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Washington Monthly | Under Pressure, Donald Trump Begs, Cajoles and Threatens Fox News

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The pressure of Donald Trump’s legal woes and the increasing public backlash against white supremacist violence, climate inaction and corporate malfeasance are starting to crack the previously unshakeable conservative coalition. Much has already been made of increasing resistance from Republicans in the senate. It was (as I predicted yesterday) only a matter of time before conflict began to arise between the president and Fox News, the organization most responsible for propping him up.

Trump was particularly unhinged and erratic on twitter today even for him. His targets ranged from the Mueller probe to General Motors and the United Autoworkers Union, from the seven-months deceased Senator John McCain to CNN and NPR. He retweeted multiple random conspiracy theorists and open racists. It was a remarkably disturbing display of paranoid anger from any public figure, to say nothing of the President of the United States. But probably the most noteworthy were his outbursts against Fox News for what he perceived as its failure to stand up some of his favorite television personalities.

Trump’s rants usually occur shortly before serious bad news is about to drop: Trump’s favored strategy when facing a media crisis is to counterpunch, often in advance, as hard as he can in order to intimidate, distract and control the narrative. There can be little doubt that Trump feels the walls closing in around him and is worried he has few allies left.

For a normal person, a cable news network suspending one of its more controversial personalities for going one step too far wouldn’t even be a blip on the radar. But for Trump, Fox News’ decision to privately Jeanine Pirro over her Islamophobic remarks–particularly given the recent white supremacist terrorism against Muslims in New Zealand–seems to have signaled a softness and willingness to acknowledge public outrage that Trump worries will extend to his own defense if the water gets hot enough. Trump is also furious if any of the hosts on his favorite propaganda station fail to adequately toe the line in his defense, particularly given the amount of defending he will require over the next several months.

Usually cable news addicts are forced to write angry emails and to their televised drug of choice if they fail to get an inadequate partisan high from a particular host. But Donald Trump has a megaphone, and his anger isn’t just a matter of partisanship. It’s a matter of self-preservation. Thus we get this strange combination of begging and cajoling threats tinged with empty braggadocio, high school sports coach pep, white supremacist entitlement and false delusions of silent majorities:

This is the first time Donald Trump has directly confronted Fox News in this way. It probably won’t be the last. Fox News will have to make a choice: continue to defend an increasingly erratic president guilty of the indefensible, or attempt to discard him and live to fight another day by promoting a better figurehead.





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