It’s hardly a secret that former President Donald Trump had a close relationship with several Fox News hosts while he was in the White House. But a new Washington Post report makes clear just how influential several of the network’s biggest names were on the administration, creating what the paper dubbed the “cable cabinet of unofficial advisers.” So many Fox News hosts had the direct number to reach Trump at his official residence that it often became a source of frustration for his advisers as the president would then pass on their recommendations. “There were times the president would come down the next morning and say, ‘Well, Sean thinks we should do this,’ or, ‘Judge Jeanine thinks we should do this,’ ” Stephanie Grisham, a former White House press secretary, said in reference to Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro.
In some cases, the influence was much more direct. Trump would even dial Hannity and Lou Dobbs into Oval Office staff meetings, a former senior administration official tells the Post. “A lot of it was PR—what he should be saying and how he should be saying it; he should be going harder against wearing masks or whatever,” Grisham said. “And they all have different opinions, too.”
The influence the Fox News personalities enjoyed in the White House had already become clear when the committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot revealed that Laura Ingraham, Brian Kilmeade, and Hannity all texted Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows as the president’s supporters stormed the Capitol. “Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home,” Ingraham wrote. And it wasn’t just on the day. Texts released by the committee show Hannity continued to give the White House advice after the riot.
It wasn’t just the hosts themselves who were influential, but also the people they chose to put on their shows. Advisers quickly started realizing that appearing on a Fox News show that Trump liked immediately gave the guest credibility. “It taught me the power of the young producers at Fox, and Fox Business especially,” Michael Pillsbury, an informal Trump adviser, said.