Trouble appears to be brewing between President Donald Trump and the cable news station he loves: Fox News.
In a tweet Monday night, the president lashed out at the network over its polling and called it “fake news’ — an epithet he usually reserves for mainstream outlets:
Media Matters for America Senior Fellow Matthew Gertz, who has previously noted that Trump appears to record news segments and watch them a few hours later, suggested that the president appeared to be reacting to an earlier segment from Special Report with Bret Baier. The segment showed that, even according to Fox News’ polling, Trump trails every single leading candidate in the Democratic field in head-to-head matchups.
Baier also said of Trump’s recent interview: “It was pretty amazing to see President Trump spend 30 hours with ABC News.”
Trump and others have frequently suggested that the polling in 2016 was somehow skewed against the president, and this explained his surprise win. In fact, while some state-level polls did underestimate Trump’s eventual vote totals, nationwide polling was actually more accurate in 2016 than in 2012. Polling that showed depressed support for Trump was similarly vindicated in 2018 when Democrats won a landslide victory and retook the House of Representatives.
Trump’s claim about his campaign’s internal polling showing him leading in 17 swing states seems to be a reaction to recent leaks that suggested that opposite. ABC News reported found that his internal campaign data showed the president losing key states to Joe Biden in head-to-head polling. Trump has said this data was fake, but his campaign manager confirmed its authenticity. Of course, it’s impossible to say if Trump does now have different data that shows that his standing has improved, but his claim about leading in 17 swing states is not consistent with the public polling data that is available.
The tweet itself showed the disconnect between what Trump wants Fox News to be and what it is. Fox News is, indeed, a right-wing propaganda apparatus that strives hard to spread the president’s message, but it does that while adopting the guise of being a news network. That’s why it still has journalists like Shep Smith, Chris Wallace, and Bret Baier who don’t always toe the party line and sometimes say things that make the president mad.
In Trump’s mind, Fox News should always make him happy. He would probably be most pleased if it dropped the pretense of being a news network at all and became a full-time arm of his campaign.