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The Trump-to-Fox personnel pipeline: A comprehensive review

Ten members of the Trump orbit now work for his propaganda outlet

  • The unprecedented revolving door between former President Donald Trump’s associates and Fox News continues to spin after he left office in January.

    Fox or its parent company currently employ at least 10 veterans of Trump’s orbit, including friends, family members, and administration and campaign officials. The network has stocked its ranks with the former president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and his top White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, among others. 

    It’s not unusual for news outlets to hire former administration officials to fill contributor or analyst slots. But the presence of so many of them at the same network demonstrates the unprecedented ties between Trump and Fox. The two effectively traded people back and forth between their payrolls over the course of his presidency. 

    Trump hired at least 20 former Fox employees to staff his administration over the years. 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 team. A handful of Trump aides left to join Fox during his tenure. Some even made full rotations, moving from the administration to Fox and back to the administration, or from Fox to the administration before returning to the network.

    Both sides benefit from this flurry of deals. 

    Fox gets to repair its relationship to Trump in the eyes of its viewers. The network served as Trump’s propaganda outlet throughout his presidency. But Trump lashed out at Fox after the election, bemoaning its supposed lack of support for his voter fraud conspiracy theories, and urging his supporters to switch to Fox’s competitors. Fox can win them back by demonstrating that its commentators and Trump are on the same side, and hiring the former president’s associates is an easy way to make that case.

    The new hires, meanwhile, get a steady paycheck in exchange for relatively little work. They also keep themselves in front of the GOP base, which is very useful if they have aspirations of running for office in the future.

    For example, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s second White House press secretary, left the network in January 2021 to launch a campaign for governor of Arkansas. (Her spot in the Fox contributor rotation was not vacant for long -- five weeks later, Fox announced that it had hired Trump’s fourth White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany.)

    Likewise, Lara Trump is reportedly considering a run for U.S. Senate in North Carolina, while Pompeo fancies himself a contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.

    With President Joe Biden in the White House, Fox is footing the bill for a virtual government-in-exile.

    The list below is partially adapted from “A comprehensive review of the revolving door between Fox and the Trump administration,” first published in July 2019. It will be updated as new Trump associates join Fox.

  • Current Fox employees from Trump World

  • Lara Trump, Fox News contributor. Lara Trump is married to Donald Trump’s son Eric and was a senior adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential reelection campaign, making a six-figure annual salary that was routed through private companies to skirt federal disclosure requirements. She hosted a campaign web series that featured featured Fox contributors -- in possible violation of network policies -- and she regularly appeared on the network. She joined Fox as a paid contributor in March 2021. During her first appearance in that capacity, she said that she had long considered herself an “unofficial member of the team.”

    Mike Pompeo, Fox News contributor. Pompeo served three terms as a U.S. congressman, joined the Trump administration as director of the CIA in 2017, became secretary of state the following year, and remained in that position through the end of Trump’s administration. Hired as a Fox contributor in April 2021, he is reportedly considering a run for president.

    Larry Kudlow, Fox Business host. Kudlow joined the Trump White House as director of the National Economic Council in 2018 after a long career at the business news network CNBC, where he developed a reputation as a notoriously inaccurate pundit for, among other things, failing to anticipate the Great Recession. In the White House, his record included stating that the novel coronavirus was “contained” in February 2020 and predicting that there would be no recession the following month; both of these forecasts proved horrifically wrong. He remained in the White House through Trump’s presidency; a few days later, Fox announced he had been hired to host a weekday afternoon program on its Fox Business network.

    Kayleigh McEnany, Fox News host. McEnany spent three years as a production assistant for Mike Huckabee’s Fox show, reportedly leaving the network when she was unable to secure on-air opportunities. Hired by CNN during the 2016 election cycle to serve as one of the network’s full-time Trump surrogates, she made a name for herself for her willingness to defend anything the then-candidate said or did. After the election she officially joined the Trump team payroll, as national spokesperson for the Republican National Committee and then as spokesperson of the reelection campaign. Named White House press secretary in April 2020, she followed her predecessor’s precedent of largely using the role to appear on Fox to support the president and attack the press. In March 2021 she joined Fox as a contributor, and the following month she debuted as a co-host of the panel show Outnumbered

    Kerri Kupec, Fox News Washington editor (added 4/29/21). Kupec joined the Justice Department in 2018 after four years working in top communications roles for the anti-LGBTQ organization Alliance Defending Freedom. She was detailed to the White House to serve as spokesperson for the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Kupec eventually rose to the position of director of public affairs and counselor to Attorney General William Barr. In an April 2021 press release, Fox announced her hiring as Washington editor, a position in which she “will participate in story selection.” She has no apparent journalism experience

    David Bossie, Fox News contributor. A right-wing operative who has a history of employing dirty tricks and smears, Bossie was Trump’s deputy campaign manager in 2016. Fox News hired him as an on-air contributor in February 2017, even though he is reportedly bound by a nondisparagement agreement that prohibits him from publicly criticizing Trump. Indeed, Bossie used his Fox platform to offer boilerplate defenses of the then-president.

    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 Trump’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 Trump’s immigration policies and statements and issued dire warnings after Biden took office.

    Kiron Skinner, Fox News contributor. 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, 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, and subsequently rejoined the network.

    Raj Shah, senior vice president at Fox Corp. 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 Corp. as a senior vice president.

    Abigail Slater, senior vice president for policy and strategy at Fox Corp. 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 Corp.’s federal policy team.