Under Pressure, Donald Trump Begs, Cajoles, and Threatens Fox News

Donald Trump’s legal woes and the increasing public backlash against white supremacist violence are starting to crack the previously unshakeable conservative coalition. Much has already been made of increasing resistance from Republicans in the Senate. It was, as I predicted on Sunday, only a matter of time before conflict began to arise between the president and Fox News, the organization most responsible for propping him up.

Trump was particularly unhinged and erratic on twitter Sunday, even for his own low standards. His targets ranged from the Mueller probe to General Motors and the United Autoworkers Union, from John McCain to CNN and NPR. He retweeted multiple random conspiracy theorists and open racists. It was a remarkably disturbing display of paranoid anger from the president of the United States. Most noteworthy, however, were his outbursts against Fox News for what he perceived as its failure to stand up for some of his favorite personalities at the network.

Trump’s rants usually occur shortly before seriously bad news is about to drop: Trump’s favored strategy when facing a media crisis is to counterpunch, often in advance, as hard as he can to intimidate, distract. and control the narrative. There can be little doubt that Trump feels the walls closing in around him and is worried he has few allies left.

For a normal person, a cable news network suspending one of its more controversial personalities for going one step too far wouldn’t even be a blip on the radar. But for Trump, Fox News’ decision not to air Jeanine Pirro’s show this weekend, ostensibly over her recent Islamophobic remarks. Given the recent white supremacist terrorism against Muslims in New Zealand, this move seems signaled a willingness to acknowledge public outrage that Trump worries will eventually extend to his own defense if the water gets hot enough. Trump is also furious when any of the hosts on his favorite propaganda station fail to adequately toe the line in his defense. This will only get worse as he will need ever more defending over the next several months.

Usually, cable news addicts write angry emails to their televised drug of choice if they get an inadequate partisan high from a particular host. But Donald Trump has a megaphone, and his anger isn’t just a matter of partisanship. It’s a matter of self-preservation. Thus we get this strange combination of begging and cajoling threats tinged with empty braggadocio, high school sports coach pep, white supremacist entitlement, and false delusions of silent majorities:

This is the first time Donald Trump has directly confronted Fox News in this way. It probably won’t be the last. Fox News will have to make a choice: continue to defend an increasingly erratic president guilty of the indefensible, or attempt to get rid of him and live to fight another day by promoting a better figurehead.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.