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Richard Grenell

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  • A comprehensive list of former Fox employees who have joined the Trump administration

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Over a three-day period in early April, the State Department announced Morgan Ortagus as its new spokesperson, a role previously occupied by Heather Nauert; President Donald Trump said he wanted Herman Cain to fill a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, with Stephen Moore already nominated for a second vacancy; and Politico reported that Treasury Department spokesperson Tony Sayegh is resigning next month and could be replaced by Monica Crowley.

    Ortagus, Nauert, Cain, Moore, Sayegh, and Crowley have something in common: Each has worked for Fox News, the right-wing cable network that has merged with Trump’s White House and now serves as a Trump propaganda outlet.

    Trump has stocked his administration with former Fox employees. Cabinet secretaries overseeing federal departments, senior White House aides advising the president on crucial issues, and U.S. ambassadors representing the country abroad, among others, all worked for the network before joining Trump’s administration.

    Ten current Trump administration officials previously worked at Fox, while six more officials worked at Fox before joining the administration but have since left, and the appointments of two other former Foxers are pending, according to a Media Matters review. (This post was updated May 2 to remove Moore and Cain, who both withdrew from consideration after their nominations received widespread criticism.)

    Current Trump administration officials who used to work at Fox

    Former Trump administration officials who used to work at Fox

    Those are just the ones who actually made the jump to the Trump administration -- several other Fox employees have been connected to various Trump administration jobs but have not received them, while Crowley had been announced for a White House position but withdrew following a plagiarism scandal.

    And the door opens both ways. After leaving her post as White House communications director, Hope Hicks became executive vice president and chief communications officer for Fox’s parent company. Abigail Slater similarly left her White House position advising Trump on technology to become senior vice president for policy and strategy at Fox Corp. Fox also hired former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie and former acting ICE Director Tom Homan for on-air roles, each of whom has since been floated for senior administration roles.

    This hiring pattern speaks in part to Fox’s longtime role as a comfortable landing spot for Republicans looking to get paid and build their brand with the network’s conservative audience while keeping their options open to return to politics or government.

    But the trend is also part Trump’s unprecedented relationship with Fox. The president’s worldview is shaped by the hours of Fox programming he watches each day, with both his public statements and his major decisions often coming in response to what he sees. And so throughout his tenure in the White House, the president has treated Fox employment as an important credential and offered jobs to network employees whose commentary he likes.

    Outside the administration, Trump hired Jay Sekulow to join his legal team because the president liked the way Sekulow defended him on Fox, and he nearly added the similarly credentialed Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing to the group as well. Then there’s Kimberly Guilfoyle, who left her job co-hosting a Fox show and became the vice chairwoman of a pro-Trump super PAC the next week (she is also dating Donald Trump Jr.).

    In addition to the former Fox employees that have moved to the administration or Trumpworld payrolls, Trump also consults with a “Fox News Cabinet” of current network employees. He reportedly speaks frequently with Fox founder Rupert Murdoch, whose media empire has benefited greatly from the network’s fusion with the Trump administration. And Fox hosts including Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro, and Pete Hegseth all reportedly influence Trump not only through their programs, but advise him privately as well.

    This post will be updated as additional former Fox employees join or leave the Trump administration or are nominated for or withdraw from nomination for such positions.

