Lou Dobbs’ North Korean-style propagandist schtick is exactly what Trump wants from press coverage

Lou Dobbs, the former Fox Business host known for his obsequious handling of Donald Trump, is back with a new show fronted by uber-election denier Mike Lindell. His Monday premiere, complete with a lengthy interview with the former president, would make an autocrat’s state TV propagandist blush — and it demonstrates exactly what Trump wants to see from coverage of himself.

Dobbs’ full-throated pro-Trump adulation turned the former CNN business journalist into Fox Business’ biggest star during the Trump presidency. Fox News stuffed its lineup with hosts who eagerly debased themselves in exchange for influence over his administration — but no one did it quite like Lou. Dobbs stood apart from the ranks who praised Trump and bitterly denounced his foes, telling viewers that Trump’s White House featured “sunlight beaming throughout the place, and on almost every face” and at one point signing off, “Have a great weekend. The president makes such a thing possible for us all.” As Fox News President Jay Wallace put it, “the North Koreans do a more nuanced show.”

Dobbs’ Trump sycophancy ultimately led to his dismissal from Fox — and almost pulled the network down with him. His fervent support after the 2020 election for the least credible election denial conspiracy theories provided plenty of material for the massive defamation lawsuits filed by Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic against Fox. The apparent scapegoat of Fox’s networkwide irresponsibility, his show was canceled just a day after Smartmatic filed its $2.7 billion suit, which is still pending; Fox settled with Dominion last year for a record $787.5 million.

Now, after three years of solitary podcasting as part of the Fox diaspora of former network hosts, Dobbs has a new gig working for another major player in the election denial world. Lindell, a right-wing pillow magnate whose company is a major Fox advertiser, says he has run out of money to pay the lawyers who were defending him from defamation lawsuits by Dominion and Smartmatic, but he’s still overseeing his far-right Lindell TV streaming channel, which now features Dobbs.

Dobbs kicked off his first episode at Lindell TV with an allusion to his previous employer, promising to carry on the “conversation that was unexpectedly — and, well, in my opinion somewhat rudely — interrupted some three years ago.” He then proceeded into a monologue in which he did precisely that, condemning the “rigged election,” touting Trump’s lead in polls “by huge margins, huge margins that will only grow,” and castigating the “stubbornly anti-Trump” Republicans who refuse to follow him as the “titular head and ideological leader of the Republican Party” — all over on-screen text reading “The Never-Ending Political Persecution of Donald Trump.”

He concluded the monologue by attacking the “Marxist Democratic Party and this corrupt Biden regime who mean to destroy Trump and our constitutional republic and our American way of life,” adding, “That is the context for tonight’s interview.”

“Interview” is too generous a term to describe the taped 40-minute Mar-a-Lago sitdown Dobbs aired. Instead, Dobbs offered Trump fawning praise and denunciations of anyone standing in his way, then invited him to respond. Here’s a sampling:

  • “We’re now in the eighth year of the political prosecution of President Donald J. Trump. You are taking incoming every day from the legal system and the Marxist Dems. Give us a sense of how you feel right now, and what your sense is of this country that will permit such an outrage.”
  • “They’re destroying the country; I think a lot of people have that sense. I know about half the population has that sense. And there are people in this country, a lot of people, good strong, healthy families that are fighting against these policies and their effects on Middle America. You were the president who made the Republican Party the party of the working man and woman in this country, the American family. Give us your sense of what you will do to restore primacy to the forgotten men and women of this country, who right now are fighting for their economic and their real survival.”
  • “Well, I know who does [say they oppose voter ID], and those are the Democrats. And they do for the very reason you are intimating. They cheated in 2020. They cheated in 2022. Those are statements of fact — they’re not — somebody can dispute them, but it’s — the facts are straightforward. And one of the things that I’ve always found interesting is no one wants to say to you, relitigate 2020. The fact is if this country doesn’t come to its senses about how deceitful and crooked these elections are, and I’m talking about from the local to the presidential offices, we’re going to have real problems. What I don’t see from the Republican Party is a response. I don’t see Ronna McDaniel and the [Republican National Committee] going after it. What would you like to see here? I know that you’ve got more than a full plate — you’re being assailed from every corner — but what would you like to see the Republican Party, for which you are the titular head, do?”  

After the interview, Dobbs summed things up for his viewers. 

“And there is President Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States, and most Americans, I believe, think that he would make an excellent choice to be the 47th president as well,” Dobbs said. “You saw his strength, his humor, his focus. This is the reason that most people believe that based on his record, his incredible leadership, and the bond between him and the Republican base, that he will be that 47th president. We certainly hope so. We hope you do as well.”

Fox has a lot of Trump sycophants on the payroll, but the current lineup can’t match Dobbs for sheer shamelessness. Even Sean Hannity doesn’t go that far.

And that’s why the emergence of Fox diaspora players like Dobbs is a problem for the network. Trump wants every reporter and pundit giving him Dobbs-level treatment, and he’s willing to savage Fox and tell his supporters to seek their news elsewhere whenever he feels it isn’t meeting that standard. That pressure will inevitably bring the network ever-closer to him over the course of this presidential election year — even at the risk of more calamitous lawsuits.