The Strange Psychological Power of ‘Fox and Friends’

Fox and FriendsOriginally published in Politico Magazine

It was a typical Tuesday in March, and President Donald Trump was getting hammered by the press. One of his signature campaign promises, repealing Obamacare, had just collapsed. The Republican co-chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, investigating ties between Trump associates and Russia during the 2016 campaign, was under fire for a secret meeting on the White House grounds. And Gallup’s recent poll numbers showed Trump at 36 percent approval, a historic low for a new president.

But Trump was starting his day, as usual, with “Fox & Friends,” where the world looked decidedly sunnier.

Here was an ultrasound image of his ninth grandchild, in utero. His meeting with women business owners, described in glowing terms. And his enemies defanged: According to the hosts, it was Hillary Clinton’s cronies—not Trump’s—who had the problematic Russia contacts, prompting Trump to tweet: “Watch @foxandfriends now on Podesta and Russia!”

Trump’s cozy relationship with “Fox & Friends” has become one of the great curiosities of his unusual presidency. A well-known cable TV devotee, Trump has found inspiration for his Twitter timeline in various programs—but none so much as Fox News Channel’s 6-9 a.m. talk show. A man with access to the highest levels of the national security apparatus regularly uses this gabfest as an unimpeachable source of information, most notably when he spawned a mini diplomatic crisis by repeating an unfounded theory—delivered by a Fox News analyst from a “Fox & Friends” armchair—that the British spied on Trump on behalf of the Obama administration.

It’s not hard to understand the show’s appeal. While the rest of the media frets and wails over Trump’s policies and sounds the alarm over his tweets, “Fox & Friends” remains unrelentingly positive. It’s pitched to the frequency of the Trump base, but it also feels intentionally designed for Trump himself—a three-hour, high-definition ego fix. For a president who no longer regularly receives adulation from screaming crowds at mega rallies, “Fox & Friends” offers daily affirmation that he is successful and adored, that his America is winning after all.

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