    Current Trump administration officials who used to work at Fox

    • Ben Carson, secretary of housing and urban development. Carson, formerly a prominent neurosurgeon, became a right-wing media sensation after using a February 2013 speech in front of President Barack Obama to trumpet conservative economics and health care arguments. He joined Fox News as a contributor in October 2013 and left just over a year later to run for president. After Trump’s election, Carson joined his administration as the secretary of housing and urban development. His tenure has been dogged by scandals involving lavish spending for office furniture and other ethics issues, as well as a general failure to carry out his department’s mission.
    • Elaine Chao, secretary of transportation. After a career in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors capped by serving as labor secretary in President George W. Bush’s Cabinet, Chao became a Fox News contributor. She left the network in 2012 and took a seat on the board of directors of News Corp., at the time Fox’s parent company. In 2016, she stepped down from the board after Trump nominated her as secretary of transportation. Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); former Fox News contributor Erick Erickson has alleged that he was taken off the air because of his criticism of McConnell at Chao’s behest.
    • John Bolton, national security adviser. Long recognized as one of the most hawkish members of the foreign policy community, Bolton served in the Bush State Department and as ambassador to the United Nations. He joined Fox as a contributor in 2006 and became the network’s go-to voice for national security stories for the next decade, using the platform to push for military options in North Korea and Iran. Those appearances caught the attention of Trump, who said during a 2015 interview, “I watch the shows” for military advice, and that he liked Bolton because “he’s a tough cookie, knows what he’s talking about.” In March 2018, Trump named Bolton as his national security adviser.
    • Mercedes Schlapp, White House director of strategic communications. Before joining the White House in September 2017, Schlapp was a Republican political consultant and a Fox News contributor.
    • Scott Brown, ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. Glowing Fox News coverage helped power Brown to victory in his 2010 run for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. After losing his reelection bid two years later, he joined the network as a contributor, using it as a platform to burnish his profile over the next year while exploring a run for Senate in New Hampshire. He left the network, lost that 2014 race despite the network’s efforts to promote him, and was rehired two weeks later. After Brown endorsed Trump in February 2016, Fox hosts began promoting him for the vice president slot. In August 2016, former Fox host Andrea Tantaros named him in the sexual harassment lawsuit she filed against Fox and several network executives. Trump nonetheless nominated Brown to be ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa in April 2017, and he was confirmed that June. He subsequently faced a State Department inquiry after making inappropriate comments to a female server at an official event.
    • Georgette Mosbacher, ambassador to Poland. Mosbacher, a Republican businesswoman and donor, longtime Trump friend, and a Fox News contributor, was nominated to be ambassador to Poland in February 2018 and confirmed by the Senate that July.
    • Richard Grenell, ambassador to Germany. Grenell, a Republican communications professional who spent seven years as spokesperson for the U.S. delegation to the U.N., joined Fox News as a contributor in 2009 and was still in the network’s employ when he was nominated to be ambassador to Germany in September 2017. He was confirmed in April 2018 “despite objections from Democrats that his past epithets about prominent female politicians made him unfit for the job.”
    • Tony Sayegh, Treasury Department assistant secretary for public affairs. Sayegh, a former Republican communications consultant and Fox contributor, has served as the top spokesperson for the Treasury Department since April 2017.
    • Morgan Ortagus, State Department spokesperson. After working in the Bush and Obama administrations, Ortagus became a Fox contributor, then was named State Department spokesperson in April.
    • Lea Gabrielle, State Department special envoy. In February, the State Department named Gabrielle, a former Fox News reporter, as special envoy and coordinator of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, an agency that counters foreign propaganda and disinformation.

