Donald Trump's face superimposed over a background of green Fox News logos.
Ceci Freed / Media Matters | Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons

Research/Study Research/Study

A comprehensive review of the revolving door between Fox and the Trump administration

President Donald Trump has stocked his administration with former Fox News employees, and Fox and its parent company have hired several former Trump administration officials in senior roles.

  • Editor’s Note: This post reworks and adds to our previous report, “A comprehensive list of former Fox employees who have joined the Trump administration.” It will be updated as additional former Fox employees join or leave the Trump administration, and as former Trump administration officials are hired by Fox or its parent company

    President Donald Trump’s unprecedented relationship with Fox News has created a revolving door between the network and the White House.

    Trump has stocked his administration with former Fox employees. Cabinet secretaries overseeing federal departments, senior White House aides advising the president on crucial issues, and U.S. ambassadors representing the country abroad, among others, all worked for the network before joining Trump’s administration. Those are just the ones who actually made the jump to the Trump administration -- several other current or former Fox employees have been connected to various administration jobs but have not received them.

    Meanwhile, several former senior members of the Trump administration have joined Fox or its parent company, either in top executive roles or as on-air commentators.

    Nine current Trump administration officials previously worked at Fox as of November 20, while nine more officials worked at Fox before joining the administration but have since left. Five former Trump administration officials subsequently took jobs at the network or its parent company after leaving government.

    Current Trump administration officials who used to work at Fox

    Former Trump administration officials who used to work at Fox

    Current Fox employees who used to work in the Trump administration

    While Fox has long served as a comfortable landing spot for Republicans between stints in politics or government, these hires are happening within the context of the network fusing with Trump’s administration. The president’s worldview is shaped by the hours of Fox programming he watches each day -- both his public statements and his major decisions often coming in response to what he sees -- leading him to treat Fox employment as an important credential in hiring. 

    At the same time, prior employment in the Trump administration is apparently valued by Fox founder Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, whose media empire benefited greatly after becoming a pro-Trump propaganda outlet.

    Trump’s affinity for staff with a Fox pedigree extends outside the administration. He hired Jay Sekulow to join his legal team because the president liked the way Sekulow defended him on Fox, and he nearly added the similarly credentialed Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing to the group as well. Then there’s Kimberly Guilfoyle, who left her job co-hosting a Fox show and became the vice chairwoman of a pro-Trump super PAC the next week (she is also dating Donald Trump Jr.).

    Trump also consults with a “Fox News Cabinet” of current network employees. He reportedly speaks frequently with Rupert Murdoch. And Fox hosts including Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro, Tucker Carlson, and Pete Hegseth all reportedly influence Trump not only through their programs, but advise him privately as well.

    Current Trump administration officials who used to work at Fox

    Ben Carson, secretary of housing and urban development. Carson, formerly a prominent neurosurgeon, became a right-wing media sensation after using a February 2013 speech in front of President Barack Obama to trumpet conservative economics and health care arguments. He joined Fox News as a contributor in October 2013 and left just over a year later to run for president. After Trump’s election, Carson joined his administration as the secretary of housing and urban development. His tenure has been dogged by scandals involving lavish spending for office furniture and other ethics issues, as well as a general failure to carry out his department’s mission.

    Elaine Chao, secretary of transportation. After a career in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors capped by serving as labor secretary in President George W. Bush’s Cabinet, Chao became a Fox News contributor. She left the network in 2012 and took a seat on the board of directors of News Corp., at the time Fox’s parent company. In 2016, she stepped down from the board after Trump nominated her as secretary of transportation. Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); former Fox News contributor Erick Erickson has alleged that he was taken off the air because of his criticism of McConnell at Chao’s behest.

    Tony Sayegh, White House staff (updated 11/20/2019).  Sayegh, a former Republican communications consultant and Fox contributor, served as assistant secretary for public affairs for the Treasury Department from April 2017 to June 2019. In November he joined the White House to help oversee its communications response to the House impeachment inquiry. 

