Fox-Trump feedback loop nets company a $400 million contract


Citation Meliss Joskow / Media Matters

A construction company won a $400 million federal contract to build a portion of wall along the U.S. border with Mexico after the firm’s Fox News-centric strategy of capturing President Donald Trump’s attention through laudatory appearances on his favorite channel overcame the Army Corps of Engineers’ reported complaints that its design did not meet requirements.

Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade toasted the success of the company, North Dakota-based Fisher Sand and Gravel, during a Tuesday morning “News by the Numbers” newsbrief. “That’s good news for them,” he added after running down the contract’s particulars.

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Citation From the December 3 edition of Fox & Friends.

Trump’s malleability and obsession with Fox’s programming have created a new way of lobbying, in which people with interests before the federal government sidestep experts by appealing directly to the president through his television. Lawyers win presidential pardons for their clients by putting them on Fox, members of Congress go on the network to pitch their legislation to Trump, and now Tommy Fisher, Fisher’s chief executive, has shown a viable pathway to hundreds of millions in federal contracts via Fox & Friends interviews.

The Washington Post reported in May that Trump had “alarmed” military commanders and Department of Homeland Security officials by urging them to grant a border wall contract to Fisher after the company’s bid was rejected through the procurement process. The reason for Trump’s interest, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) explained to the Post, was that he “had seen [Fisher] on television” -- specifically on Fox -- “advocating for his version of the barrier.”

Tommy Fisher had made at least 10 appearances on Fox News and Fox Business between January 2018 and the Post article’s publication, including on Trump favorites like Fox & Friends. He used those interviews to talk about the importance of the border wall and to pitch the president directly on his installation system, which he claimed would construct the barrier faster and for less money (the Post reported the firm’s previous work on a barrier project “came in late and over budget”).

After the Post’s report, Fisher received less attention from Fox. He made only one subsequent appearance, a June 5 interview on the early morning show Fox & Friends First, during which he plugged his firm’s ability to build the wall with “unheard-of time, unheard-of quality, and unheard-of effectiveness” and cited “the president’s intuition, when he had mentioned our company.”

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Citation From the June 5 edition of Fox & Friends First.

Those 11 Fox interviews were worth $36 million apiece to Fisher’s firm now that the president’s TV-spawned interest has been converted to a federal contract.