During a recent meeting on veterans issues, Donald Trump reportedly called a Fox News personality, Pete Hegseth, “to get his opinion” on pending legislation. As the investigation into the Russia scandal intensifies, the president has sought legal guidance from Fox News personality Jeanine Pirro.
And the Daily Beast reported yesterday that Trump has an especially close relationship with Lou Dobbs, a likeminded Fox Business host, to the point that Dobbs’ voice is literally part of White House discussions.
During the first year of the Trump era, the president has patched in Dobbs via speakerphone to multiple meetings in the Oval Office so that he could offer his two cents, according to three sources familiar with these conversations. Trump will ask Dobbs for his opinion before and after his senior aides or Cabinet members have spoken. Occasionally, he will cut off an official so the Fox Business host can jump in.
Dobbs, these sources all independently recounted, has been patched in to senior-level meetings on issues such as trade and tax policy…. During the more intense days of the tax-bill push, Trump made sure to have his White House personal secretary get Dobbs on the line. And toward the conclusion of one memorable meeting, when the line was disconnected and Dobbs said farewell, Trump looked up, smiled, and simply told the room, “Love Lou.”
Much has been written in recent months about the president hiring television personalities for key posts in his administration. But in a variety of instances, Trump doesn’t need to formally put his TV allies on the White House’s payroll, since he’s figured out a way to empower conservative media hosts to guide his administration’s agenda from a distance.
What I find especially amazing about this dynamic is the degree to which it flips the traditional relationship between a White House and its media confederates.
For quite a while, presidents and their teams have cultivated relationships with allies at various news organizations, routinely offering briefings and talking points, all in the hopes of shaping coverage in ways that made the White House look good.
And while Team Trump obviously does some of this, what sets this presidency apart is Trump’s willingness to flip the model: he isn’t guiding his media allies; his media allies are guiding him.
It puts a striking twist on the whole idea of “state media.” Instead of giving marching orders to pundits, this White House is receiving them.