Trump warns Americans that Fox News is "on a bad path" after Nancy Pelosi appears on the network

Trump only last week asked “what the hell is happening” at Fox News, which he previously called “really pathetic"

Published April 20, 2020 2:00PM (EDT)

Chris Wallace and Donald Trump (Noam Galai/WireImage/Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Chris Wallace and Donald Trump (Noam Galai/WireImage/Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump publicly feuded with one of his political rivals and one of his most loyal boosters in the same tweet, smearing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as "dumb" before pivoting to attack Fox News for being on a "bad path."

"Nervous Nancy is an inherently 'dumb' person. She wasted all of her time on the Impeachment Hoax. She will be overthrown, either by inside or out, just like her last time as 'Speaker.' Wallace & @FoxNews are on a bad path, watch!" the president tweeted this weekend.

During her appearance on Fox News Sunday, Pelosi asserted that Congress was on a "very good path" under her leadership. She also told host Chris Wallace that Trump was "a weak leader," who shirks responsibility.

"The president gets an 'F' — a failure on the testing," the House speaker said, referencing the administration's bungled testing rollout in spite of claims otherwise. (Trump peddled new lies about testing later that day.)

Pelosi contrasted Trump's response with her work in Congress, pointing out that although the House passed a bill in early March that followed Dr. Anthony Fauci's advice about the importance of testing, the administration has yet to take action.

"He's right," Pelosi said of Fauci. "It has to be testing . . . It's part of something bigger, as well, to be done properly. But we're way late on it  and that is a failure."

The president has reportedly been "losing his patience" with Fauci, who has earned the respect of a wide tranche of Americans over the course of the outbreak in part by fact-checking his boss in real-time on national TV.

While Pelosi told Wallace the country must focus on the future, she also suggested that Congress would eventually review the administration's coronavirus failures. (Congress has assembled a committee to oversee the administration's coronavirus response, but Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., who heads the panel, said it would be "forward-looking.")

Even though he trashed Wallace, Trump favorably re-tweeted the same Fox News interview later Sunday. That tweet featured a clip of Wallace pressing Pelosi on what critics have alleged was her own downplaying of the virus in February, when she held a walking tour in San Francisco's Chinatown to encourage constituents to patronize the neighborhood.

Pelosi said she was attempting to destigmatize Chinese-Americans, in part because of false and racist aspersions from the president himself.

"The record will show that our Chinatown has been a model of containing and preventing the virus," she said. "So I'm confident in our folks there and thought it was necessary to offset some of the things that the president and others were saying about Asian-Americans and making them a target of violence across the country and some hate crimes they committed."

The tweets illustrate Trump's hot and cold relationship with Fox News, whose hosts sometimes traffic white supremacy and often appear to broadcast administration propaganda. "Fox & Friends" co-host Ainsley Earhardt admitted the show reports the story "the way" Trump wants it reported, while a former Trump campaign official told federal investigators that primetime host Sean Hannity "tailored his shows" based on recommendations from the president's former campaign manager.

With a few exceptions — mostly for Wallace, who Trump has called "nasty" and "obnoxious," and unfavorable national polls — the relationship is mostly hot. This is true even when it comes to Trump's opinion of Wallace, whom he cites favorably when it suits him.

But Trump also attacked Wallace a week ago for questioning the administration's pandemic response, wondering "what the hell is happening" at Fox News and calling the anchor a "Mike Wallace wannabe" in reference to his father, who was a legendary "60 Minutes" anchor. This proved too much even for Trump ally Brit Hume, who felt compelled to defend his colleague. (Trump has taunted Wallace about his father four times on Twitter.)

Trump appears to have grown increasingly uncomfortable with his coverage on the right-wing network, even after nemesis Shep Smith's abrupt retirement last October. On April 2, Trump lashed out at a Fox reporter during a coronavirus briefing. A few days later, he did the same to a different reporter. In February, he attacked multiple network shows and personalities for critical coverage. On Jan. 28, Trump tweeted that Fox News was "really pathetic" and "so politically correct" when Wallace discussed impeachment with Democrat Chris Van Hollen, wondering again "what the hell is happening" at the network and suggesting that Wallace meet Smith's fate.

Recently, Trump has turned his affections to the even further afield One America News Network, which has fed the president's base audience for months. In early April, the White House Correspondents Association banned an OANN reporter from press briefings, but the White House invited her back. A week later, on April 11, Trump tweeted that weekend programming on Fox News was "a total waste of time," and plugged OANN by name as an alternative. In December, the president seemed to take a shot at Fox News by retweeting an apparent jab at the network's sluggish confirmation of a story broken by OANN. The tweet Trump shared has since been deleted, apparently because it was inaccurate.

By Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger was a staff writer at Salon (2020-21). Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

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