President Donald Trump is giving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to two prominent members of the veritable Fox News Caucus of GOP legislators who used frequent appearances defending the president on his favorite cable news channel to bolster their political standing.
On Monday, Trump awarded it to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), whom Fox star Sean Hannity had previously suggested as a recipient. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who has made more appearances on Fox’s weekday shows in recent years than any other member of Congress, is also reportedly scheduled to receive it.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established by President John F. Kennedy for those “who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” But Jordan and Nunes are getting it because they are among the president’s most fervent defenders, first from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and then during the scandal triggered by his Ukraine abuse of power, which ultimately led to his impeachment.
Much of that defense played out on Fox, the pro-Trump propaganda network that the president obsessively watches. Jordan made at least 286 appearances on Fox weekday programs between August 1, 2017, and December 23, 2020, the most of any member of Congress in Media Matters’ database. Nunes’ 198 interviews over that span made him the network’s seventh most frequent congressional guest.
Both representatives appeared most frequently on the program hosted by Hannity, a Trump political operative who regularly counsels the president and turned his show into a clearinghouse for unhinged anti-Mueller conspiracy theories. Jordan appeared on Hannity at least 67 times, while Nunes made at least 71 appearances over that time period.
While introducing Nunes during one August 2018 appearance, Hannity said that the representative “frankly deserves the Medal of Freedom for really showing, sadly, the biggest abuse of power corruption scandal” against Trump. Nunes responded, “Thanks for having me on again.”
Trump suggested during a Fox & Friends interview two months later that Nunes should receive the Medal of Honor -- which is awarded for military valor -- before correcting himself and calling for the representative to instead receive the Medal of Freedom.
While Nunes already chaired the House Intelligence Committee at the onset of the Trump administration, Jordan has used the support he garnered from Trump through his Fox appearances to climb the ranks from back-bench congressman to House Oversight and Reform Committee ranking member and potential candidate for statewide office. Others to use Trump’s propaganda tool to demonstrate their fealty and adopt its talking points in public settings to bolster their political power include Ron DeSantis and Mark Meadows, who vaulted from the congressional ranks to become Florida governor and White House chief of staff.
Trump, meanwhile, has now added the Presidential Medal of Freedom to his list of presidential decisions subcontracted to Fox News, where it joins pardons, federal contracts, missile strikes, government shutdown, White House coronavirus task force composition, and much more.