss him easy questions and one of the nightly triumvirate with Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham to scream over guest statements opposing DDT. Called the Shadow Chief of Staff, Hannity talks to DDT every night after his show. Fox Business hosts Pete Hegseth and Lou Dobbs offer DDT policy advice in the Oval Office. DDT thinks of hosts of Fox & Friends as his personal friends, and they pander to him with unvetted ideas.

Former Fox employees hired in the White House such as disgraced Bill Shine, former head of Fox News’ programming division, further burnish the Fox’s image with DDT devotees. Fox currently pays Shine while he collects his paycheck from taxpayers as part of the coordinated work between DDT and Fox. Former Fox contributors include HUD Secretary Ben Carson, national security adviser John Bolton, former deputy national-security adviser K.T. McFarland, and recently resigned UN Ambassador Heather Nauert. Donald Trump Jr., girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, who also left Fox in disgrace works on DDT’s reelection campaign. Hope Hicks, DDT’s formers head of communications, went to Fox, and others such as Sebastian Gorka, are regularly on Fox. [Fox separated from Gorka as of this article’s publication.]

DDT’s political rise matched a shift in tone at Fox. Early on, CEO Roger Ailes opposed Fox being a shill for the Tea Party, but owner Rupert Murdoch created an audience that became the “party of Trump.” Before DDT, Fox ridiculed birtherism, Bill O’Reilly described its promoters as “unhinged,” and Glenn Beck, who hosted a Fox show until he went over the conspiracy edge, called them “idiots.” DDT made birtherism respectable, and Hannity got his way to promote the extremist far-right party. He described President Obama’s negotiations with North Korea “disturbing” but called DDT’s failed efforts a “huge foreign-policy win.” Fox built its audience by elevating Benghazi far above other embassy ambushes causing deaths in its constant attack on then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Hannity appeared on stage at a DDT rally with little objection from Fox. Murdoch went from correcting DDT by tweeting that “Mexican immigrants, as with all immigrants, have much lower crime rates than native born” to tolerating Fox’s frequent diatribes about hordes of “illegal aliens.” Murdoch and DDT are both about the bottom line and ratings.

Megyn Kelly asked DDT “tough” questions in the Fox-sponsored presidential debate, but insiders said that Ailes alerted DDT about the questions. Kelly wrote in Settle for More that DDT called Fox executives the day before the campaign to complain about her “very pointed question directed at him.” After the debate, DDT boycotted Fox, driving down until ratings until Ailes groveled.

During the summer when DDT became the GOP presidential candidate, Ailes’ sexual misconduct forced him out, and he joined DDT’s debate team. Fox gained two Ailes loyalists, Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine, as co-presidents who turned the network over to DDT propaganda, furthering empowering him and Hannity. At 85, Murdoch claimed the CEO position, but insiders reported that after his serious health issues, “the lunatics took over the asylum.” During DDT’s campaign, a Fox reporter confirmed the story about his affair in 2006 with Stormy Daniels, but Fox editors denied her going public. She told colleagues that Ken LaCorte, then head of FoxNews.com said, “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.” The same reporter kept digging and discovered that the National Enquirer made a “catch and kill” deal with Daniels in which the tabloid bought the exclusive rights to story before it buried the information.

The story went public when the Wall Street Journal published the details about Daniels and the Enguirer, a year after DDT was inaugurated. The reporter was demoted, she sued the network, and her settlement includes a nondisclosure agreement banning her from talking about her work at Fox. LaCorte, still paid by Fox after he left, said that he squashed the story without talking to superiors because it hadn’t “passed muster.” Blogger Nik Richie called him out for being a “LIAR,” tweeting that he “was one of your sources.” Richie voted for DDT, but he thinks that the story would have swung the election.

Part of Shine’s job at Fox was to handle sexual misconduct complaints. Any woman who complained was gently treated unless she persevered, when Shine would warn her that her career would be destroyed. At least four civil lawsuits against Fox name Shine as defendant, and Fox settled on in 2017 for $90 million. That suit claims Fox spent $55 million to settle sexual harassment claims out of court. Shine was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in a Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s investigation into company funds for these payoffs, but Shine agreed to interviews by prosecutors. The investigation disappeared after Ailes death in May 2017, but Shine was his enabler as shown by payments he signed to accusers’ settlements.

