Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on September 12 visited two morning shows, Fox News’ Fox & Friends and CNBC’s Squawk Box, that have a history of giving him kid-glove treatment and softball interviews. Trump was likely expecting more of the same, and he was right.
During his interview with Fox & Friends, Trump was asked about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s disclosure that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia after she left a 9/11 memorial event early, saying she was overheated. Co-host Ainsley Earhardt said the “press was kept in the dark for an hour and a half,” to which Trump said, “I really just don't know. I hope she gets well soon.” Trump also seemed to reference the baseless Clinton health conspiracy theories that have been spread by right-wing media figures, saying, “The coughing fit was a week ago, so I assume that was pneumonia also. I would think it would have been, so something is going on, but I just hope she gets well.”
Co-host Steve Doocy later asked Trump about Clinton’s September 9 remark that “you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables” characterized by “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic” views. Despite ample polling that backs up Clinton’s claim, Doocy framed it as “mistake,” asking Trump, “How big a mistake was this for her to say that on Friday night?” Co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed, “Hillary Clinton, in … making these comments and going to these high-ranking fundraisers, in many ways, she seems divorced from the everyday American.” Trump also claimed, drawing no pushback from the hosts, that he would be a “president of all the people,” even though he has repeatedly smeared Muslims, called Mexicans “rapists,” discriminated against African-Americans, and courted the white nationalist movement. Other topics in the interview included the NFL players protesting the national anthem and Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel, which the co-hosts were amazed that he was able to open “two years ahead of schedule.”
Trump’s half-hour interview on Squawk Box was even friendlier. Co-host Joe Kernen, discussing Clinton’s health, asked Trump if he thought he was “probably correct” that Clinton “didn't have the stamina either mentally or physically to be president.” Kernen also told Trump, “I think your schedule has been more grueling than the one [Clinton’s] been pursuing, and that has been documented,” even though Trump goes back to his home in New York almost every night. Multiple journalists criticized Kernen for the claim. Trump agreed with Kernen, saying, “It has been, and it is a very tough schedule.” Kernen later encouraged Trump to continue bashing President Obama over his recent trip to Asia, asking, “Any additional comments on that?” and criticized The Wall Street Journal for a headline that focused on both Clinton’s and Trump’s health. Co-host Rebecca Quick also told Trump, “You’re known as a great negotiator.” Trump during the interview also baselessly suggested, without drawing any pushback, that Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen was directing policy to help Obama, even though the Federal Reserve is independently controlled. Trump also smeared Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) with the slur “Pocahontas,” without pushback.
In neither interview was Trump asked about the September 10 report from The Washington Post that Trump’s charitable organization, the Trump Foundation, spent money for Trump himself and violated IRS rules. The shows also failed to ask Trump about the September 10 New York Daily News report that Trump’s company took $150,000 in government aid following the 9/11 attacks while claiming to have helped locals, even though that’s not what the program was designated for, and, as the News noted, “It’s unclear what, if any, help Trump provided to those affected by 9/11.”
Trump’s softball interviews on these shows continue his cushy history with both Fox and CNBC. For years, Trump had weekly segments on Fox & Friends, giving him a platform to push his baseless claim that Obama isn’t an American citizen. The show’s co-hosts have praised themselves for giving a “ton of time” to Trump before his campaign, and Trump publically lauded the show at a campaign event. The show has repeatedly defended and pushed Trump’s rhetoric throughout his campaign. Trump also had a weekly segment with Squawk Box in 2012. During that time, Kernen pushed Trump’s birther claims by reading a fake quote to Trump from Obama that suggested he wasn’t born in the United States. Kernen in an interview following CNBC’s Republican primary debate in 2015 also allowed Trump to falsely claim, “My relationship with Hispanics is incredible.”
Trump’s appearance on both shows also follows Trump’s retreat from most news outlets aside from Fox and CNBC. Fox media reporter Howard Kurtz reported in June that Trump was scaling back on interviews outside of Fox. According to a Media Matters review, since Trump’s much-criticized interview with ABC on July 31, in which he attacked a Gold Star family, his only appearance on one of the three broadcast networks was during last week’s NBC Commander in Chief Forum; he has made only one appearance on CNN; and he has not appeared on MSNBC.