Former President Donald Trump and his Fox News influencers were so joined at the hip that he even dialed Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs into Oval Office meetings, according to an unidentified former senior administration official, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
A “lot of it” concerned public relations — “what he should be saying and how he should be saying it; he should be going harder against wearing masks or whatever,” Trump’s former press secretary Stephanie Grisham told the Post, apparently confirming the information.
“There were times the president would come down [in the] morning and say, ‘Well, Sean thinks we should do this,’ or, ‘Judge Jeanine thinks we should do this,’” said Grisham. She described Hannity on CNN last Thursday as Trump’s “shadow adviser,” who counseled him on “many, many things.”
Jeff Cohen, author of “Cable News Confidential,” slammed the relationship as a violation of public trust by Fox hosts because viewers have no idea how close they are to Trump and are under the impression there is some objectivity to their on-air reports.
The startlingly close relationship between a sitting president and what the Post called a “Cable Cabinet” of members of a right-wing news operation was underscored by the multiple texts released last month by the House select committee investigating the Jan, 6 insurrection.
As last year’s Jan. 6 violence unfolded in the U.S. Capitol, Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham, Brian Kilmeade and Hannity all texted then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, pleading with him to press Trump to intervene to stop the siege. They all later downplayed the insurrection on Fox News, or even blamed the attack on the building on Antifa or members of the Black Lives Matter.
It was one of the few times Trump wasn’t listening to his Fox News brain trust. It took him more than three hours on Jan. 6 to speak out against the violence.
“He can’t mention the election again. Ever,” Hannity texted Meadows days after the insurrection. “I did not have a good call with him today.”
But Trump enthusiastically embraced just about every other “fantastical” Fox favorite, including support for now-disgraced attorney Sidney Powell, who repeatedly pitched wildly baseless claims of election fraud, informal Trump adviser Michael Pillsbury told the Post.
Trump’s Fox pals could suddenly “completely change his mind on something,” said his former communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin, and the staff would have to scramble to do damage control.
Hannity wielded clout even during Trump’s 2016 campaign, calling Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel to complain about strategy, according to the Post.
The first time then-Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) met the president-elect at Trump Tower in December 2016, Hannity called mid-meeting, reported Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their book “Peril.”
Trump “answered the call as Ryan and his advisers sat silent. ‘Yeah, I’m here with Paul,’ Trump told Hannity. ’Oh? You want to talk with him?’”
Trump put the call on speakerphone and said: “Sean, talk to Paul,” which he did for about seven minutes, according to “Peril.”
Check out the full Washington Post story here.