    Former Trump administration officials who used to work at Fox

    • Bill Shine, White House communications director. Shine, a close friend of Hannity’s who once produced his show, rose through the executive ranks at Fox News, eventually becoming network founder Roger Ailes’ right-hand man and then Fox co-president. Shine resigned from Fox in May 2017 after his reported role helping to cover up the network’s culture of sexual harassment became too embarrassing, but he landed a plum White House job as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for communications. Shine left the White House for a role on Trump’s reelection campaign in March 2019. His exit reportedly came in part because Trump “feels he was sold a bill of goods by Hannity,” who had urged the president to hire Shine to improve his press coverage.
    • Heather Nauert, acting undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. Nauert worked at Fox from 1998-2005 and 2007-2017 in a variety of roles. In April 2017, she left her position reading headlines as a news anchor on Fox & Friends, the morning program the president watches religiously, to become spokesperson for the State Department. In March 2018, she was named acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, replacing an official close to Rex Tillerson, who had just been ousted as secretary of state. She was nominated as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in December 2018, triggering stories about her lack of qualifications for the role outside of her Fox News connection. She withdrew from consideration for the post and left the administration in February, reportedly because her nomination was complicated by the fact she had “employed a nanny who was in the United States legally but was not legally allowed to work.”
    • Anthony Scaramucci, White House communications director. Scaramucci, a hedge fund mogul and a former Fox Business contributor and host, spent 10 days as White House communications director before his proclivity for giving expletive-laced interviews and publicly feuding with other White House staffers triggered his removal.
    • K.T. McFarland, deputy national security adviser. After serving in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations and losing a race against then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), McFarland became a Fox national security analyst. She used that position to push for war with Iran, defend the use of torture, and push for the profiling of Muslim Americans. In November 2016, Trump picked her to be deputy national security adviser under Michael Flynn. She served only briefly in that position. Flynn was replaced by H.R. McMaster in February 2017 following the revelation that Flynn had lied to the FBI and Vice President Mike Pence about whether he had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition. McFarland was subsequently offered other opportunities in the administration and nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Singapore, but the nomination stalled over her connection to the Russia investigations -- she had reportedly been in contact with Flynn during his conversations with the Russian ambassador -- and she withdrew in February 2018.
    • Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to the president. A bombastic, self-proclaimed national security “expert” with dubious credentials, a proclivity for anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, and ties to foreign extremist groups, Gorka made frequent appearances on Fox News during the 2016 presidential campaign and was briefly hired by the network before decamping for the Trump White House. His job was ill-defined, and he apparently did little other than go on television to support the president before he was canned in August 2017. He then returned to Fox News as a full-fledged contributor, albeit one who was reportedly banned from appearing on the network’s “hard news” programming. In March, he left Fox for Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose stations now broadcast his bigotry around the country.
    • John McEntee, personal aide to the president. Fox hired McEntee as a production assistant in 2015. He later served as Trump’s personal aide both during the presidential campaign and in the White House. When McEntee was fired in March 2018, CNN reported that it was “because he is currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes.”
  • Here Are The Media Figures Who Praised Renowned Liar Sean Spicer

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has attracted widespread criticism for “a series of false statements” he made about the size of the crowds at the presidential inauguration. Prior to Spicer’s meltdown, however, some media figures were full of praise for the “competent, thorough” “straight shooter.”  Later, other media figures credited him for a supposed “reboot” in his first official press briefing as White House press secretary.

  • Trump Can’t Make Up His Mind On Lester Holt’s Debate Performance 

    Trump Reverses Course On Praise Of Holt After Right-Wing Media Find Fault

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Less than 12 hours after Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his campaign praised NBC’s Lester Holt for asking “very fair” questions during the first presidential debate, Trump walked back his support of Holt, stating that he asked “very unfair questions at the end” of the debate. Trump’s reversal echoed right-wing media figures who claimed Holt was tougher on Trump than Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and argued that Holt should have brought up Clinton’s emails and the Clinton Foundation. 

  • Right-Wing Media Criticize Lester Holt For Interrupting Trump, Even Though Trump Interrupted Clinton 51 Times

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Right-wing media figures criticized presidential debate moderator Lester Holt for interrupting Republican nominee Donald Trump more than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Yet Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times -- three times as often as Clinton interrupted Trump -- and repeatedly went over his allotted time and made numerous factually inaccurate statements.

  • Right-Wing Media Lash Out At Mothers Of The Movement For Speaking At Democratic Convention

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media labeled the second night of the Democratic National Convention as an “anti-law enforcement rally” because a group of seven mothers, known as the Mothers of the Movement, were invited to speak about losing their children to gun violence or excessive use of force by police. While right-wing media figures have said that the Democratic Party “shows no respect for law enforcement,” the Pittsburgh Police Chief spoke prior to the mother's’ plea to “seek common ground” between law enforcement and communities, while one of the mothers lauded police, saying, “The majority of police officers are good people doing a good job.”

  • Fox News Revives Debunked Claim That Democratic Primary Was “Rigged”

    Fox Spins Hacked DNC Emails To Claim Clinton’s Victory Is “Illegitimate”

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News figures distorted the contents of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to claim that the Democratic presidential primary was “rigged” and that Hillary Clinton’s victory is “illegitimate.” But media have noted that Clinton won “her party’s nomination by every available measure” and that the hacked emails in no way prove the primary was “rigged.”

  • Right-Wing Media Slam Obama For Noting That Lax Gun Laws Lead To More Violence

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    During his eulogy at a memorial service for the five police officers killed last week in Dallas, TX., President Obama criticized easy access to firearms, noting, “we flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.” Even though a majority of Americans support strengthening lax gun laws, conservative media slammed Obama for his remark, calling him “the worst,” “an asshat,” and “nakedly divisive.”

