How Fox News Set Trump Up to Be a Laughingstock

Taking a page from his inaugural speech, Donald Trump threatened to send “the feds” into the city of Chicago during the first week of his presidency if the city didn’t fix the “carnage” going on, referring to its murder rate. Of course, nothing came of that.

The president is at it again. This time his target cities are Los Angeles and San Francisco and the “carnage” he is bloviating about is the homeless population. During an interview with Tucker Carlson, Trump threatened to use the federal government to intervene and actually claimed that homelessness is “a phenomena that started two years ago.” Here’s a quick fact check on that.

The numbers of homeless people in the United States has stayed relatively level in the three years between 2016 and 2018, ticking up from 550,000 to 553,000 last year. But these numbers represent a significant drop over the past decade. An average of 630,000 people experienced homelessness per year between 2007 and 2012, according to federal data. And an average of 580,000 people were homeless a year between 2012 and 2015.

You might wonder why Trump is so concerned about homelessness all of the sudden. But it wouldn’t come as a surprise if you watched Fox News regularly. Courtney Hagel recently documented that since April of 2019, Trump’s favorite propaganda network has run at least 21 segments on the topic.

The network has painted a grim picture of American cities as “almost Third World in their decay,” facing “a complete breakdown of the basic needs of civilization,” and filled with “drugged-out zombies chasing barefooted babies.” Fox has largely focused on the issue in cities on the West Coast — mostly focusing on cities in liberal California, with a few segments on Denver; Seattle; and Portland and Eugene, OR. Every city Fox highlighted has at least one thing in common: Democratic leaders…

Fox hosts, anchors, and guests have repeatedly used degrading and dehumanizing terms to describe the homelessness problem…Some Fox figures have tried to suggest that the real victims of homelessness are not homeless people themselves, but the “normal people” who are confronted with the problem in public parks and libraries. Others have tried to contrast the issue with unrelated Democratic proposals to provide resources for undocumented immigrants, implying that it’s not fair to allocate resources to other marginalized people while homelessness still persists. One Fox guest discussing homelessness in Los Angeles claimed that Democrats “want to take that nationwide in 2020 with this presidential election,” and another said that LA’s homelessness is “a template of what the Democrats want to continue.”

So when Tucker Carlson teed up the question for Trump during his interview, he knew the president had been prepped to take the issue in exactly the direction Fox producers had set him up to go. It is the repeat of a pattern that we’ve seen time and time again with Trump.

It is possible, however, that the folks at Fox News hadn’t taken Trump’s level of ignorance into account. That’s because, following Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit, Peter Baker asked him about the statement from the Russian president that “Western-style liberalism is obsolete.”

It is obvious that Trump thinks “Western-style liberalism” refers to the Democratic governments in states like California, Oregon, and Washington. In other words, he’s an idiot. As Aaron Blake wrote for the Washington Post:

Democratic liberalism, of course, does not refer to the western United States, but rather the Western world — which generally includes the United States and much of Europe. And liberalism is a political theory that values the freedom of the individual…Broadly speaking, democratic liberalism has been the leading political ideology across the western world since World War II.

Having been prepped by Fox for a few months now about the horrible shape west coast cities are in, Trump’s mind immediately went to the hours they’d spent pretending that there was some new crisis developing on the streets out there, and that if Putin said that kind of governing was obsolete, he had a point.

That is what happens when you have a president whose primary news source is a propaganda network. This country becomes the laughingstock of the world and Putin’s people brag that they own him.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.