As Donald Trump has become more toxically unpopular, even Fox News has had to begin turning against him (if only incrementally), in order to protect its own ratings and viability. This past week, that finally came to a head. The result: what appears to be a big win for Fox News, and a troubling loss for Trump.
For months now, Trump has been publicly lashing out at Fox News in increasingly frequent and severe fashion. This week, after some Fox personalities began calling out Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior, he called for people to stop watching Fox altogether. Trump may have been trying to bully Fox into giving him more favorable coverage, or he may have just been throwing an aimless tantrum. But he certainly didn’t get the result he wanted.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto saw the opportunity to establish a smidgeon of journalistic credibility for himself, by calling out Donald Trump for being unwilling to accept anything less than 100% positive coverage. This means Fox viewers get to feel like they’re watching objectively honest coverage, even though it’s still dishonestly slanted to the far-right most of the time. And it gives Fox cover for its other hosts who are still as far up Trump’s derriere as possible.
The thing is, this probably hurts Donald Trump. Fox News is going to take things wherever it thinks its audience wants things to go. Trump’s worsening poll numbers suggest that even some on the right are tiring of him, so Fox is going to do what it has to do for ratings. By publicly trying to tell Fox what to do, Trump just handed Fox an excuse to justify that shift to its audience, by pointing out that Trump doesn’t get to call the shots at its network. That’s the last thing Trump needs heading into 2020.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report