Angelo Carusone tells NPR’s On Point how Fox's botched NY Times report shows its “symbiotic relationship” with Trump

From the July 26 edition of NPR's On Point:

TOM ASHBROOK (HOST): What do you make of this fight between the [New YorkTimes and Fox News on this point?

ANGELO CARUSONE, MEDIA MATTERS PRESIDENT: Well I think that there's a little bit of context, even beyond the broader attacks and relationship between Trump and The New York Times and the rest of the news media, in just this particular triangle from a few weeks ago. Because it was just July 10 that Fox & Friends ran a report that claimed that [former FBI Director] James Comey had leaked top secret information to The New York Times and that it was illegal. Donald Trump proceeded to tweet about it, parroting exactly The New York Times -- the Fox & Friends segment. Fox & Friends subsequently issued a correction the next day. Donald Trump did not correct it, nor did he take down any of his tweets. But it was sort of a very similar dynamic in which, one, it was totally fabricated, two, The New York Times -- Fox & Friends just sort of jumped to the conclusion that it was The New York Times, so they were picking up sort of the Donald Trump's favorite target. And then three, they had it completely wrong, but it still made its way to Donald Trump's Twitter feed. So when you fast forward to the most recent events, the thing that I find interesting is that, you're right, the Times never really came up. It was actually Fox & Friends that injected that into the narrative. And in part I think it demonstrates the continuation of this broader sort of battle and war that Trump is waging through these sort of media proxies on venerable institutions. And it's not just the Times, it's obviously many other news outlets as well. But, the Times by far is the outlet that Donald Trump has attacked the most on his social media account since he's been president, over 20 times, and that's more than any other individual outlet or paper.


ASHBROOK: Now back at the time [in 2015], Fox News had come out themselves, well before The New York Times, a couple of -- three weeks, and said on air that that the “newly recovered intelligence from this raid,” this is quoting Fox here, “may bring the U.S. closer to [ISIS leader Abu Bakr] Baghdadi's kill or capture.” So the gist of it was already right there. The Pentagon was already talking about it, but then Fox & Friends over the weekend casting it in this, in this, in this new way, "Times reporting foils capture of ISIS leader," and within 20, 25 minutes that Fox report on air, you have the president of the United States tweeting. This was Donald Trump on Saturday. “The failing New York Times foiled U.S. attempt to kill the single most wanted terrorist, al-Baghdadi. Their sick agenda over national security.” Angelo, the president comes in here and sort of puts the pedal to the metal and takes it right down to a Times-driven agenda is a threat to American national security, just buys the Fox version or takes it and runs hard with it, Angelo.

CARUSONE: Yeah, and that's what's so -- what underlies all of this is that Fox & Friends did not even do the most basic -- put aside the fact check, they didn't even reach out to the target for a comment. Had they done that, the great likelihood that this segment would not have run in the way that it did, in which case it would not have poisoned the well or misinform Donald Trump, and therefore not led to this cascade of tweets and sort of more fuel to the fire against some of these stalwart news media. And one thing that jumps out to me about all of this, and sort of, I think, brings everything full circle and is somewhat ironic is that Fox & Friends has long had a history of taking content both from and from other sites and running it. And back in 2009, after they had run a series of pretty big flaps under very similar circumstances, John Moody, who was the vice president of news at the time at Fox News, actually did a very extensive interview with The New York Times admonishing Fox & Friends, his own network's program, for failing to meet even the most basic journalistic standards when it came to verifying segments, content for segments that were running. And he issued a dictate to the newsroom that said that stories, even those that appear on Fox News, can not just -- on, cannot just be independently run as a segment during Fox & Friends unless they are verified. And so what I find interesting about all this is that it's coming full circle. Because when Fox was trying to sort of clean this long pattern up at Fox & Friends, they actually went to the Times to try to reestablish themselves. And here we are where the Times is now been a recipient, not just once, but twice so far this month of a misleading or completely false Fox & Friends segment that gets into Donald Trump's Twitter feed and what this really does underscore is this symbiotic relationship between some of Fox News' programming -- there's other right-wing media as well, but in particular Fox & Friends and Sean Hannity -- and the lens through which Donald Trump's worldview is greatly informed. I mean they really do shape the lens through which he sees the world, and I think that's ultimately what the takeaway is here.


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