About a year ago, Fox News’ Juan Williams joked on the air that he sees Donald Trump’s White House as a reality-television program – and if you want to make it onto the show, you have to be in a Fox News green room “because apparently that’s the staging area.”
The Trump administration will tap a former Fox News reporter and former intelligence operative to lead the U.S. government’s premier agency charged with exposing and countering disinformation from Russia and other foreign governments around the world.
Lea Gabrielle, who joined Fox News in 2013 and is also a former Navy pilot, will be the new head of the Global Engagement Center, according to a copy of the announcement obtained by USA TODAY.
The State Department’s Global Engagement Center is a relatively obscure agency, though it made headlines for a good reason last year. The New York Times reported in March 2018 that the center was provided with $120 million to “counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections,” but it hadn’t spent a dime.
It will now be led by Fox News’ Lea Gabrielle, who, as USA Today’s report added, is facing questions from Trump administration critics about “her qualifications for the job.”
Brett Bruen, who worked on the U.S. response to Russian propaganda in the Obama administration, told the newspaper, “Lea may be a great reporter and pilot. She has evidenced absolutely no knowledge of or experience with information warfare. We need leadership that can take on this danger from day one.”
She will, however, find plenty of other folks on Team Trump who’ve made the transition from the president’s television screen to his administration’s staff.
Just two months ago, for example, Trump tapped Heather Nauert, formerly of “Fox and Friends,” to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Not long before, the president turned to former Fox News executive Bill Shine to help oversee the White House’s communications office. A few months earlier, Trump tapped Fox News’ John Bolton to serve as White House national security advisor – in part because the president thought he was “good on television.”
Around the same time, the president chose Joe diGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing, to serve on his legal defense team. Both crossed the White House’s radar because they were – let’s all say it together – Fox News personalities. (Their role on the legal defense team was short lived.)
As regular readers may recall, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told Rachel on the show last year, “I’m concerned the president’s world is confined now to watching Fox News… Aside from his insular existence in the Oval Office, Fox is his whole world.”
Well, not his whole world: Trump hired television host Larry Kudlow to be the head of the White House National Economic Council – and Kudlow worked for CNBC.
He’s something of an exception, though. In addition to the aforementioned Fox veterans, Fox News’ K.T. McFarland was Trump’s deputy national security advisor; Fox News’ Monica Crowley was chosen to work at the National Security Council before a controversy forced her departure; Fox News’ Jonathan Wachtel was named the spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the United Nations; and Fox News contributors such as Ben Carson and Elaine Chao are already in the president’s cabinet.
Even Jay Sekulow, a top member of Trump’s legal defense team, has no relevant experience working on the issues he’s tackling now, but he has maintained a very high profile in recent years on conservative media, which very likely helped get him his current gig.
The Washington Post joked during the presidential transition period, “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.
Following up on an item from last year, I should emphasize that as a rule, I’m not at all inclined to criticize those who watch a lot of cable news. 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 isn’t how the executive branch of a global superpower is supposed to work.