On "Saturday Night Live," Alec Baldwin, appearing as Donald Trump, delivered what may be the most poignant political message of the year -- about the dangerous role that Fox News plays in informing Trump's outlook on America.
The sketch begins with Baldwin as Trump lying in bed eating McDonald's and calling in to his favorite TV show -- Fox News' "Fox & Friends." He says to "Fox & Friends" co-host Steve Doocy (played by "SNL's" Alex Moffat): "I'm saving the economy, destroying ISIS and, right now, I'm getting my daily intelligence briefing," Baldwin's Trump said.
"Oh, from who?" asked Doocy.
"From you guys," Trump quickly responds.
Even though this line is from a satirical skit, it is no joke. President Trump, the man who has access to the most powerful and sophisticated intelligence apparatus in the world, effectively gets at least part of his intelligence briefing from Fox News. Is it because Trump truly doesn't trust our intelligence agencies, which he has publicly belittled on various occasions? Or maybe he just trusts Fox News more because it has long been on his side?
In any event, the progressive media watchdog Media Matters has documented how Trump, on numerous occasions, has tweeted out the exact points featured on "Fox & Friends" a short time after the segments aired.
Here are just a few examples. On October 19, 2017, "Fox & Friends" did an early morning segment on the Obama administration's Uranium One deal with Russia, in which Fox claimed that Hillary Clinton engaged in wrongdoing to get this deal approved. Well, shortly after that segment aired, Trump tweeted that the "Uranium Deal to Russia with Clinton help" was the biggest story the "Fake media doesn't want to follow."
On December 24, 2017, "Fox & Friends" aired a segment slamming the FBI's Andrew McCabe (who recently announced his was retiring) and his wife's ties to Hillary Clinton allies. Less than an hour later, Trump tweeted about the topic, citing Fox News and then attacking McCabe for his wife's ties to Clinton associates.
And on January 2, "Fox & Friends" aired a segment about Hillary Clinton's longtime aide Huma Abedin and her alleged violation of security protocols. Not long after, Trump tweeted Abedin should be put in "jail" for her conduct. In response, former Clinton campaign communications director Nick Merrill told ABC News, "As Americans know all too well, there already was an investigation into all things email with no wrongdoing found by anyone. A year into his presidency, you would think Donald Trump would be focused on being president, or at least on his own legal problems."
And the list goes on.
What's truly disturbing about a US president getting his "intelligence" from Fox News is that it's without a doubt a conservative media outlet. And while it does deliver news -- Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith are two examples of anchors who do just that -- its priority is to serve up right-wing red meat that its viewers will enjoy. Consequently, Trump is not learning objective facts from Fox but rather right-wing spin and assuming it's accurate, or not caring about its veracity.
Add to that, Fox News has been caught spreading its own version of "fake news," airing statements that are factually wrong or straight-up lies, as determined by nonpartisan fact checkers. Take Sean Hannity's false claim that the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is "the most overturned court in the country." It's actually the 6th Circuit. And remember when Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich claimed in May 2017 that it wasn't Russia that gave the emails hacked from the Democratic National Convention to WikiLeaks, but rather slain DNC employee Seth Rich? This claim was also proven entirely false.
But here's the even scarier part: Going forward Fox News will be doing more than just giving Trump daily "intelligence briefings," it will be showcasing its pro-Trump bias in an even more exaggerated manner. Fox News' Geraldo Rivera admitted as much a few days ago while appearing on Sean Hannity's radio show. Rivera first praised Hannity's rabid defense of Trump, saying that despite Richard Nixon's criminal actions as president, he "never would have been forced to resign if you existed in your current state back in 1972, '73, '74." Rivera then candidly shared his view of what their collective obligation was going forward: "I believe that our prime responsibility now is to unshackle the 45th President of the United States."
Sure, many are likely saying Fox News has already been doing that. But now we have a Fox host making it crystal clear that's his priority. Here's hoping that when "SNL" returns from a three-week hiatus, it parodies Fox News as a state-run media outlet. It certainly has earned that comedic takedown.
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