As expected, Donald Trump's personal legal team added a new member yesterday, with former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) agreeing to help the president as the impeachment process advances. NBC News' report on the announcement highlighted what the South Carolina Republican has been up to lately.
After retiring from Congress at the beginning of the year, Gowdy became a contributor on Fox News, where he has blasted the impeachment inquiry. [...]In a sign that he'd be joining Team Trump, Fox News issued a statement earlier Wednesday saying he'd "been terminated and is no longer a contributor."
Media Matters added yesterday, "Since The Wall Street Journal reported on September 20 that the whistleblower complaint involved Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, leading to the inquiry announced on September 24, Gowdy has gone on Fox to slam Democrats for 'mishandling this investigation,' make dishonest comparisons between Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and former President Barack Obama, lend credibility to a conspiracy theory pushed by the president, and single out some of Trump's favorite targets for attack."
What we didn't fully appreciate was the degree to which Gowdy's appearances effectively served as an audition.
Regardless, if the former congressman's transition from Fox News to Team Trump seems familiar, it's because we've seen it before -- many, many times.
For example, the Gowdy announcement comes just three months after the president named former Fox News contributor Monica Crowley as the new spokesperson for the Treasury Department.
As we discussed at the time, the Crowley news came just a few months after Morgan Ortagus, a former Fox News contributor, became the State Department’s new spokesperson – replacing Heather Nauert, a former Fox News anchor.
Two months before that, Lea Gabrielle, a former Fox News reporter, was hired to help lead the State Department’s Global Engagement Center.
And circling back to our earlier coverage, each of these Fox News veterans found plenty of other folks on Team Trump who’ve made the same transition. Not long after Nauert joined Team Trump, for example, 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.)
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told Rachel on the show a while back, “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 was 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’ 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 in the president’s cabinet.
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 message to the president, go on TV. To influence the direction of the White House, go on TV.
And to get a job on Team Trump, go on TV.