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Donald Trump's ire baffles Fox News

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Fed up with the coverage on his favorite cable news station, President Donald Trump decided late this summer that a direct intervention was needed. So he telephoned the chief executive of Fox News, Suzanne Scott, and let loose.



In a lengthy conversation, Trump complained that Fox News was not covering him fairly, according to three people with knowledge of the call. Scott, who has led the cable network since last year, responded by urging Trump to sit for an interview with Bret Baier, the channel’s chief political anchor, the people said.



When Henry, interviewing pro-Trump commentator Mark Levin on a segment of “Fox & Friends” in September, suggested that Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian prime minister could be problematic, the president retweeted more than 20 posts from other Twitter users calling Henry names like “fake news.” Trump had sat for an interview with Henry less than two weeks earlier.


Trump-friendly hosts receive periodic reminders that the president is keeping tabs. At a rally in Minnesota last week, Trump ticked off the names of his favorite Fox News stars like an announcer at an all-star game. (“Sean’s got the No. 1 show,” he said. “And Laura Ingraham’s knocking them out of the park.”) But he also had a subtle warning for Brian Kilmeade, the “Fox & Friends” co-host who recently questioned Trump’s decision to remove troops from Syria.



Anthony Scaramucci, who served briefly as Trump’s White House communications director — and has recently become a vocal critic — invoked a popular story about Lyndon Johnson viewing Walter Cronkite’s reporting as a bellwether for the public mood on Vietnam.


“Fox News is Trump’s Walter Cronkite,” Scaramucci said in an email. “Once he loses the majority of them, it’s over. He knows it, which is why he is bashing and intimidating them.”



[F]riends said [Shepard Smith] was dismayed at the in-house deference given to Trump’s prime-time cheerleaders [Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity].

Such is the scrutiny on Fox News that a theory sprang up on social media tying Smith’s departure to a meeting last week between Rupert Murdoch and the attorney general, William Barr. In fact, Smith had been considering an exit for weeks.



But Fox News executives see some tactical advantages to Trump’s jibes.


For one, the rebukes offer a useful rejoinder to critics who deride Fox News as “state TV.” The network has also sought to highlight skeptical Trump coverage to advertisers who may be leery of provocative right-wing punditry.


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