Fox News has been laying the groundwork for this week’s Republican National Convention for years by building up presumptive nominee Donald Trump’s political brand and hyping a series of pseudo-scandals that will reportedly serve as the convention’s thematic foundation. The rest of the media will face a crucial test over the next four nights as they are confronted by a stream of lies.
Fox News’ years of virulent attacks on President Obama, Hillary Clinton, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and so many others, along with its triumphalist support of the Tea Party, helped create the political movement that became Trump’s base.
And while Trump has long been a prominent national figure, it was Fox News and its conservative media cohort that remade him as a political force by giving him a ready platform for his conspiracy theories about President Obama’s birth certificate. As a candidate, Trump has echoed the violent rhetoric, bigotry, and lies the network has been pumping out for years.
Trump has also been a fixture on Fox, garnering more than 49 hours of interview time across 243 appearances during the primaries -- more than twice as much airtime as any other candidate. The network’s relationship with the candidate over that period was at times tumultuous, but Fox seems to have surrendered to the Republican presumptive nominee, with its top two hosts apparently competing for the mantle of Trump’s biggest fan. It’s no surprise that as the general election looms, Trump has largely retreated from appearances on other networks for the safety of Fox’s softball interviews.
Trump will reportedly be using his convention to bring Fox News themes to the public at large. As The New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg reports, Trump “has been planning to make full use of his time in his trademark way, with daily themes that will weave in staples of hot-button topics from talk radio and the Fox News Channel’s opinion programs: Bill Clinton’s infidelity, Hillary Clinton’s response to the attack on the American compound in Benghazi, and immigration.”
That plan creates what Rutenberg describes as a “big test” for the television networks, which will have to choose between promoting Trump and interrogating claims made during the event:
It could be one of those events that we look back on as a defining moment in American media, especially for the television networks: Did they once again this year hand themselves over to a Trumpian infomercial — the ultimate Trump infomercial — and bask in the ratings?
Or did they rediscover their vital role of providing context, perspective and truth in a contest that is not a countdown-clock-worthy sporting event or reality show, but a competition for the presidency of the United States in fraught and dangerous times?
“All of the network executives” Rutenberg spoke with promised to “do aggressive fact-checking.” We’ll see.