None of us has a crystal ball—though you could argue that Jim Jordan still had two of them before Friday. That said, it’s looking increasingly likely that Donald Trump will be the Republican presidential nominee in 2024. And there’s essentially zero chance Fox News will back President Biden’s reelection. So we will very likely be treated to the otherworldly spectacle of a network that believes its favored candidate is too reckless and irresponsible to appear in live interviews but somehow isn’t too reckless and irresponsible to be president of the United States.
Apparently, if you’re the type of person who gets your news from Fox—which is a little like snacking on lead paint chips for the fiber content—you’ve noticed that Trump hasn’t been interviewed live on the network for many moons.
Why? Because you can’t trust him to tell the truth—or at least to avoid telling demonstrably false, and potentially slanderous, stories—so they simply can’t platform him without first editing out his fusillade of fibs. Because irresponsible, democracy-undermining lies are just fine until they affect your bottom line, right?
According to The Daily Beast, Trump insiders are convinced that the network is sidelining their candidate, with one Trump operative flatly stating, “Trump is not allowed live on Fox.” The source claimed that Fox—which was forced to cough up $787 million in an April settlement after Dominion Voting Systems sued over the network’s promotion of unproven election conspiracies—is afraid that Trump will make allegations that could lead to more legal headaches.
After a lengthy hiatus last year, Trump re-emerged on Fox News in March, but in a diminished capacity in a string of interviews with Fox hosts and anchors including Sean Hannity, Bret Baier, and Larry Kudlow. Gone are the days when Trump could simply call in live and share his stream of consciousness.
According to a search by The Daily Beast and Media Matters for America, Trump last phoned in live to a Fox News program in April of 2022. And Matt Gertz, senior fellow at Media Matters, told The Daily Beast the live freeze-out is no accident.
“Fox News’ record defamation settlement stemmed in part from its on-air Trump fanatics refusing to correct their guests’ election-denial conspiracy theories live, even when they knew their claims were lies,” Gertz said. “It’s wildly implausible to imagine the likes of Sean Hannity pushing back on Trump’s rigged-election fantasies, so it looks like Fox’s lawyers may have engineered a solution that doesn’t require its propagandists to perform journalism.”
Lovely. Welcome to our new—and very weird—MAGA reality. We can’t put that guy live on-air. He’s a maniac! Also, “Four more years! Make America Great Again, like when our president was boosting murderous dictators and everyone was dying of COVID!” Sure, Trump’s first executive action as a newly reelected pr*sident could very well be putting the nuclear launch codes up for sale on eBay, but we can’t have a Democrat in office. He could raise the marginal tax rate for billionaires a full 2%! Elon Musk might have to install cheaper wainscoting in his volcano lair. It would be chaos!
Of course, as The Daily Beast points out, the network's partial freeze-out could be a problem for both Fox and Trump, given the network’s continued reliance on MAGA viewers and the millions of dollars in free advertising Trump got when Fox still aired his rallies live—which it now appears unwilling to do. (Of course, that doesn’t mean the network would ever consider embracing Biden. That’s been made abundantly clear by its continued propagandizing on Trump’s behalf, especially with regard to FPOTUS’ multiple felony indictments.)
As one Trump adviser told The Daily Beast, “Trump and his supporters are the lifeblood of Fox’s business, so they’re shooting themselves, not in the foot, more like in the face.”
And Trump naturally prefers live events and interviews, because he can lie with even more impunity than usual. During a recent rally, he said, “I love live television, because they can’t cut you off, or they’re gonna have a lot of open time, if they do.”
But while Trump loves to launch into his signature stream-of-con-queso lie-atribes—especially when unburdened by fact-checks—even prerecording him has become untenable, as NBC’s Kristen Welker learned earlier this year.
Michael Hiltzik, The Los Angeles Times:
Welker’s interview with the former president, pitched as her inaugural coming-out party as the show’s new moderator, served as yet another demonstration of the impossibility — and irresponsibility — of treating Trump as a normal political figure.
Despite ample evidence that dealing with Trump on his own level — through four years of the Trump presidency and as recently as May, when Trump chewed CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins to pieces at a misbegotten town hall — was a no-win situation, NBC News went ahead and subjected its hopelessly unprepared journalist to ritual humiliation. It was a milepost in the deterioration of network news’ ability and inclination to hold politicians to account.
What Trump received was a nearly hour-long, essentially unmoderated publicity platform, gratis, an opportunity to once again show that he is a feral exploiter of television’s tendency to take everyone at their own level of self-esteem.
In other words, the only responsible way to air Trump’s increasingly barmy brain farts is not at all, unless you’re prepared to fact-check every last jot and tittle that disgorges from his febrile manure lagoon of a mind. In real time.
That said, Fox doesn’t care if Trump lies. Just as it doesn’t care if its anchors and reporters lie. It’s kind of their business model, frankly. But there’s one particular lie they simply can’t tolerate, because it left a yawning $787 million hole in their balance sheet.
“The last few interviews he’s done, whether it's been Hannity or [Mark] Levin, or others—they have come to Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster, so those cannot be live because they are a taped piece,” said one Trump adviser who spoke with The Daily Beast. “One of the reasons they also do it is they are able to edit his words,” this adviser noted, specifically citing Trump’s allegations about the supposedly “fraudulent” 2020 election.
Meanwhile, Trump advisers The Daily Beast spoke with are convinced Fox will come back into the MAGA fold when the rubber—or the Ramaswamy—hits the road.
“The Murdochs are candidate shopping just like the rest of the donor class that hates Trump,” said one adviser. “They told their mouthpieces to push DeSantis. Now Haley. Who cares? They’ll go through the whole list and then Trump will still be the guy. It makes them look incredibly weak, which they are.”
Another Trump insider was even more blunt: “The fact is, they will all come and bend the knee soon and they will be begging and pleading,” the source said. “‘Please can I come to dinner? Please will you come on the show?’”
Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.