In a far-reaching New Yorker exposé titled “The Making of the Fox News White House” published Monday, Jane Mayer dissects the often-incestuous relationship between the Trump White House and Fox News.
In it are numerous highly disturbing claims. Here, a quick look at several of them:
Fox News Sat on Story About Trump’s Payoff to Stormy Daniels
Mayer’s juiciest bit may just be one that Fox News passed on. “Diana Falzone, who often covered the entertainment industry, had obtained proof that Trump had engaged in a sexual relationship in 2006 with a pornographic film actress calling herself Stormy Daniels,” Mayer writes. She says Falzone had even confirmed it with Daniels through Gina Rodriguez, Daniels’ manager at the time and with Daniels’ former husband, Mike Moz, who she says “described multiple calls from Trump.” “Falzone had also amassed emails between Daniels’ attorney and Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, detailing a proposed cash settlement, accompanied by a nondisclosure agreement. Falzone had even seen the contract,” Mayer writes. CNN has previously reported that Falzone’s story was squashed by Fox.
But Falzone’s story didn’t run. “It kept being passed off from one editor to the next.” After Falzone kept getting “one noncommittal answer after another from her editors,” the Fox news reporter finally heard from Ken LaCorte, who was then the head of FoxNews.com. Mayer quotes Falzone saying what LaCorte said to her. “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert [Murdoch] wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go,” he reportedly said. But then Mayer concedes, “LaCorte denies telling Falzone this, but one of Falzone’s colleagues confirms having heard her account at the time.”
Roger Ailes Warned Murdoch Off Trump in His Final Days
Mayer writes that Rupert Murdoch has “cultivated heads of state in Australia and Great Britain” and she was told that “he’s always wanted to have a relationship with a president—he’s a businessman and he sees benefits of having a chief of state doing your bidding.” The Fox News chairman has met every U.S. president since Kennedy, but “until now a relationship has eluded him.” She says Ailes, during his final days at Fox, “apparently warned Murdoch of the perils. According to Gabriel Sherman, a biographer of Ailes who has written about Fox for New York magazine and Vanity Fair, Ailes told Murdoch, ‘Trump gets great ratings, but if you’re not careful he’s going to end up totally controlling Fox News.’”
Murdoch Is Actually Closer to Jared Kushner
One of the more surprising liaisons Mayer pulls the curtain back on is that between Trump’s son-in-law and Rupert Murdoch, now the executive co-chairman of Fox Corp. Outlining the importance of Murdoch’s support for Trump for his base, she dishes that he might be even closer to Kushner. “Well-informed sources say that Kushner, an increasingly valued White House adviser, has worked hard to win over Murdoch, showing him respect and asking him for advice,” Mayer writes. “Kushner has regularly assured Murdoch that the White House is a smooth-running operation, despite many reports suggesting that it is chaotic.” She goes on to say that Kushner enjoys “an almost filial status” with Murdoch and and numerous sources told her that the two communicate frequently. “Like, every day.”
Trump Pressured Gary Cohn to Quash AT&T-Time Warner Deal
During her investigation, Mayer found ample evidence that in the summer of 2017, when Gary Cohn was director of the National Economic Council, the president ordered him to “pressure the Justice Department to intervene” on AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner because of his disdain for CNN. “According to a well-informed source, Trump called Cohn into the Oval Office along with John Kelly, who had just become the chief of staff, and said in exasperation to Kelly, ‘I’ve been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing’s happened! I’ve mentioned it fifty times. And nothing’s happened. I want to make sure it’s filed. I want that deal blocked!’” the president reportedly said.
She then says that Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs, “evidently understood that it would be highly improper for a president to use the Justice Department to undermine two of the most powerful companies in the country as punishment for unfavorable news coverage, and as a reward for a competing news organization that boosted him.” According to Mayer’s source, Cohn walked out of the meeting and told Kelly, “Don’t you fucking dare call the Justice Department. We are not going to do business that way.”
Trump May Have Been Tipped Off About Megyn Kelly’s Debate Questions
Mayer seems certain that the relationship between Fox News biggies and Trump ahead of the 2016 election crossed ethical boundaries. She recounts the Fox News debate Megyn Kelly moderated. “Kelly kept pressing Trump: You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect president?”—to which Trump responded with his infamous Rosie O’Donnell retort and follow-up “blood coming out of her wherever” Kelly slam. Mayer says that showdown helped “shape Trump’s image as shamelessly unsinkable. It also kicked off a feud between Trump and Fox, in which Trump briefly boycotted the channel, hurting its ratings and forcing Ailes to grovel.” She points out how Trump recently bragged that he’d won the debate “despite being a novice, and despite the ‘crazy Megyn Kelly question.’”
However, she suggests that Fox News “may have given Trump a little help. A pair of Fox insiders and a source close to Trump told her they believe Ailes informed the Trump campaign about Kelly’s question ahead of time. Two of those sources say they know of the tipoff from a purported eyewitness. In addition, a former Trump campaign aide says that a Fox contact gave him advance notice of a different debate question, which asked the candidates whether they would support the Republican nominee, regardless of who won.” Mayer concedes that with Ailes dead and Fox’s persistent denials, her hunch is hard to prove.
Ailes Had a Hit List for Women Who Complained About Sexual Harassment
Mayer’s inside scoops on Fox run the gamut from political persuasion to downright perversion. She says Ailes and a small group “kept a close eye on internal talent.” A former Fox executive told her, “We had a file on pretty much everyone,” adding that Ailes talked about “putting hits” in the media on anyone who “got out of line.” If a woman complained about being sexually harassed, he said, Shine or other supervisors intimidated her into silence, reduced her air time, or discontinued her contract. The former executive recalls, “Shine would talk to the woman with a velvet glove, saying, ‘Don’t worry about it’—and, if that didn’t work, he’d warn her it would ruin her career.”
‘This Is Going to Outrage the Audience!’
Former Fox & Friends host Alisyn Camerota told Mayer that Fox does have solid news reporters, but that she left because she “became so troubled by the lack of standards on Fox & Friends that she wrote a thinly veiled novel, Amanda Wakes Up, about the blurring of journalistic lines at a cable morning show.” Camerota said Fox & Friends was “a fun show, but it was not a news show. It regularly broke the rules of journalism. It was basically Roger’s id on TV.” She went on to say that, “He’d wake up in the morning with some bee in his bonnet, spout it off to Bill Shine, and Shine would tell us to put it on TV.” Camerota also claimed that producers would “cull far-right, crackpot websites for content. Never did I hear anyone worry about getting a second source. The single phrase I heard over and over was ‘This is going to outrage the audience!’ You inflame the viewers so that no one will turn away. Those were the standards.”