    Scott Brown, ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. Glowing Fox News coverage helped power Brown to victory in his 2010 run for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. After losing his reelection bid two years later, he joined the network as a contributor, using it as a platform to burnish his profile over the next year while exploring a run for Senate in New Hampshire. He left the network, lost that 2014 race despite the network’s efforts to promote him, and was rehired two weeks later. After Brown endorsed Trump in February 2016, Fox hosts began promoting him for the vice president slot. In August 2016, former Fox host Andrea Tantaros named him in the sexual harassment lawsuit she filed against Fox and several network executives. Trump nonetheless nominated Brown to be ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa in April 2017, and he was confirmed that June. He subsequently faced a State Department inquiry after making inappropriate comments to a female server at an official event.

    Georgette Mosbacher, ambassador to Poland. Mosbacher, a Republican businesswoman and donor, longtime Trump friend, and a Fox News contributor, was nominated to be ambassador to Poland in February 2018 and confirmed by the Senate that July.

    Richard Grenell, ambassador to Germany. Grenell, a Republican communications professional who spent seven years as spokesperson for the U.S. delegation to the U.N., joined Fox News as a contributor in 2009 and was still in the network’s employ when he was nominated to be ambassador to Germany in September 2017. He was confirmed in April 2018 “despite objections from Democrats that his past epithets about prominent female politicians made him unfit for the job.”

    Morgan Ortagus, State Department spokesperson. After working in the Bush and Obama administrations, Ortagus became a Fox contributor, then was named State Department spokesperson in April.

    Lea Gabrielle, State Department special envoy. In February, the State Department named Gabrielle, a former Fox News reporter, as special envoy and coordinator of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, an agency that counters foreign propaganda and disinformation.

    Monica Crowley, Treasury Department assistant secretary for public affairs. A C-list conservative commentator who spent two decades as a Fox contributor, Crowley was a reliable source of the network’s typical combination of bigotry, right-wing talking points, and attacks on the press. Most notably, she pushed several bigoted conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama’s heritage, including promoting a documentary about his purported “real father.” Trump’s plan to name her to a top National Security Council post was scuttled by revelations that she had plagiarized parts of her 2012 book and Ph.D. thesis, but she was appointed to the Treasury position in July 2019.

    Former Trump administration officials who used to work at Fox

    Bill Shine, White House communications director. Shine, a close friend of Hannity’s who once produced his show, rose through the executive ranks at Fox News, eventually becoming network founder Roger Ailes’ right-hand man and then Fox co-president. Shine resigned from Fox in May 2017 after his reported role helping to cover up the network’s culture of sexual harassment became too embarrassing, but he landed a plum White House job as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for communications. Shine left the White House for a role on Trump’s reelection campaign in March 2019. His exit reportedly came in part because Trump “feels he was sold a bill of goods by Hannity,” who had urged the president to hire Shine to improve his press coverage.

    John Bolton, national security adviser (updated 9/10/2019). Long recognized as one of the most hawkish members of the foreign policy community, Bolton served in the Bush State Department and as ambassador to the United Nations. He joined Fox as a contributor in 2006 and became the network’s go-to voice for national security stories for the next decade, using the platform to push for military options in North Korea and Iran. Those appearances caught the attention of Trump, who said during a 2015 interview, “I watch the shows” for military advice, and that he liked Bolton because “he’s a tough cookie, knows what he’s talking about.” In March 2018, Trump named Bolton as his national security adviser. On September 10, 2019, he announced on Twitter that he had fired Bolton the previous night (Bolton disputed this, saying he resigned). 

    Heather Nauert, acting undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. Nauert worked at Fox from 1998-2005 and 2007-2017 in a variety of roles. In April 2017, she left her position reading headlines as a news anchor on Fox & Friends, the morning program the president watches religiously, to become spokesperson for the State Department. In March 2018, she was named acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, replacing an official close to Rex Tillerson, who had just been ousted as secretary of state. She was nominated as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in December 2018, triggering stories about her lack of qualifications for the role outside of her Fox News connection. She withdrew from consideration for the post and left the administration in February, reportedly because her nomination was complicated by the fact she had “employed a nanny who was in the United States legally but was not legally allowed to work.”

    Anthony Scaramucci, White House communications director. Scaramucci, a hedge fund mogul and a former Fox Business contributor and host, spent 10 days as White House communications director before his proclivity for giving expletive-laced interviews and publicly feuding with other White House staffers triggered his removal.

