Donald Trump’s immigration hysteria in the wake of a Fox & Friends report about a caravan of immigrants headed to the U.S. was probably more complicated than merely a case of the Fox wagging the Trump. But the frightening rudderless of the administration is clear and unmistakeable. Just how much steering Fox did is not clear.
On Wednesday’s New York Times podcast, The Daily, host Michael Barbaro and reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis traced the path from Fox & Friends’ Easter Sunday fear mongering about a “caravan of immigrants” headed for the border and a hasty reconfiguration of Trump’s immigration focus. Davis made a point of noting that Fox was part of a perfect storm of factors. Trump was already “very bitter” about the “big spending” bill he signed a few weeks ago, she said, that didn’t include funding for the border wall. (The one he promised Mexico would pay for, remember?) Also, he was getting hammered by the likes of Ann Coulter over the bill which he reportedly took “really personally.” At the same time, Davis said, Trump got a report from his DHS secretary about migrant flows that he found troubling.
DAVIS: And then [Trump] goes down to Mar-a-Lago for the Easter weekend and not a lot of aides with him but one person who does go with him is Steve Miller who is his senior adviser and the person in the White House who is the hardest liner and the most intense policy mind, essentially, in that orbit on immigration. And, so he’s spending time with Stephen Miller, hearing from the base, how disheartened they are, hearing from his administration about this uptick in migration flows, which is a seasonal thing but is not appealing to a president who’s feeling like he just got walloped on an issue that he campaigned on, essentially.
But, in addition to Miller, Trump also hung out with Fox hosts Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity, both immigration hardliners, and former Fox co-president Bill Shine. I don’t know Shine’s position on immigration but given how much Hannity loves him and that Trump reportedly considered Shine for the position of White House communications director (he was not interested), it’s a good bet Shine is on the same page as the rest.
Davis went on to say that when Trump started tweeting on Easter Sunday, he seemed to be venting more than proposing any new policy. But the tweets caused such a stir of confusion that his advisers scheduled a conference call in which an entirely new legislative effort on immigration was announced, one that focused on the border rather than on the immigrants already here.
Davis noted that it’s not clear whether Trump intended to set such policy changes in motion with his tweets or not.
So what role did Fox play in all this? Davis called it “oversimplifying it a little bit” to conclude that Fox is responsible for the new immigration policy proposals.
DAVIS: I think it’s more of an interaction of a group of advisers around the president, trying to get him to a place where strategically he can be making the case that he would make if he wanted to achieve these policy objectives. It’s just, unlike another president – rather than sit in a meeting and make a plan and say this is how we’re gonna go at this issue, with this president, Fox News and the tweeting and the reaction from the base are critical parts of the process.
But who's in that "group of advisers" other than Miller and, maybe, the DHS secretary? Here are the other people who reportedly visited Trump last weekend, according to CNN: "Don King; Bernie Kerik, the former NYPD commissioner who served time in jail; and Mike Lindell, the founder of the My Pillow company and a vocal Trump supporter." Not there, chief of staff John Kelly. In other words, Fox personnel probably made up the bulk of the advisers.
In fact, TV messaging may be just what was on Trump’s mind.
DAVIS: You know, a lot of this is about creating a political message about what needs to happen on immigration policy that [Trump] and Republicans can carry through to the midterm elections and so, if you want to have a rationale for a very tough approach, you have to set about persuading people that there’s a real crisis, there’s a real danger, there’s a real threat. And one way to do that is to say this is so bad that we now need to get the military involved.
It was Fox & Friends that started the fearmongering with its caravan reporting on Sunday. After Trump was hanging around with Hannity and Pirro and, presumably Shine, too, on Saturday. Did Fox & Friends come up with the idea of booking the border patrol union leader to fear monger about the immigrants all on its own or did anyone in Florida have a role in it? Anyone who wants to get Trump's attention knows that a segment on Fox & Friends can drive him to action.
We don’t know whose idea the segment was. But we do know, as Davis reported, the new messaging is “playing very well” on Fox.
Follow the path from Fox News to Trump’s immigration shift below, via the April 4, 2017 The Daily. You can also watch the segment that aired after Trump palled around with Miller, Hannity, et al. but before the tweeting started above, from the April 1, 2018 Fox & Friends.
Originally published at Newshounds.us