Griff Jenkins' Fox & Friends guest-hosting gig destroys the network’s supposed news/opinion firewall

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade has been off all this week for the July 4 holiday. His replacement on Monday and Tuesday was fellow conservative commentator Pete Hegseth, a Republican politician turned Fox & Friends Weekend host and sometime presidential adviser. But for the last three days, Fox “news”-side correspondent Griff Jenkins has occupied Kilmeade’s seat on Fox & Friends’ curvy couch. Jenkins has been guest-hosting the show for years, and every single time it has undermined Fox’s own craven explanation for how the network operates. 

When Fox’s putrid content triggers a backlash, the network inevitably claims that it simply features both combative “opinion” commentators and a professional “news” division, with total separation between the two. 

“I think we have to make the wall between news and opinion as high and as thick and as impenetrable as possible,” chief news anchor Shepard Smith said last year. “We serve different masters. We work for different reporting chains, we have different rules.”

This is a farcical narrative deployed to protect the network from facing the consequences of full public recognition that Fox is a right-wing disinformation and propaganda machine to its core. Fox’s purported “hard news” shows air conservative misinformation on a daily basis. Right-wing talking points pumped out by Fox’s “opinion” shows are echoed by its “news” shows. The commentary of “news” anchors and “opinion” hosts is at times indistinguishable. And the “news” team focuses on validating whatever stories conservatives are talking about, producing reports that serve as fodder for the “opinion” gang’s programs.

But Fox’s practice of allowing the network’s purported “news” correspondents to sit in as guest hosts for opinion shows like Fox & Friends demonstrates that this argument is just a facade, even by the network’s own terms. 

Jenkins’ official Fox bio details how flimsy the network’s purported “wall” between news and opinion really is. He got his start in media producing conservative icon Oliver North’s radio show. When North joined Fox as the host of War Stories in 2003, Jenkins came with him as the show’s producer. Jenkins subsequently switched to the network’s “news” side as a Washington-based correspondent, covering the last three presidential elections and a host of national news stories. But that work for the newsroom hasn’t kept him away from Fox’s “opinion” side -- “Jenkins often serves as a guest co-host” for both the weekday Fox & Friends and the program’s weekend edition, as the bio notes. 

Indeed, Jenkins has sat in for Steve Doocy or Kilmeade seven times this year according to the Media Matters database, covering for their Memorial Day and Fourth of July vacations. He hung a lantern on the way Fox allows him to switch roles from “opinion” host to “news” correspondent while guest-hosting on July 3. 

“I’m very excited because I’m going to leave this couch, go back to D.C. today to be out there on the Mall for you guys tomorrow morning,” Jenkins said of President Trump’s planned July 4 celebration in Washington. “I have been covering the Fourth of July for a while. I’ve never seen an M1A1 Abrams tank or a Bradley Fighting Vehicle or any planes flying over, so this is going to be quite exciting.” 

It would be one thing if Jenkins’ presence exerted some sort of “news”-side gravitational pull over the program. Instead, this week’s turn on the couch saw Jenkins push White House talking points, such as the claims that “the crisis at the border [was] created by Democrats” who are now “running against the rule of law.” He’s also cheered on pro-Trump propagandists like Fox Nation personalities Diamond and Silk. And he’s sat idly by while right-wing guests have made absurd, inflammatory claims, as he did when radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed that Democrats opposed putting a citizenship question on the census as part of a “globalist movement to eliminate the whole concept of citizenship” and “replace” it with “residents” to “control as much of the population as they can.” 

In other words, he played the role of Fox & Friends “opinion” host to perfection.