Fox & Friends has emerged as Donald Trump's biggest cheerleader and defender in the media, a role the presidential candidate is rewarding with lavish public praise.
Trump has been a fixture on Fox & Friends since 2011, when Fox News announced that Trump would become a regular guest for a segment called "Monday Mornings with Trump." The move came as Trump was making headlines questioning whether or not President Obama was really born in the United States, and gave him a safe space to push dubious claims and uninformed opinions weekly.
Yet the cozy relationship between Trump and the morning program has never seemed closer than it is now, with Trump officially running in the GOP primary. Since he kicked off his campaign with smears of immigrants, the hosts have continually defended Trump from backlash over his seemingly endless controversial remarks, while lapping up Trump's praise in return.
The Fox & Friends hosts praised Trump for his swagger and suggestion that "Mexicans build their own wall" after he described Mexican immigrants as criminals and "rapists" in June. Whitewashing his smears, the hosts credited Trump with igniting a national immigration debate on sanctuary cities -- Steve Doocy hailed Trump's remarks, saying, "we're talking about this because Donald Trump brought this up as a campaign issue," while Elisabeth Hasselbeck declared that the substance of Trump's remarks was resonating and that "some people are bending their opinions."
Trump has been forthcoming about his appreciation of the hosts' efforts to defend him. During an interview with NBC's Katy Tur, Trump cited Fox to defend himself against accusations that his rhetoric is hurting the Republican party, praising their laudatory coverage: "On Fox they say that I did a great service because I'm the one that brought up the whole discussion on immigration."
And when Trump received widespread backlash for attacking Sen. John McCain's military record, claiming he is "not a war hero" because he was a POW during the Vietnam War, the Fox & Friends hosts quickly rallied behind the presidential contender. Doocy tried his best to spin Trump's remarks and claim Trump was criticizing McCain's Senate record, not his military service. Brian Kilmeade argued that Trump had called McCain a war hero four times (a claim that Politifact rated "Mostly False," as Trump's point was that McCain is a war hero "because he was captured").
Right on cue, Trump again returned the favor, voicing his appreciation for the morning program during a July 21 campaign event in which he gave the hosts a shout out, saying, "Fox & Friends is so great. Brian, Steve, and Elisabeth -- They're great people."
The next day, in return, the hosts thanked Trump for the praise. Doocy aired Trump's remarks and said, "Thanks for the commercial there. It was nice."
Fox & Friends' glowing adoration of Trump comes amid reports that the candidate has been "wooing" Roger Ailes, the chairman and chief executive of Fox News. Ailes reportedly met with Trump prior to the announcement of his candidacy, and Trump has previously called the influential media executive "one of the great geniuses in television history."