Donald Trump returned to his favorite network Wednesday for a chummy sit-down interview with Lou Dobbs of Fox Business, during which the anchor showered him with praise and allowed the president to speak at length about “fake news” and his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The interview, which aired for more than a half hour during prime time, was the president’s 14th sit-down with Fox News or Fox Business since his inauguration. And like many of those other interviews, the questions were sympathetic and the chief purpose seemed to be to insulate the president from critical coverage.
An avowed Trump fan, Dobbs has previously said that the president’s first 100 days in office were “pretty close to perfect,” and earlier this month he claimed Trump’s presidency “may be the most accomplished presidency in modern American history.”
Dobbs offered further praise during Wednesday’s interview, telling his audience that Trump is “changing [the country] for the better” and describing the president as “loved and respected.”
“You are, if I may say, everything as advertised as you ran for president,” Dobbs said to close the interview. “And [I] appreciate everything you’re doing. Thanks so much.”
Trump returned the praise, telling Dobbs he watches his show “absolutely almost all the time, even if it means TiVo or whatever device you happen to be using at the time.”
Dobbs declined the opportunity to challenge Trump when he brought up his oft-repeated but false claim that the U.S. is the highest taxed nation in the world.
And he didn’t question Trump’s promise to declare a national emergency for the opioid crisis “this week” — something he has promised (and failed) to do for months.
Instead, Dobbs gave the president space to complain about other networks, only interrupting to agree. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript, as provided by Fox Business:
TRUMP: So the one thing that I really thought ― because I thought I was treated very unfairly by the press during the campaign. ―
DOBBS: Without question ―
TRUMP: And when I won, I said, “The good news is, now they’ll start treating me well.” But they got much worse.
TRUMP: Lou, they put on stories and CNN, and on NBC, and CBS, and ABC, and NBC being an offshoot also with the MSNBC, which is ridiculous. They put on stories that are so false. They have so-called sources that, in my opinion, don’t exist. You know, they’ll say, “Sources have said,” they don’t know.
They’re sitting down, they just ― they make it up. It is so dishonest. It is so fake. And you know, I have come up with some pretty good names for people. There’s ― I think one of the best names is ― you know, I’ve really started this whole fake news thing. Now they’ve turned it around and then, now they’re calling, you know, stories put out by different ― by Facebook fake. And they’re fake.
What could be more fake than CBS, and NBC, and ABC, and CNN when you look at some of these stories? And when you look at the amount of negative ― I know when I do well and when I do badly. ―
TRUMP: I know a good story from a bad story. But when you have a really good story and they make it bad, I’ll say to my wife, “Oh, tonight, I’m going to enjoy watching television because I did great, and wait until you see this.” And then, they put it on and it’s like ― oh, that’s not so good. They are fake news.
And the good thing about social media is that I have so many millions of people, so many ― I guess, 128 million. You could add up ― you know, you add up all the different platforms ― massive social media. At least I can put out ― it’s not that I want to do that. I’d rather not do it. I would love to not do it at all. But at least I can put out the truth. And I can put out the real word. And people agree. And if you look at the level of approval of the ― of media ― of general media ―
TRUMP: if you look at it from the day I started running to now, I’m so proud that I have been able to convince people how fake it is ― because it has taken a nosedive. ―
DOBBS: Yes. And ―
TRUMP: Except for your show, of course ― and Sean, and a few of them. Right?
TRUMP: There’s some very good ones. And I have to say, Fox has treated me fairly. And I don’t mean good, but they’ve treated me fairly. I don’t want to be treated good. I just want to be treated fairly.
Dobbs also asked the president to respond to reports that Clinton’s campaign helped fund opposition research that led to the now-famous Steele dossier containing damaging claims about Trump, while claiming that the allegations included in that document had been “debunked.” (While they are unsubstantiated, they have not been verified to be true or false.)
Trump took the opportunity to defend himself against allegations that his campaign colluded with the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 election:
TRUMP: And then, I understand recently she said well opposition research. Opposition research is very standard. So, it’s very interesting, she denied it, her own people denied it. Everybody denied it and now they’re sort of scooting around trying to figure out what to say.
So, they spent, if you think of it, almost $6 million on something like that and I think honestly I just think it’s a disgrace.
DOBBS: And, contemporaneously, suddenly the House Intelligence Committee, the House Oversight Committee are turning to the Democratic Party and talking about – not talking about but beginning the investigation of something called Collusion with the Russians.
TRUMP: That’s the real collusion. Believe me.
DOBBS: Your thoughts?
TRUMP: There was no collusion on my side. I can tell you that. Everybody knew it. You knew it because you were saying it when it was not in vogue but I always said and I had no idea how right I was because I didn’t realize it would be for this extent.
TRUMP: But I always said this was an excuse for losing the election put out by the democrats and that’s what it was. But then when you hear the kind of money they spent and when you see all of the things about Podesta and you see all of the relationships that they actually have with Russia and you see in hers.
You know one thing that is interesting and I have to say even the democrats they walk out of those meetings and they say no there is no collusion and we haven’t found any yet but we’ll keep going.
TRUMP: A wonderful man came to my office a week ago. A very highly respected man and he sat down and he said, “You know it’s been very unfair. From the day you have been president you’ve been under this little veil of Russia, Russia, Russia.” And with all of this being said, I want to say this, I think it would be great if we got along with Russia.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with – you know they are a power, they’re a nuclear power. I think we could have a good relationship. I think that North Korean situation would be easier settled. And I just spoke to the President of China, I congratulated him on his big victory. But it would be wonderful if we could speak to China and Russia. Because China is helping us and maybe Russia’s going through the other way and hurting what we’re getting.
I mean when I say maybe, I think I know exactly what I’m talking about. If we had a relationship with Russia, that would be a good thing, not a bad thing.
Trump also answered questions about his tax plan, his trade policies and his choice for the next chair of the Federal Reserve.
On the later topic, the president asked Dobbs for advice, saying: “I would love to hear you. I only want that from people I respect.”
After some prodding from Trump, Dobbs told the president he favored keeping current Fed chair Janet Yellen.
Trump hasn’t given a broadcast interview to another major network since his sit down with NBC’s Lester Holt in May, following the president’s controversial decision to fire ex-FBI chief James Comey.
But in just the last month, Trump’s been interviewed by Fox personalities Sean Hannity and Maria Bartiromo, as well as former Fox host Mike Huckabee (who now hosts a program on the Christian-oriented Trinity Broadcasting Network).