Fox News drops any pretense, hires Lara Trump

The hiring is the type of ethical mess that's become par for the course at the network

Fox Lara Trump

Citation Molly Butler / Media Matters

Lara Trump, former President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law and a former senior adviser to his presidential reelection campaign, is Fox News’ newest contributor. Her hiring is the sort of ethical morass typical to the network, albeit one that is likely to be quite beneficial to both parties.

Lara Trump pulled down a six-figure annual salary for her campaign work that was routed through private companies to skirt federal disclosure requirements. She hosted a campaign web series that repeatedly featured Fox contributors -- in possible violation of network policies -- and repeatedly promoted QAnon conspiracy theorists. From August 2017 through last week, she made 106 weekday Fox appearances, according to Media Matters’ database; 29 of them came on sometime Trump political operative Sean Hannity’s program. 

Fox announced on Monday that Lara Trump would now be appearing on Fox as a paid contributor. In her first appearance in that capacity on Fox & Friends, Trump acknowledged that she saw little difference between doing a Fox interview as a Trump campaign staffer and as a network employee.

Video file

Citation From the March 29, 2021, edition of Fox & Friends.

“I'm so excited, first of all, to be joining the Fox family. I sort of feel like I've been an unofficial member of the team for so long,” Trump said, pointing to her frequent appearances on the network.

Ordinarily, a normal news outlet would not want a new hire who previously worked at a political campaign to say that she viewed that outlet and the campaign as part of the same “team.”

But for Fox, this portrayal is almost certainly helpful to its bottom line. 

The network saw some viewers switch to right-wing competitors Newsmax and One America News last fall, after Trump complained that Fox wasn’t doing enough to help him steal the election. 

Having a member of the Trump family effectively say that she considered Fox an arm of the campaign likely helps the network’s effort to win back those viewers. 

It also helps that that view is accurate -- Trump himself has indicated that he viewed Fox as his personal propaganda arm, while some network employees have complained that it functioned as such.

Lara Trump also gets something out of the deal. She will receive a salary from Fox for interviews she was previously giving them for free. Those appearances will keep her in front of the right-wing base as she prepares for a potential run for U.S. Senate in North Carolina.

Trump acknowledged that a Senate run is very much in the mix and was considered by the network during the hiring process after Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy asked her about it during her interview.

“Fox has been very generous with me and they have said look if that's something that you ultimately decide to do they are going to work with me on that front and make sure that everything, all the rules are followed and we do everything properly,” she said, likely referring to how her contract would be terminated if she formally announces a run for office. “So, thank you to the Fox team for allowing me to have, you know, the possibility that that's in the future. So I still haven't officially, Steve, made a decision, but hopefully sometime soon.” 

Fox regularly provides Republican would-be politicians with a comfortable staging ground for future political runs, allowing them to build their brands and practice their talking points on the network’s dime. Most recently, Sarah Huckabee Sanders spent time as a network contributor between serving as White House press secretary and announcing a run for governor of Arkansas.

The balance of Lara Trump’s interview demonstrates how she plans to use her Fox platform until she formally initiates a run. She highlighted her North Carolina roots and her position in the Trump family and devoted the balance of her time to attacking President Joe Biden’s immigration and coronavirus policies and defending her father-in-law’s administration.

Trump concluded the interview by saying that as a paid Fox contributor, she can “represent” her father-in-law’s voters as he considers running for president again in 2024.

“He is doing what he feels he needs to do. He is standing up and continuing to speak out for the 75 million-plus Americans that voted for him,” she said. “He has not forgotten about them. They will not be left behind by President Donald Trump, and quite frankly, it’s one of the reasons that I’m so happy now to be part of the Fox family because I hope every single day I can represent them here on Fox.” 

The big losers in the Trump-Fox union are any members of the Fox “news” side who have pretensions to working for something other than a propaganda shop. But at this point they have to realize that they’re the only ones who even pretend to think they are working for a normal “news” outlet.