And yet Trump seems to think it is.
Since taking office, the president has tweeted more than 100 times about Fox & Friends, incessantly promoting the morning gabfest’s pro-Trump “reporting,” while routinely assailing “fake news” outlets like CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
The great irony is that Fox & Friends is actually the real fake news.
Inside 1211 Avenue of the Americas, the morning zoo show falls under Fox News’ programming department, distinct from the outlet’s hard-news division. That programming wing also includes the network’s right-wing prime-time shows like Hannity, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and the soon-to-launch Ingraham Angle. As such, Fox & Friends is not held to the journalistic standards of the news division—editorially operating more like a right-wing talk radio show than a cable news program.
Former executive vice president Bill Shine long oversaw the programming division, and was considered Roger Ailes’ successor because of his keen eye for the sort of right-wing opinion-tainment that built Fox News. (After Shine’s ouster in April 2017, another seasoned Ailes protégé, Suzanne Scott, took over.)
The late Ailes reportedly saw Fox & Friends as “agenda-setting” in its position at the start of each news day. And according to The New York Times, as a long-time Republican operative with a well-known interest in promoting elected officials of his choice, Ailes “regularly contributed talking points and phoned in ideas for the show, sometimes when it was on the air.”
In other words, the show has always been a vessel for conservative propaganda.
And long before its days of dependably defending Trump’s every breath, or serving as one of his unofficial advisers, Fox & Friends infamously showed its hand during the 2012 election, when it ran its own highly produced anti-Obama ad.
The four-minute video began with President Obama promises of hope and change, with throngs of supporters cheering in response. But as ominous music swelled, Fox invoked every bugaboo imaginable to set the tone: rising gas prices, shots of people using food stamps, foreclosure signs, and Nancy Pelosi.
After the homemade attack ad ran, co-host Steve Doocy giddily boasted: “Hats off to Chris White, one of the producers on our team. He’s been in a small edit room for the last couple of weeks reliving the last four years.” Gretchen Carlson noted the clip required a “tremendous amount of research.”
Following massive blowback, which united liberals and conservatives in trashing the glorified attack ad, Bill Shine issued a lukewarm statement. “The package that aired on Fox & Friends was created by an associate producer and was not authorized at the senior executive level of the network,” the programming executive wrote. “This has been addressed with the show’s producers.”
No mention of having failed the network’s journalistic or ethical standards. And that’s because the show has none.
The tension between Fox’s news reporters and Fox & Friends is often palpable. On multiple occasions, the network’s consummate newsman Chris Wallace has openly chided the show—including once for spending three hours on an out-of-context Obama clip; and, more recently, for outright dismissing the outrage over Trump firing FBI chief James Comey amid an investigation into Trump associates’ ties to Russia.
Fox & Friends’ penchant for getting basic facts wrong or pushing debunked stories is so well-documented that it became a running joke on Saturday Night Live. Though, unlike SNL’s spoof with a long scroll of post-show corrections, the real-life show is loathe to correct itself.
There were no corrections when the show repeatedly and un-skeptically played host to birthers (including a weekly gig for eventual President Trump); when the show helped get a top USDA official fired based on a doctored tape posted online by Breitbart; or when the show started a minor international incident by alleging that Obama pressured the Brits to spy on Trump (an unverified claim Fox’s news division was forced to disavow).
Notably, however, the show did issue a rare correction this summer after it spun a Hill report on Comey’s memos to suggest the ex-FBI chief had leaked classified information.
“We were mistaken,” Doocy said on-air. “According to a report, half of the memos contained information classified at the secret or confidential level, not top-secret [as we’d reported]. Documents in which Mr. Comey leaked are at this point unclear. Just wanted to straighten that out.”
But the damage had already been done. While watching the mistaken Fox & Friends segment the prior morning, Trump fired off a declarative tweet: “James Comey leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION to the media. That is so illegal!”
And so Fox & Friends’ only actual connection to news is the fact that it is broadcast on a cable outlet with the word “news” in its title.
The show is definitively not made for news junkies. Rather, it is comfort food hand-cooked for the type of people who believe that Obama is a secret Muslim born in Kenya; who believe the “deep state” actively conspires to destroy Trump; who believe “both sides” are to blame for an anti-racism protester being killed at a white-nationalist rally; and who relentlessly share “online blogs” connecting Hillary Clinton to some devious or deadly plot.
In other words: President Donald Trump.