Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen in a television cameras view finder during a press conference at the Trump National Golf Club Jupiter on March 8, 2016 in Jupiter, Fla.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty

The pipeline between cable news and the Trump White House

A couple of months ago, Fox News’ Heather Nauert announced her support for Ivanka Trump’s branded merchandise. Between that kind of endorsement, and Nauert’s role on the “Fox and Friends” program the president likes to promote, I suppose it shouldn’t come as too big a surprise that Nauert has now joined Donald Trump’s administration as the official spokesperson for the State Department.
“Heather’s media experience and long interest in international affairs will be invaluable as she conveys the Administration’s foreign policy priorities,” the department said in a statement.

The “top-rated morning cable news show” Nauert anchored, as glowingly described by the State Department, is one of President Donald Trump’s favorites.
In late November, Rachel had a segment about all of the people who were up for positions on Trump’s team because the Republican had seen them on TV. A month later, the list was even longer, and now it’s longer still. (Note, in February, Fox News’ Jonathan Wachtel was named the spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the United Nations.)

The Washington Post joked a few months ago, “The Trump revolution won’t just be televised. It will be led by television talking heads.” It’s even truer now than it was then.

What’s especially notable is the scope and scale of this dynamic. It’s amazing that Team Trump hires those whose on-screen appearances impress the White House, but this goes well beyond who gets hired.

It extends, for example, to who gets fired. The president reportedly said during a working lunch last month, for example, “I’m not firing Sean Spicer. That guy gets great ratings.”

And for Trump, there’s no better way to measure a person’s worth. In his latest Associated Press interview, for example, the president said, “I have, seem to get very high ratings. I definitely. You know Chris Wallace had 9.2 million people, it’s the highest in the history of the show. I have all the ratings for all those morning shows. When I go, they go double, triple…. [CBS “Face the Nation” host John] Dickerson had 5.2 million people. It’s the highest for ‘Face the Nation’ or as I call it, ‘Deface the Nation.’ It’s the highest for ‘Deface the Nation’ since the World Trade Center. Since the World Trade Center came down.”

Remember, these are the words of a sitting president of the United States.

We also know that many of Donald Trump’s ideas – and tweets – are directly inspired by whatever happens to cross his television screen over the course of the day. With that in mind, White House staffers have begun watching Trump’s favorite cable-news shows in order to better anticipate what’s on the president’s mind, and the Washington Post reported that foreign diplomats “have urged their governments’ leaders to appear on television when they’re stateside as a means of making their case to Trump.”

The same article added, “U.S. lawmakers regard a TV appearance as nearly on par with an Oval Office meeting in terms of showcasing their standing or viewpoints to the president.”

And while that may sound insane, it’s rooted in fact. Indeed, it’s long been this way with Team Trump: Kellyanne Conway conceded during that campaign that if she wanted to deliver a message to Trump, she wouldn’t just tell him what’s on her mind. “A way you can communicate with him is you go on TV to communicate,” she explained.

As a rule, I’m hardly inclined to criticize those who watch a lot of cable news. Indeed, it just so happens that I work for a cable-news television show and get paid by a cable-news network.

That said, it’s also fair to say that while we’ve had media-conscious presidents in American history, we’re never seen someone with the kind of obsession Trump has. To get a job on Team Trump, go on TV. To get a message to the president, go on TV. To influence the direction of the White House, go on TV.

This. Is. Not. Normal.