  • Fox Figures Cheer Trump’s Foreign Policy Speech As “Presidential” 

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News figures praised Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s foreign policy address as “presidential” and “a significant step forward.”

    Donald Trump Delivers Major Foreign Policy Address

    Trump Claims His Foreign Policy Will Put "America First." According to an April 27 New York Times article, Trump gave a speech on his vision for foreign policy, criticizing President Obama and Hillary Clinton for what he described as “missteps that have disillusioned the nation’s allies and emboldened its rivals": 

    Donald J. Trump, exuding confidence after his resounding primary victories in the East, promised a foreign policy on Wednesday that he said would put “America first.” He castigated President Obama and Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state and a possible opponent in the general election, for what he described as a string of missteps that have disillusioned the nation’s allies and emboldened its rivals.
     
    Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, pledged a major buildup of the military, the swift destruction of the Islamic State and the rejection of trade deals that he said tied the nation’s hands. But he also pointedly rejected the nation-building of the George W. Bush administration, reminding his audience that he had opposed the Iraq war.
     
    “America is going to be strong again; America is going to be great again; it’s going to be a friend again,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re going to finally have a coherent foreign policy, based on American interests and the shared interests of our allies.” [The New York Times4/27/16]

    Right Wing Media Figures Hail Trump’s Speech 

    Sean Hannity: “This Was A Pretty Amazing Speech Today, Obviously Presidential In Nature.” On the April 27 edition of Fox’s Sean Hannity’s radio show The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity praised Trump’s speech as “amazing” and “obviously presidential in nature” and said:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): This was a pretty amazing speech today, obviously presidential in nature, obviously depth and -- just the opposite of the way Trump has run his campaign up to this point, where he gave a scripted foreign policy speech that went into much detail at the Center for National Interests. He used lines like, "It’s time to shake off the rust of America's foreign policy, invite new voices, new visions into the fold is something that we have to do.”  The direction he outlines he said will also return us to a timeless principle and that “foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else.” It has to be first, it has to be. And then he went on to say that America first will be the major overriding theme of his administration. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show4/27/16]

     

    John Bolton: Trump’s Speech Was “A Significant Step Forward.” On the April 28 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Fox contributor John Bolton lauded Trump’s foreign policy speech as “a significant step forward.” Bolton claimed the address “brought Trump more into the mainstream” of GOP thinking and added that the purpose of the speech was to put Trump’s campaign “in a more presidential mode”:

    GREGG JARRETT (HOST): John Bolton is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a Fox News contributor. Ambassador, good to see you.  He advocated aggressiveness while advocating disengagement. Confusing?

    JOHN BOLTON: Well, I don’t think that’s exactly what he was saying. I think the points that he was trying to make, as I heard the speech, center on making American national interests the touchstone of what our foreign policy’s based on. And I think in far too many cases we have strayed from that into a kind of abstract philosophy about what's good for the whole world. The job of the president is to protect America. Others can look after themselves. So in that sense, I think by focusing on what’s important to us, he was able to go into a critique of Obama over the last seven years, and he basically repeated there what virtually every Republican member of the House and the Senate has said, namely, that under Obama our friends don’t respect us and our enemies don’t fear us. So I actually think the speech brought Trump more into the mainstream of Republican foreign policy, we can have a debate on it obviously on specifics, but I thought it was a significant step forward. [Fox News, Happening Now4/28/16]

    Laura Ingraham: Trump’s Foreign Policy Is “The Only Thing We Should Be Doing.” On the April 28 edition of Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham’s The Laura Ingraham Show, Ingraham compared Trump’s “sane” foreign policy speech with President Obama’s “muddled” international efforts and described the priorities Trump outlined as “the only thing we should be doing ”:

