In a far-reaching New Yorker exposé titled “The Making of the Fox News White House” published today, Jane Mayer dissects the often-incestuous relationship between the Trump White House and Fox News.
The arguably biggest revelation is that Fox New passed on the Stormey Daniels story, which it knew before the election.
“Diana Falzone, who often covered the entertainment industry, had obtained proof that Trump had engaged in a sexual relationship in 2006 with a pornographic film actress calling herself Stormy Daniels,” Mayer writes. She says Falzone had even confirmed it with Daniels through Gina Rodriguez, Daniel’s manager at the time and with Daniels’ former husband, Mike Moz, who she says “described multiple calls from Trump.”
“Falzone had also amassed emails between Daniels’ attorney and Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, detailing a proposed cash settlement, accompanied by a nondisclosure agreement. Falzone had even seen the contract,” Mayer writes.
But Falzone’s story didn’t run.
“It kept being passed off from one editor to the next.” After Falzone kept getting “one noncommittal answer after another from her editors,” the Fox news reporter finally heard from Ken LaCorte, who was then the head of FoxNews.com.
Mayer quotes Falzone saying what LaCorte said to her. “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert [Murdoch] wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go,” he reportedly said. But then Mayer concedes, “LaCorte denies telling Falzone this, but one of Falzone’s colleagues confirms having heard her account at the time.”
We also learn that Fox News chief Roger Ailes was concerned about Murdoch’s attempt to secure the Trump/Fox alliance. Mayer writes that Rupert Murdoch has “cultivated heads of state in Australia and Great Britain” and she was told that “he’s always wanted to have a relationship with a president—he’s a businessman and he sees benefits of having a chief of state doing your bidding.”
She says Ailes, during his final days at Fox, “apparently warned Murdoch of the perils. According to Gabriel Sherman, a biographer of Ailes who has written about Fox for New York magazine and Vanity Fair, Ailes told Murdoch, ‘Trump gets great ratings, but if you’re not careful he’s going to end up totally controlling Fox News.’”
But the connection, Mayer writes, isn’t between Trump and Murdoch so much as it is between Kushner and Murdoch. Kushner enjoys “an almost filial status” with Murdoch and and numerous sources told her that the two communicate frequently. “Like, every day.”
Trump also pressured Gary Cohn to quash the AT&T-Time Warner Deal.
Mayer found ample evidence that in the summer of 2017, when Gary Cohn was director of the National Economic Council, the president ordered him to “pressure the Justice Department to intervene” on AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner because of his disdain for CNN. “According to a well-informed source, Trump called Cohn into the Oval Office along with John Kelly, who had just become the chief of staff, and said in exasperation to Kelly, ‘I’ve been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing’s happened! I’ve mentioned it fifty times. And nothing’s happened. I want to make sure it’s filed. I want that deal blocked!’” the president reportedly said.
If proven, such an attempt to use presidential authority to seek retribution for the exercise of First Amendment rights would unquestionably be grounds for impeachment. https://t.co/F1UANzeD2q— George Conway (@gtconway3d) March 4, 2019
She then says that Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs, “evidently understood that it would be highly improper for a president to use the Justice Department to undermine two of the most powerful companies in the country as punishment for unfavorable news coverage, and as a reward for a competing news organization that boosted him.” According to Mayer’s source, Cohn walked out of the meeting and told Kelly, “Don’t you fucking dare call the Justice Department. We are not going to do business that way.”
What else? Trump may have been tipped off about Megyn Kelly’s debate questions.
Mayer seems certain that the relationship between Fox News biggies and Trump ahead of the 2016 election crossed ethical boundaries. She recounts the Fox News debate Megyn Kelly moderated. “Kelly kept pressing Trump: You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect president?”—to which Trump responded with his infamous Rosie O’Donnell retort and follow-up “blood coming out of her wherever” Kelly slam.
Mayer says that showdown helped “shape Trump’s image as shamelessly unsinkable. It also kicked off a feud between Trump and Fox, in which Trump briefly boycotted the channel, hurting its ratings and forcing Ailes to grovel.” She points out how Trump recently bragged that he’d won the debate “despite being a novice, and despite the ‘crazy Megyn Kelly question.’”
However, she suggests that Fox News “may have given Trump a little help. A pair of Fox insiders and a source close to Trump told her they believe Ailes informed the Trump campaign about Kelly’s question ahead of time. Two of those sources say they know of the tipoff from a purported eyewitness. In addition, a former Trump campaign aide says that a Fox contact gave him advance notice of a different debate question, which asked the candidates whether they would support the Republican nominee, regardless of who won.” Mayer concedes that with Ailes dead and Fox’s persistent denials, her hunch is hard to prove.
But the overarching theme of the piece is that Trump and Fox News engages in the same business: stoking fear and outrage. This keeps the sheeple in line.
I have no idea how to address our nation’s Fox News problem, but blowing the lid off the network’s shenanigans as Mayer did seems important. One thing Fox News relies on — it’s founding principle, really — is the timidity of the mainstream Beltway press, most members of which have long pretended that Fox News is just a regular old cable news network.
Remember when the Obama administration correctly observed that Fox is “not a news organization,” sending cable news personality Jake Tapper and others to the fainting couches? Well, the Obama administration was right then, and the problem is even worse now.