Frequent guests from President Donald Trump’s favorite network dominate the slate for the 2020 Republican National Convention. The announced speakers have made at least 3,171 combined appearances on Fox News weekday programs since August 2017, according to Media Matters’ internal database. Several of the boldface names previously worked at Fox, gained Trump’s attention through interviews on the network, or are heroes of its culture war programming.
Of the 72 RNC speakers announced Sunday, 51 have appeared on Fox’s weekday programming since August 2017. Many are network regulars -- 21 have made at least 50 appearances, and 13 have been interviewed more than 100 times. Trump himself has appeared at least 51 times.
Trump’s obsession with Fox has shaped his presidency. He watches hours of its coverage each day, often tweeting in response to it in real time, and seeks out its hosts for advice on politics and policy.
The day before the convention opened, the president sent at least seven live-tweets of Fox segments throughout the day; tweeted out multiple network video clips; and appeared for an interview on Fox’s The Next Revolution with Steve Hilton.
Former Foxers on the RNC stage
After stocking his administration with former Fox employees, Trump has turned to the same source for RNC speakers. At least three people who used to work at Fox are scheduled to address the convention.
Ben Carson, Trump’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was a network contributor from 2013 to 2014 and will speak Thursday. He recently reversed his department’s move to loosen restrictions on new development, aligning federal housing policy with Fox host Tucker Carlson’s race-baiting lie that Trump opposed Democrats’ purported desire to “abolish the suburbs.”
Richard Grenell, former acting director of national intelligence who used his post to run a deceitful propaganda campaign to benefit the president, was a Fox contributor from 2009 to 2017 and is scheduled to speak Wednesday.
And Kimberly Guilfoyle, a Trump campaign fundraiser who is dating Donald Trump Jr. and is reportedly paid $15,000 a month through a secret channel designed to foil disclosure laws, was a co-host of Fox’s The Five until she left the network in 2018. She is listed as a Monday speaker.
The Fox congressional caucus
Trump’s Fox obsession has created an incentive structure for would-be and current members of Congress to use appearances on the network to speak to him directly, gain his favor, and increase their power in a Republican Party which primarily functions as his personality cult. Several politicians who used this strategy have garnered RNC speaking slots.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), speaking Monday, has appeared on Fox weekday shows at least 262 times since August 2017. He parlayed dozens of Fox interviews attacking special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election into an influential role as a presidential adviser and Trump’s blessing for his bid to become ranking member of the House Oversight Committee. He later was temporarily added to the House Intelligence Committee to defend the president during impeachment hearings into his abuse of power with Ukraine, and he served as a member of Trump’s impeachment team during his Senate trial.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a House backbencher who is also speaking Monday, has been interviewed on Fox weekday programs at least 245 times. By his own admission, he gained influence despite a dearth of legislative accomplishments by maintaining “a near-constant presence on the president’s favorite network” and using those appearances to establish himself as one of Trump’s “fiercest and most frequent defenders,” as The New York Times reported in March 2019. A House Ethics Committee investigation revealed that Gaetz had sought and received advice from Fox host Sean Hannity.
Jordan and Gaetz made the most appearances on Fox of any RNC participant.
Other Republican members of Congress speaking during the convention include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (37 Fox weekday appearances), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (188), House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (192), Sens. Tom Cotton (124), Marsha Blackburn (112), Rand Paul (109), Tim Scott (81), and Joni Ernst (41), and Reps. Lee Zeldin (132), Dan Crenshaw (67), Elise Stefanik (18), and Jeff Van Drew (11).
Some Republican congressional nominees have similarly used Fox appearances to bootstrap their campaigns and have been rewarded with convention speaking slots.
Kim Klacik, a GOP strategist running for the seat previously held by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, has made at least 19 Fox weekday appearances and is scheduled to speak Monday. She garnered notoriety in July 2019 when Trump responded to her interview on Fox & Friends Weekend with a bigoted tweetstorm attacking Cummings’ district as “the Worst in the USA” and a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” Last week, she received several Fox interviews and other network coverage after her campaign video criticizing Democratic leadership of the city and declaring that “Black people don’t have to vote Democrat” went viral in conservative circles.
Burgess Owens, the Republican nominee for a Utah congressional seat who has sought support from an outlet that promotes the QAnon conspiracy theory, has made at least 57 Fox weekday appearances and will speak Wednesday. The former NFL player’s praise for the president during Fox hits has caught Trump’s eye.
Fox culture war heroes
A sizable portion of Fox programming focuses on an ever-raging culture war in which conservatives are victims of the nefarious liberal elite. Some of the protagonists of Fox’s culture war will speak at the Republican convention.
Nicholas Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School teen who is suing several news outlets for their coverage of his encounter with a Native American activist during the 2019 March for Life, will speak Tuesday. He became a symbol on the right of the duplicitous press and his story has been discussed during more than 100 episodes of Fox programs, according to a Nexis search.
Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the extraordinarily litigious St. Louis couple who were charged with a felony weapons count after pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters earlier this year, will speak Monday. The McCloskeys became a Fox cause celebre, with their tale garnering dozens of network segments including a combined nine interviews.
Charlie Kirk, founder of the right-wing student-oriented group Turning Point USA, will appear Monday. Fox often enlists Kirk to comment on culture war stories; he has made 141 appearances on weekday programs since August 2017 despite a complete lack of qualifications or insights of any kind.