Trump slaps Fox (again): Don't forget who got you where you are

Does he mean … Roger Ailes?

Bill O’Reilly?

I know he doesn’t mean himself. Fox News has been number one in cable news for the better part of 20 years, before “The Apprentice” was a thing, back when you-know-who was known mainly for corporate bankruptcies. There’s no doubt that Fox would have been a hit without President Trump, because it was. There’s very much a doubt as to whether there would have been a President Trump without Fox.

He’s been known to rant on social media about Fox’s programming but I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen him rant about it twice in one day. He came back to Twitter late last night for another go:

What’s eating him? Theories are floating around, but to me the answer seems straightforward. All of the tweets above have to do with loyalty, from the warning about Fox “changing” by citing disfavored news sources like the Times (which Fox has been doing since day one) to featuring Democratic commentators like Donna Brazile. Trump is a man who demands absolute loyalty from cronies. So imagine him pulling up social media yesterday afternoon to find this clip getting millions of shares shortly after the women’s national team won the World Cup in France:

I think he saw that, knew that it’d look nutty even for him to accuse Fox of having engineered it, and decided to simply run through some of his other grievances about the network instead to retaliate. It’s comical that he’d accuse Fox of “changing fast” considering there’s probably no example in recent American history of a more powerful news outlet working more closely with a sitting president to advance his agenda. Their most-watched host is personal friends with Trump, speaks to him regularly, and has been called his “shadow chief of staff.” The guy who’s on the air an hour before him has been advising the president informally on foreign policy and may have more influence over his thinking on Iran than the National Security Advisor does. Even if Fox wanted to back off its coziness with Trump and restore a bit more balance to primetime, the fact that OANN is lined up right behind it promising Trump even more slavish loyalty if only he’ll favor them with praise instead will keep FNC from straying off the reservation. And even if OANN folded tomorrow, the reality of an impending election with Fox viewers ramped up to slay the Democrats would force Fox executives to stick firmly to the party line. Fox isn’t changing, fast or slow, unless it’s gradually turning even Trumpier. But here’s the thing about someone who’s obsessed with loyalty: All you have to do is disappoint them once and it’ll cost you months or even years of the goodwill you’ve accumulated.

Anyway, Trump’s worries about Fox aren’t new. Allegedly he’s been telling aides since last year to “keep an eye on” the network for hints that they might dare say a critical thing about him outside Shep’s show. It’s been reported that Rupert Murdoch’s son Lachlan, who now runs the Fox Corporation, isn’t a Trump fan; if that’s true, lord only knows how much evidence of it has been relayed to Trump privately via his friends at FNC and in the media world. If he knows that Lachlan’s not an admirer, every slight that the network deals to him may seem as if it’s a piece in a wider shift towards less flattering coverage even if it really isn’t. (Trump is conspiratorial by nature so go figure that he sees a pattern.) All I want to know is when the pissy tweets stop and the actual punishment in the form of exclusives for OANN begins. If he’s not willing to aggressively promote Fox’s rival, Fox will continue to shrug off these periodic eruptions on Twitter.