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Are Democrats Finally Ready to Stop Pretending Fox News Is a Legitimate News Outlet?

It only took 20+ years.

Donald Trump and Sean Hannity celebrate the propaganda machine that is Fox news.

For more than 20 years, Fox News has presented itself as a “fair and balanced” news network while in reality, it’s always, since the moment of its inception, been as intensely partisan as a major news outlet could be, often veering into the territory of pure propaganda.

That’s always been the purpose of the network–to allow viewers to feel like they’re watching legitimate news while presenting nothing more than conservative opinions along the Republican Party line. The network has been known to manipulate graphics to skew statistics and stage debate segments so the conservative stance “won.”

The network’s late creator Roger Ailes reportedly used to say “The news is like a ship. If you take hands off the wheel, it pulls hard to the left.” Meaning, essentially,

Ailes’ goal was always to manipulate the news to present a balance to reality. They’ve never been anything but a rightwing propaganda machine. But under Donald Trump’s administration, it’s clear that the relationship between Fox News and the political party they work so hard to prop up has changed dramatically.

In the latest issue of the New Yorker, Jane Mayer lays out concrete evidence of the incestuous relationship between Fox News and the White House.

It’s not just the personnel swaps, although those are significant. Bill Shine, the former co-president of Fox News, was appointed director of communications and deputy chief of staff at the White House. Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, former deputy NSA K.T. Bolton, and HUD secretary Ben Carson had all previously been Fox News contributors or correspondents.

And as Mayer writes, “the White House door swings both ways.” Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks left that job to join Fox News as their chief communications officer and others like Sebastian Gorka regularly appear as network commentators. Kimberly Guilfoyle left Fox mid-contarct and now works on Trump’s reelection campaign and dates Don Jr.

We know by the way he comments on segments and retweets quotes and clips that Trump watches a lot of Fox News and that it directly influences official policy.

Mayer writes that Fox News’ Pete Hegseth (famous for his admission that he doesn’t wash his hands) and Lou Dobbs “have each been patched into Oval Office meetings, by speakerphone, to offer policy advice.” Sean Hannity, reportedly dubbed the “Shadow Chief of Staff” by advisors, “has told colleagues that he speaks to the President virtually every night, after his show ends, at 10 p.m.” He’s appeared at Trump’s rallies and seems to have a dual career as Fox News host and White House advisor.

Mayer cites a West Wing source who says that Hannity’s role as an unofficial policy advisor is due “in part, to the ‘utter breakdown of any normal decision-making in the White House.’ The expert added, ‘The place has gone off the rails. There is no ordinary policy-development system.’ As a result, he said, Fox’s on-air personalities ‘are filling the vacuum.'”

None of this should be shocking news to anyone paying attention. But as the Washington Post writes, “because Mayer is so highly respected, and the piece so thorough, it made an impact.” The DNC has now officially announced that Fox won’t be chosen as a host of any of the Democratic primary debates ahead of the 2020 election. Why they would have been, who knows? But at least the DNC is taking a firm stand now.

Trump, by the way, wasn’t too happy about that decision.

Fox News has the largest audience of any cable news network. Fans would likely say that’s because it’s the best news network. In reality, Fox mixes entertainment with fear mongering in such a way that millions of Americans are automatically going to be attracted to it. It’s also the absolute perfect fit for Trump, a man who built a persona in reality television and ran a presidential campaign based on fear, racism, and xenophobia.

Mayer explains how the two work together so well:

“Fox is not just taking the temperature of the base—it’s raising the temperature,” she says. “It’s a radicalization model.” For both Trump and Fox, “fear is a business strategy—it keeps people watching.” As the President has been beset by scandals, congressional hearings, and even talk of impeachment, Fox has been both his shield and his sword. The White House and Fox interact so seamlessly that it can be hard to determine, during a particular news cycle, which one is following the other’s lead. All day long, Trump retweets claims made on the network; his press secretary, Sarah Sanders, has largely stopped holding press conferences, but she has made some thirty appearances on such shows as “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity.” Trump, Hemmer says, has “almost become a programmer.”

Trump says and does things that Fox News covers and creates defenses for. Trump quotes those defenses on Twitter and uses them as ammunition in moving forward. It’s an incestuous, masturbatory relationship and it’s ridiculous that it took this article–as great an article as it is–for a major organization like the DNC to finally denounce Fox News. Just because they say they’re a legitimate news organization doesn’t mean we have to believe them, no matter how loudly they yell it. That’s something they should have to prove through, you know, reporting the news.

(via New Yorker, image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.