Welcome to Executive Time, a recurring feature in which Media Matters senior fellow Matt Gertz explores the intersection between President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed and the hours of cable news he reportedly consumes daily, with a special focus on his favorite morning program, Fox & Friends. You can follow Matt’s work on Twitter @mattgertz and see previous installments in this series here.
Days this week Trump appeared to live-tweet cable news: Five (three from Fox & Friends, one from Fox & Friends Saturday, one Fox’s America’s Newsroom.)
Tweets this week apparently resulting from live-tweeting cable news: 11 (six from Fox & Friends, two from Fox & Friends Saturday, three from Fox’s America’s Newsroom.)
It’s almost a year into Donald Trump’s presidency, and to celebrate, Axios reporter Jonathan Swan gave us a gift that perfectly sums up this administration: the news that White House staff refer to the lengthy blocks on the president’s private schedule when he is quite literally left to his own devices as “Executive Time.”
Those blocks “almost always means TV and Twitter time alone in the residence,” per Swan’s sources, and the president has been demanding them more frequently as he heads into his second year in office.
The president’s twin obsessions of Twitter and television are deeply entwined. In fact, I’ve concluded that the best explanation for the president’s Twitter feed is often that Trump is “live-tweeting Fox, particularly the network’s Trump-loving morning show, Fox & Friends,” as I wrote last week in Politico Magazine. I’ve been chronicling that pattern on Twitter for months, starting my mornings by carefully tracking the president’s truculent tweets back to the Fox programming he is echoing. This presidential live-tweeting has occurred even more frequently in recent days.
The president’s private schedule for January 2, Swan reports, shows that Trump’s first meeting was at 11 a.m., that he had two and a half hours of “Executive Time” throughout the day, and that his “official day” ended at 4:15 p.m. Here’s what else the president did that day, as cogently described by Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale:
Trump appears to often use the early-morning “Executive Time” to watch Fox & Friends, where co-hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, and Brian Kilmeade provide the president with soothing bromides about his successes, helpful explanations for his failures, vicious attacks on his political and media foes, and seething culture war jeremiads that stir up his base. The hosts and guests know that the president may be watching, and openly use the program to try to influence his decisions.
We saw presidential live-tweeting scramble the policy-making process just this morning. Fox & Friends was covering a House vote scheduled for today to renew a portion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- a move supported by the White House. During the segment, Fox senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano commented, “I don’t understand why Donald Trump is in favor of this. His woes began with unlawful foreign surveillance and unconstitutional domestic surveillance of him before he was the president of the United States.” He then turned to the camera and said, “Mr. President, this is not the way to go.” Doocy added, "Our lead story today was about how apparently that dirty dossier filled with stuff that was just made up apparently was used in part to get a FISA warrant to spy on President Trump."
Roughly 45 minutes later, the president, who had been live-tweeting the program all morning, tweeted that FISA was “the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?” With a few words on the president’s favorite show, a Fox analyst created chaos, with a House Republican source telling NBC that the tweet “is an issue” and the president being forced to send another tweet trying to walk back his first one. Meanwhile, Swan reported, "Top Hill sources are trying to figure out who 'got to' Trump to influence him to write the first tweet."
The problems of this Fox-Trump feedback loop are legion. The president's views are molded by right-wing misinformation, as he relies on a pack of bigoted morons to explain the world rather than the vast expertise of the federal government. His live-tweets upend the news cycle, thrusting the network’s obsessions into the mainstream and turning conservative pseudoscandals into national news. As journalists shuffle their priorities to respond to the president’s tweets from in front of his television, important news stories are crowded out. And of course, it’s deeply unnerving that the leader of the most powerful nation on earth is spending hours each day watching television.
None of this is likely to change in the near future -- since Politico published my piece early Friday morning, Trump has sent 11 tweets on five different days that I was able to link to Fox’s programming.
And so, I’ll be covering this intersection of the president’s tweets and the cable news he watches, with a special focus on his favorite program Fox & Friends, for a regular feature we’re calling “Executive Time.”
The president is live-tweeting
Here are the Trump tweets from the last week I am reasonably confident are the result of the president directly responding to cable news programs he had been watching.
January 5. One Fox & Friends live-tweet.
January 6. Two Fox & Friends Saturday live-tweets.
January 8. One Fox & Friends live-tweet.
January 10. Three America's Newsroom live-tweets.
January 11. Four Fox & Friends live-tweets.
Fire and fury
While the president takes his cues from Fox & Friends, he regularly lashes out at outlets producing journalism critical of his presidency.
Other highlights from Fox & Friends, the president’s favorite morning cable news program.
President’s Daily Brief
The people Trump turns to for news are not the best and the brightest.