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): What's more in tune with the way your family talks about foreign policy? You hear your friends down the road, you know, conversation at work. What's more sane? Thinking you’re going to turn Middle Eastern countries into Western democracies or the idea of conserving our resources, rebuilding the homefront, and only getting involved in conflicts when it makes sense for the United States of America? To me, to me the latter is the only thing we should be doing. I love how people act like it's still 2004, or, frankly, 1996 and our economy, we have a budget, budget balanced, we have no heavy debt to really speak of. And people just act like it doesn't matter how much debt we have, it doesn't matter how much we owe the world, it doesn’t matter much in the way of bonds we have outstanding. None of that matters; we can keep just spending money like there’s no tomorrow. Hey, if the next generation has to have its social security cut, or draconian cuts in things that they paid into, then so be it. That’s just what we have to do. Then you have Obama that just has no coherent foreign policy at all except just to weaken us. So on the one hand you have the neoconservative foreign policy, which is basically you’ve never met a war you don't like. On the other hand you have Obama, which is completely muddled, and I guess it's foreign policy by drone. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show4/28/16]

    Harris Faulkner: “Clearly [Trump’s] Got Something Behind Him Now That’s Working.” On the April 28 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered, co-host Harris Faulkner praised Donald Trump for his “real, intimate understanding” of “where the Obama doctrine...has failed” and said Trump “was connected with the material” and “clearly he’s got something behind him now that’s working”:

    HARRIS FAULKNER (CO-HOST): Even as you were watching that speech yesterday, what Donald Trump did at first was lay out where the Obama doctrine, if you will, has failed. He had a real, intimate understanding of that, and I realize there was a prompter involved, but I never, you know, just from watching, because we covered it live here on Outnumbered, it happened during our hour. We have dissected enough of these types of speeches and news conferences by a lot of people to know when somebody is kind of faking the funk. I mean, he was connected with the material. Now, he's got a lot of advisers, we don't know who the lists are, but clearly he's got something behind him now that's working. [Fox News, Outnumbered4/28/16]

    Fox’s Gillian Turner: “This Was The Best Tone And Tenor We’ve Heard From Him.” On the April 28 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, Fox's Gillian Turner said Trump’s speech “was the best tone and tenor we’ve heard from him on the national defense, probably for the duration of the campaign so far” and said she “would have liked to have seen it six to eight months ago”:

    JON SCOTT (HOST): Gillian, I know that all of Washington, the foreign policy establishment, you might say, has been waiting for this speech. What do you think they heard? How is it being received?

    GILLIAN TURNER: A lot of anticipation surrounding it. The question was is this going to be Mr. Trump’s sort of come to Jesus moment with the establishment, and I believe that it was. This was the best tone and tenor we’ve heard from him on the national defense, probably for the duration of the campaign so far. I agree with the ambassador, I would have liked to have seen it six to eight months ago, would have made me feel a lot better about his prospects as commander in chief, but what I think he did today was he brought the substance to the heart of the Washington establishment. And I think that’s going to go a long way towards engendering some good will going forward as he tries to build his foreign policy team. [Fox News, Happening Now4/27/16]

    Fox’s Newt Gingrich: “He Said The Most Important Word Correctly: America. He Gets It.”

    [Twitter, 4/27/16]

    Fox’s Richard Grenell: “This Speech Shows Trump Is Growing As A Candidate. It Will Help Him A Lot.”

    [Twitter, 4/27/16]

  • The Differences Between The 47 GOP Senators' Iran Letter And Pelosi's 2007 Syria Visit

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    After 47 Senate Republicans signed a letter to Iranian leaders attempting to undercut President Obama's negotiations with that country, conservative media figures have defended the widely criticized move by pointing to a 2007 Syrian meeting then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had with President Bashar al-Assad. But as MSNBC.com's Steve Benen noted, "the parallels to this new scandal are tenuous, at best."

    While the Bush White House strongly opposed the trip, Pelosi was accompanied at the meeting by a Republican congressman and Bush State Department officials. She informed the White House and State Department of her trip, and foreign policy experts said that her visit didn't stray from a "typical" congressional visit. Three Republican congressmen also met with Assad prior to her visit.

    47 Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), signed a March 9 letter telling Iranian officials that any nuclear agreement would face scrutiny from the Republican-led Senate and could be undone by a future president. The letter drew criticism from the White House, diplomacy experts, and even some Republicans.

    Conservatives have attempted to rebut criticism by drawing a direct parallel to an April 4, 2007, meeting Pelosi had with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. For example: