Fox News hosts were more influential in the White House than previously known, often acting as shadow advisors to the president in private phone calls. According to a Washington Post report, former President Donald Trump would frequently speak with Fox anchors like Sean Hannity or Judge Jeanine Pirro, who had a direct phone number to reach him in the White House residence, and then pass their recommendations on to his staff.
“There were times the president would come down the next morning and say, ‘Well, Sean thinks we should do this,’ or, ‘Judge Jeanine thinks we should do this,’ ” Grisham, who resigned after the Jan. 6 insurrection, told the paper. These suggestions from Fox personalities, she said, would often frustrate staff as the hosts shared their thoughts on topics ranging from White House personnel to how to frame the president’s message. Trump would even dial Hannity and former Fox Business host Lou Dobbs into Oval Office staff meetings, a former administration official told The Post. Grisham also recently revealed that on Jan. 6, Trump was “gleefully” watching the violence unfold on television.
Text messages Meadows turned over to the Jan. 6 committee further confirmed the close relationship between the Trump administration and Fox News. Hosts were frantically messaging Meadows, begging him to get Trump to make a statement to quell the violence. “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol,” Hannity wrote on Jan. 6. Days earlier, the Fox host pushed Meadows to get the president to stop talking about the election, which Trump falsely and repeatedly claimed was stolen from him.
“Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy,” Ingraham texted Meadows on Jan. 6.
Even as the coronavirus began to spread in the winter and spring of 2020, Fox News hosts were intimately involved with Trump. That March, host Tucker Carlson met with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort where he warned the president that Covid-19 could cost him the election, The Post reported. Trump, however, droned on about how the virus was not as deadly as the flu.
And in April of 2020, Ingraham met with Trump in the White House alongside two of her regular on-air contributors who she called her “medicine cabinet.” During the meeting, they pushed hydroxychloroquine, a drug that has since been shown to be an ineffective Covid treatment. Throughout the spring Trump touted the drug, even claiming in May that he was taking it as a preventative measure. Thanks in part to Trump’s messaging, as well as Fox News hosts embracing the drug, it was in high demand, leaving patients who needed it — including people with lupus and other autoimmune disorders — scrambling to find it in stock.