On Tuesday night, in a very long speech at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, former President Donald Trump announced that he would run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. Hooray? The announcement came exactly one week after the GOP got pantsed in the 2022 midterm elections, in part because the Republican primary electorate chose to nominate a bunch of off-putting Trumpy weirdos who organized their campaigns around Trump’s pet issues, such as “disliking democracy,” “relitigating the 2020 presidential election,” and “trying to convince people that the news is fake.”
As you might expect, many GOP power brokers are, shall we say, pretty unenthusiastic about once again tying their party’s electoral fortunes to a lying, divisive narcissist whose candidacy is compelled by the belief that running for president will make it harder for the Biden DOJ to send him to prison. One such power broker is news mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose various outlets have been conspicuously irritated with Trump since the midterm debacle. (The New York Post called him “Trumpty Dumpty.” Zing!) That said, as I wrote last week, the Murdochs are pragmatists who are very much aware that a good chunk of the Republican base remains enthralled with Trump—and that Trump’s base may well punish Murdoch if Fox News tries to kill the ex-president’s new campaign before it is clearly, verifiably dead.
How will Fox News handle this dilemma? If Wednesday morning’s Fox & Friends is any indication, Fox News may well cover this stage of Trump’s presidential campaign by, er, not covering it. The network’s morning show was once something of a daily ego boost for Trump. In 2017, I wrote that the show was in “lockstep with Trump’s reactionary agenda.” Trump and his proxies were frequent guests, while hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, and Brian Kilmeade spent most mornings effectively giving the president and his policies a big, warm hug.
On Wednesday morning, though, the three hosts seemed more like they were trying to wriggle out of the president’s grasp. While Fox & Friends did lead off the show with a discussion of Trump’s announcement, and while the hosts returned to the topic throughout the program’s three-hour run time, it was hardly the wall-to-wall Trump Fest that viewers would have seen in years past. This circumspection is notable because Trump’s announcement last night didn’t take anyone by surprise. Everyone knew it was coming, especially the producers of Fox & Friends, which is why it is difficult to see the arc of Trump’s favorite morning show following the announcement as anything but a deliberate editorial choice to dampen the impact of Trump’s attempted comeback tour.
Will this strategy work and will it last? No and no are my bets, but I guess we’ll see. In the meantime, here are some of the other things that Fox & Friends talked about this morning while clearly trying to avoid talking about Donald Trump:
• Steve Doocy showed off various functions on his Apple Watch and bragged that he was able to program the device without consulting the manual.
• Ainsley Earhardt interviewed a man who gave two sheriff’s deputies tickets to the upcoming “Fox Nation Patriot Awards,” and also interviewed the deputies themselves. “We were really excited to get the news that we were going. … It’s nice to know that there are people out there who appreciate law enforcement,” one deputy said.
• A woman from the Heritage Foundation called the concept of effective altruism “a progressive grift.”
• A sit-down interview with ex-NFL coach Jimmy Johnson, whose new book is called Swagger. “Winning is complicated! Have you noticed that?” Doocy asked. Johnson revealed that it is difficult to win without also making sacrifices.
• Brian Kilmeade showed off a new bobblehead doll of himself, while also remarking that the doll’s head was unusually small, that the hair part was wrong, and that the suit the doll was wearing was more like one that Donald Trump would wear rather than one that he, Kilmeade, would wear. These deficiencies were not enough to stop Kilmeade from taking orders for the doll from the show’s off-camera staffers.
• Significant time spent on the geopolitical implications of missiles landing in Poland the other day. This story was actually news. Good job, Fox & Friends!
• Multiple Home Shopping Network–style shopping segments.
• Doocy revealed that his children used to try to get it to snow by flushing ice cubes down the toilet.
• A live, in-studio interview with Mike Pence, who has a new book out, and who is clearly trying to create separation between himself and Donald Trump in advance of his own probable 2024 presidential bid. “It’s a free country; the president’s entitled to announce his intentions whenever he desires,” Pence said, in response to a question from Doocy about why Trump didn’t postpone his announcement until after the Georgia Senate runoff election. “But I honestly believe that we’ll have better choices come 2024.”
“Better choices than Donald Trump?” asked Doocy.
“I do,” said Pence.
I guess we’ll see about that!