This week’s revelation that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has been urging a resistant Donald Trump to fire E.P.A. head Scott Pruitt hints at what may have been behind Fox News reporter Ed Henry’s gotcha interview with Pruitt.
Thursday, I wrote about Henry’s surprisingly tough interview with Pruitt: Believe me, Henry doesn’t just conduct a tough interview with a top Trump administration official out of any journalistic principles. His contentious approach was almost surely approved, and probably directed, by a higher up.
This suspicion was compounded when Henry suddenly swerved away from Pruitt’s discussion of his “transformational” work at the Environmental Protection Agency to highlight, apropos of nothing being discussed, Pruitt’s 2016 characterization of Trump as “an empty vessel when it comes to the Constitution and the rule of law.”
Nothing smacks of a behind-the-scenes plot to dethrone Pruitt than this blatant signal of his disloyalty to the Fox Fan in Chief.
Thursday’s Washington Post noted: Aides sometimes plot to have guests make points on Fox that they have been unable to get the president to agree to in person. “He will listen more when it is on TV,” a senior administration official said.
Friday, The Wall Street Journal – a sister company to Fox News – reported: White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told President Donald Trump last week that he is convinced Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt needs to step down after a series of negative reports about his spending habits and management style, a White House official said Friday. Though Mr. Kelly and other White House aides have concluded Mr. Pruitt should leave, the president is not ready to fire him, the official said.
The rest of the article is behind a paywall. Fortunately for us, since I refuse to subscribe to a Murdoch publication, The New York Times confirmed the report. The Times added, “Privately, many senior White House aides have become infuriated with the E.P.A. chief and exasperated with his ethical lapses…” However, the Times also noted that conservatives have rallied around Pruitt, including the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. “Other conservative groups have accused the media of campaigning for Mr. Pruitt’s ouster,” the Times said.
In my post about the Pruitt interview, I wrote that Henry’s contentiousness suggested that Pruitt would soon be gone from the Trump administration. That was based on an assumption that such a high-profile interview would have been conducted in sync with Trump. But given that the major Trump sycophants at Fox largely ignored the damning interview, I have to reconsider.
Now, it seems more likely that someone in the Kelly faction was behind Fox's blatant effort to discredit Pruitt. Rupert Murdoch is the obvious suspect, given that he is head honcho at both Fox and the Journal. In his comments before the interview, Henry noted that “some House Republicans” want Pruitt gone, too.
A bigger question is, was whoever driving Henry doing it of his or her own volition, at the direction of someone in the White House, the House Republicans or as co-equals in some joint operation?
Regardless, the disturbing takeaway here is that while it seems clear that the factions within the White House are being replicated at Fox News, it has never been clearer that journalism has almost nothing to do with how this important story is told (or not) to viewers.
Watch Henry’s interview with Pruitt again below, from the April 4, 2018 The Story with Martha MacCallum.
Crossposted at News Hounds.
We watch Fox so you don't have to!