Under Shine’s leadership in 2017, Fox and O’Reilly paid $13 million to five female employees accusing him of sexual misconduct with a sixth $32 million payment in negotiation. After advertiser boycotts and street demonstrations, Fox fired O’Reilly and then Shine. Hannity became Fox’s top-rated star and highest-profile DDT promoter and helped Shine get a job as White House communications director and deputy chief of staff.

DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has always been close to Murdoch, but Murdoch made up with DDT after calling him “a f**king idiot” to benefit from specialized treatment for his business interests.

  • DDT’s administration approved Fox’s sale of most of its entertainment assets to Disney for $71 billion, with the Murdoch family getting $2 billion and becoming a major stockholder in the combined company that accounts for half the box-office revenue in the United States.  DDT promised the creation of jobs from the deal that has resulted in thousands of layoffs.
  • DDT’s FCC blocked Sinclair Broadcast Group, more conservative than Fox, from buying Tribune Media Company that would have given Sinclair access to 72 percent of the U.S. population.
  • DDT’s DOJ stopped AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, owner of CNN, after Murdoch failed to buy Time Warner in 2014. A sweetener for DDT was retaliation against CNN, DDT’s most hated media source. Although DDT claimed that he was “not going to get involved,” he ordered Gary Cohn, then director of the National Economic Council, to pressure the DOJ to intervene in the sale although Cohn knew that DDT’s action was inappropriate for a sitting president and refused. A federal court has ruled against the DOJ and permitted the $85 billion merger—for the second time. [Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said that a president has the right to punish the media by blocking this merger.]

The more DDT does for Murdoch, the more Fox does for DDT. Yochai Benkler, a Harvard Law School professor who co-directs the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, said, “Fox’s most important role since the election has been to keep Trump supporters in line.” According to Fox, the only collusion is between Clinton and Russia,  the special investigator is perpetrating a “coup” by the “deep state,” DDT and his associates aren’t corrupt, U.S. courts are corrupt, illegal immigration is an invasion and not at a 15-year low, and all news organizations offering perspectives different from these are “enemies of the American people.” Benkler, author with Robert Faris and Hal Robert of Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation and Radicalization in American Politics, said:

“It’s not the right versus the left. It’s the right versus the rest.”

Conservative media outlets focus on confirmation of the audience’s biases and provide propaganda and lies that spread uncorrected to Fox because viewers hate for falsehoods to be disclosed. Fox fired Glenn Beck for baseless conspiracy theories, but Hannity is rewarded for them. Only boycotts of Fox advertisers forced Hannity to drop his conspiracy accusations about murdered Democratic staffer Seth Rich.

Alisyn Camerota, former co-host of Fox & Friends, quit because of its lack of standards and wrote the novel Amanda Wakes Up about propaganda on a cable morning show. She said that the show’s producers would “cull far-right, crackpot Web sites” for content and never bothered with second sources. The primary standard was that “this is going to outrage the audience!” Guilfoyle got her information from an avid fan who sent her content for her topics such as “physically weak men” are “more likely to be socialists.”

Matt Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Matters, thinks that Fox drives DDT more than the reverse. A recent example how DDT caused the 35-day shutdown and declared a national emergency because of Fox ridicule.

“The President’s world view is being specifically shaped by what he sees on Fox News, but Fox’s goals are ratings and money, which they get by maximizing rage. It’s not a message that is going to serve the rest of the country.”

Fox’s problem comes from its one-pony show of DDT to make money, and ratings fall when he looks bad. Fox’s evening ratings have dropped by 20 percent since the midterms with only a spike for DDT’s interview after Michael Cohen’s testimony. A change may be in the wind: much smaller since the Disney sale, Fox will be supervised by conservative Lachlan Murdoch who might move to center right. The test could be the release of Robert Mueller’s findings. At this time, Fox’s hosts and guests are swearing war. The question is whether Fox wants to start the war.

The most frightening part of Jane Mayer’s detailed look at the authoritarian DDT and Fox network is that it’s not as shocking as it should be for a country that prides itself on being a democracy.

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