Fox News’ hosts triggered a hard-line turn on immigration from President Donald Trump over Easter weekend, making the case in private meetings at his Mar-A-Lago resort and egging him on with inflammatory coverage on the network’s airwaves.
Not only does Fox’s stable of conservatives provide fawning coverage of the presidency, but Trump also looks to them for advice and to fill his administration. He is also enmeshed in a feedback loop with the network’s programming, frequently watching Fox broadcasts and tweeting along. This loop, too, can trigger major shifts in White House communications strategy and policy, causing chaos as the administration, Congress, and the press try to figure out what the live tweet du jour really means.
On Friday night, Trump dined at Mar-A-Lago with Fox host Sean Hannity. Hannity regularly advises the president, reportedly convincing Trump to kill an incipient deal with Democrats last year to ensure legal status for the undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
Over the weekend, Hannity, whose show is pure pro-Trump propaganda, reportedly urged the president to take a firmer line on immigration, citing the need to preserve the GOP’s chances in this year’s midterm elections. Trump’s decision to sign an omnibus spending bill that did not include funding for the long-sought wall on the U.S.-Mexican border has drawn a fevered response from some of the president’s most loyal supporters.
Hannity’s remarks appear to have been the first salvo in a successful weekend-long effort by the president’s supporters at Fox to get him to step up his criticism of immigration.
The next morning, Trump appeared to respond to Hannity’s advice while taking his cues from Fox’s morning programming.
After Fox & Friends ran multiple segments criticizing California Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to pardon five immigrants who were facing deportation, Trump slammed the “Moonbeam” governor. Trump’s tweet, sent while traveling in his motorcade from Mar-A-Lago to the Trump International Golf Club, copied language from one of the show’s graphics and tagged the network’s handle.
Later that day, Trump reportedly met with Fox’s Jeanine Pirro, another staunch loyalist who has also advised him during his presidency. Pirro echoed Hannity’s message on the need to take a harsher stance on immigration, according to CNN. The president also dined that evening with Hannity and Bill Shine, the former Hannity producer who rose to become co-president of the network before being forced out in disgrace because of his role in the network’s culture of sexual harassment.
On the morning of Easter Sunday, the president again live-tweeted Fox & Friends’ immigration reporting. The program devoted several segments to a BuzzFeed News report about a caravan of several hundred Central American migrants who have been traveling from Mexico’s southern border toward the U.S. southern border, with the reported intention of settling in either country.
In one such segment, Brandon Judd, the head of the union that represents border patrol agents, criticized “catch and release” immigration policies in which immigration officials allow apprehended undocumented immigrants to remain at large if they are not considered dangerous in order to free up space in detention centers. Judd also called for the use of the “nuclear option” in the Senate to allow Republicans to pass immigration legislation without Democratic support.
Questioned about his tweets by pool reporters as he walked into the Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea for Easter services, Trump again slammed Mexico, said that Democrats “blew it” over DACA, and baselessly claimed that “a lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA.”
Trump himself took the action that puts DACA recipients in jeopardy, he has been inconsistent on whether he actually wants to protect them, and there is no evidence that recent migrants are trying to “take advantage” of DACA, which applies only to people who came to the U.S. as children and have been in the country since 2007.
The president had obviously taken the advice from Fox’s hosts to heart, and the network could not be happier.
This morning, Fox & Friends was trumpeting the president’s statements, with the first captions of the program reading, “TRUMP: NO MORE DACA DEAL!” and “CARAVAN OF IMMIGRANTS HEADED TO U.S.”
And within the hour, the nation’s most prominent Fox & Friends viewer kicked off a morning of live-tweeting by chiming in once more:
Trump was tweeting about a Fox & Friends segment about Trump tweeting about a Fox & Friends segment. The feedback loop is tighter than ever.