    K.T. McFarland, deputy national security adviser. After serving in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations and losing a race against then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), McFarland became a Fox national security analyst. She used that position to push for war with Iran, defend the use of torture, and push for the profiling of Muslim Americans. In November 2016, Trump picked her to be deputy national security adviser under Michael Flynn. She served only briefly in that position. Flynn was replaced by H.R. McMaster in February 2017 following the revelation that Flynn had lied to the FBI and Vice President Mike Pence about whether he had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition. McFarland was subsequently offered other opportunities in the administration and nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Singapore, but the nomination stalled over her connection to the Russia investigations -- she had reportedly been in contact with Flynn during his conversations with the Russian ambassador -- and she withdrew in February 2018.

    Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to the president. A bombastic, self-proclaimed national security “expert” with dubious credentials, a proclivity for anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, and ties to foreign extremist groups, Gorka made frequent appearances on Fox News during the 2016 presidential campaign and was briefly hired by the network before decamping for the Trump White House. His job was ill-defined, and he apparently did little other than go on television to support the president before he was canned in August 2017. He then returned to Fox News as a full-fledged contributor, albeit one who was reportedly banned from appearing on the network’s “hard news” programming. In March, he left Fox for Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose stations now broadcast his bigotry around the country.

    John McEntee, personal aide to the president. Fox hired McEntee as a production assistant in 2015. He later served as Trump’s personal aide both during the presidential campaign and in the White House. When McEntee was fired in March 2018, CNN reported that it was “because he is currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes.”

    Mercedes Schlapp, White House director of strategic communications. Before joining the White House in September 2017, Schlapp was a Republican political consultant and a Fox News contributor. In July 2019, she left the White House for Trump’s reelection campaign.

    Kiron Skinner, director of policy planning for the State Department (added 8/22/2019). Skinner, a professor of international relations at Carnegie Mellon University who served as a Trump surrogate during the 2016 presidential campaign, joined Fox as a contributor in October 2017. In August 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo selected her to serve as the department’s director of policy planning, a position overseeing foreign policy strategy. A year later she was fired, reportedly for poor management practices and “abusive” workplace behavior that included making anti-gay remarks.

    Current Fox employees who used to work in the Trump administration

    Hope Hicks, executive vice president and chief communications officer at Fox Corporation. Hicks, who first entered Trump’s orbit as a public relations flack working on Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, is reportedly one of Trump’s close confidates. In January 2015, a few months after she joined the Trump Organization, Donald Trump selected her to be press secretary on his 2016 campaign, one of its earliest hires. After Trump’s election, she served as White House communications director and was promoted to director of strategic communications. Hicks left the White House in April 2018. That October, she was announced as executive vice president and chief communications officer of what became Fox Corporation, Fox News’ parent company.

    Raj Shah, senior vice president at Fox Corporation. A former Republican political operative and a senior aide at the Republican National Committee, Shah served as White House principal deputy press secretary before leaving the administration in January 2019. In July 2019, CNN and The Washington Post reported he had joined Fox Corporation as a senior vice president.

    Abigail Slater, senior vice president for policy and strategy at Fox Corporation. Slater, an attorney who specializes in technology issues, worked for the Federal Trade Commission and a trade association for internet companies before joining the White House in February 2018 as special assistant to the president for technology, telecommunications and cybersecurity. In April 2019, she left the administration to lead Fox Corporation’s federal policy team.

    Tom Homan, Fox News contributor. Homan served as acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement from January 2017 until his retirement in June 2018, using that post to promote the president’s inhumane policies while spreading fear of and among immigrants, often on Fox. Homan joined the network as a contributor in August 2018. As a Fox employee, he staunchly supported the president’s immigration policies and statements and called for draconian responses to the purported migrant “invasion.” During a June 2019 Fox interview, Trump announced that he had hired Homan for a “border czar” position in the White House -- to the visible shock of the interviewers -- but Homan subsequently said that he had considered taking such a position but had not done so.

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Fox News contributor (added 8/22/2019). As deputy White House press secretary and then White House press secretary, Sanders shamelessly lied from the press room podium, constantly belittled the reporters who tried to pry actual information away from her, and eventually all but eliminated the once-daily press briefings. She left the Trump administration in June 2019, having maintained the support of the president through the end of her tenure. A regular presence on the network’s airwaves while working for the White House, she officially joined Fox in August 2019. 

    Correction (8/22/2019): This post originally included David Bossie as a Trump administration official who later worked for Fox News. In fact, Bossie worked for the Trump campaign but not the administration.