Trump in front of a podium with the Fox News logo
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Ahead of the first 2024 presidential debate, Fox News figures are acting as Trump advisers

Network personalities and guests are pleading with Trump to stay on message and restrain himself

The first presidential debate of the 2024 election will be held Thursday, and Fox News is trying to get in the ear of Donald Trump. 

Fox News figures and guests are practically pleading with the former president to be “calm, cool, measured” and stay on message about the economy and immigration. Several have even provided Trump with messaging suggestions on topics including his election misinformation, January 6, and his criminal conviction. 

Given the history of Trump-Fox feedback, their suggestions may get his attention.

  • There’s a history of a Trump-Fox feedback loop on messaging

    • While Trump was in office, the Trump-Fox feedback loop powered scandals, pardons, policy, and more than 600 live tweets. Trump would often react live to comments made by Fox News personalities and praise their coverage, and his administration appeared to make decisions based on the advice he got through his television set and in behind-the-scenes discussions with Fox personalities. [Media Matters, 12/19/19]
    • Fox News personalities were central to the former president’s attempts to delegitimize his hush money trial. Arguments from Fox News’ Alan Dershowitz, Jonathan Turley, Gregg Jarrett, Andy McCarthy and Mark Levin featured heavily in Trump’s comments about the trial. [Media Matters, 5/20/24]
  • Fox News personalities are advising Trump on how to handle questions about election misinformation, January 6, and his guilty conviction

    • Fox News host and former Trump administration press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “If I'm president Trump” and questions about January 6 come up, I’d “answer them briefly but pivot to the economy.” She continued, “The advantage Trump has is he can point retroactively to four years where Americans were better off and he should do that every single chance he gets.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 6/20/24]
    • Former George W. Bush speechwriter and current Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen suggested Trump pivot if the moderators “try and turn this on to 2020, on the election, on January 6.” Thiessen said: “Every time they bring up 2020, you know what Trump should say? Trump should say, ‘You know what I remember about 2020? The border was secure. In 2020, inflation was low. In 2020, the world was at peace. None of those things are true today.’” Thiessen also suggested that Trump pivot if January 6 claims come up, saying, “If they bring up January 6,” Trump should say, “On January 6, the border was secure. On January 6, the economy was going well.” [Fox News, America Reports, 6/20/24
    • Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said if the moderators ask about January 6 and the 2020 election and whether he’ll accept the result of the election, “the president has got to accept it.” Kilmeade added that Trump should say, “There were things wrong with 2020, but let me tell you what the American people care about — X, Y, and Z. Get it back to economy. Get it back to growth.” [Fox News, America Reports, 6/20/24]
    • Outnumbered co-host Harris Faulkner offered Trump a retort to use if moderators bring up his legal issues. Faulkner said: “Maybe the plan could be, ‘Look, I know you guys want me to, you know, break that gag order, and unless all of you want to go to court with me, how about if we just talk about the other people who have been gagged, the American people, who feel like you’re not listening to them right now when they complain about the high prices, Joe Biden.' And put it right back on him and his policies.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/21/24
    • Fox News host Laura Ingraham said that “on their convicted felon point,” Trump should say that “most people see these cases as driven by politics.” She added that Trump should say that Americans “know that had I decided not to run for office again, none of them would have been brought. But setting that aside, we believe we have a strong appeal in the New York case and we expect to win that appeal.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 6/20/24
    • Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt said Trump should reply to “gotcha” questions about his election conspiracy theories by pointing to Hillary Clinton and Stacey Abrams. “He’s got to be prepared for those gotcha questions. Like, ‘You’ve said you didn't really win the election.’ He can come back with, ‘Well Democrats have said that too.' Remember when Hillary Clinton said that she didn't think that he had really won and so did Stacey Abrams in Georgia?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/24/24
    • American Enterprise Institute’s Matthew Continetti told anchor Bret Baier that Trump can “reset things at the debate” and “make it about the issues rather than about the conviction.” Continetti said Trump should focus on the economy and immigration, where he polls best. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 6/20/24]
    • Fox co-host Carley Shimkus advised Trump on how to “pivot” away from a question about January 6. Shimkus stated: “If he gets a January 6 question, if he gets a ‘are you going to accept the election results’ question, I think a good way to pivot to that is just say, ‘Listen, I'm running for the future of the country. You may care about that, but the American people care about the economy, they care about the border, they care about crime. Those are the issues I want to talk about.’” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/24/24]
  • Fox figures are advising Trump on his debate temperament

    • Fox News host Jesse Watters said Trump’s “key to victory” in the debate is to “be calm, cool, measured, collected and let Joe do his thing.” Watters added that he doesn’t want to see Trump “be rageful” toward Biden and that he shouldn’t “try to leap across the lectern and strangle him with his bare hands.” [Fox News, The Five, 6/18/24
    • Fox News contributor Karl Rove stated that Trump “can’t be the angry and interrupting guy that we saw in that first debate” in 2020. Rove says that this time around, Trump must be “reasonable” and “calm.” [Fox News, America Reports, 6/21/24
    • Fox News contributor Mary Katharine Ham urged Trump “to have a temperate performance and to let Biden speak, because the longer Biden speaks, the more likely he is to trip himself up.” She summed up: “Don't rescue Biden from himself would be my tip for Trump as they go into it.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 6/21/24
    • Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich advised, “All Trump has to do is be calm.” Gingrich continued: “My advice to Trump would be: Deal with Biden with humor, not with anger, because Biden is pathetic. And, you know, I think — he's so dishonest that you can't take him seriously.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/21/24
    • While displaying an on-screen graphic reading “Angle Debate Advice to President Trump,” Ingraham told Trump, “Keep your cool, no matter what.” She continued, “Don't give them what they want. And if Trump maintains his composure and doesn't step into their traps, he is going to win handily.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 6/20/24
    • Federalist founder Ben Domenech said on Fox & Friends that “if you’re advising the former president” on debate prep, you should tell Trump to let Biden “talk his way into embarrassment as opposed to interrupting him.” Domeninch also recommended having the Trump team use Fox News’ Guy Benson and Mary Katharine Ham as the stand-in debate moderators. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/19/24]
    • Influencer Emily Austin said on Gutfeld! she would like Trump to “take the Reagan approach” at the debate. She said Trump should “let him talk, let him show his own BS on air. And then Trump has the opportunity to just call him out subtly without digging the insults.” [Fox News, Gutfeld!, 6/17/24]
  • Fox News hosts are advising Trump on what to talk about

    • While talking about victims of crimes perpetrated by immigrants, Fox News host Lawrence Jones advised, “If I'm Donald Trump, I'm saying every single victim's name during the debate next week.” He continued, “Ask [Biden], does he even know the names? Can he talk about the cases? … Joe, did you call the families?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/21/24
    • Tomi Lahren, a host on Fox’s OutKick, said Trump “needs to talk to the forgotten Americans that he won in 2016” and “go back to 2016 Trump.” She added: “Women are scared right now. They’re scared for their children. They’re scared for themselves. They’re scared for their communities. Immigration is a real root issue with a lot of that fear. So if Donald Trump can play into that and play into his economy and how he would flip Biden's economy around and make it work for the forgotten American, then he wins.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/21/24
    • Fox News host Greg Gutfeld said, “Trump has to go in and focus on the harmful woke policies that have damaged the country.” He added that Trump “should talk about how everything costs more, not just food but your quality of life and your personal freedom.” [Fox News, The Five, 6/20/24]