Will Trump survive impeachment? The answer may lie with Fox News.
Recently, Fox News’s Geraldo Rivera and Sean Hannity had a telling on-air exchange about the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
“You know, if it wasn’t for your show, Sean, they would destroy him absolutely,” Mr. Rivera said. “You’re the difference between Donald J. Trump and Richard Nixon.”
Why We Wrote This
President Trump's strongest supporters are Fox News viewers, according to recent polling. If the network becomes more critical of his actions, that could have a significant effect.
Mr. Hannity demurred – but Mr. Rivera is hardly the first to hypothesize that, if a conservative outlet like Fox News had existed in the 1970s, President Nixon might have survived the Watergate scandal.
And while it’s unclear whether Republicans’ viewing habits are shaping their political beliefs or vice versa, polling shows that regular Fox News viewers are among President Trump’s strongest supporters. According to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, 98% of Republicans who cite Fox as their primary news source oppose President Trump’s impeachment and removal from office.
Even more striking: 55% of those same Republicans say there is nothing the president could do to lose their support, compared with 29% of Republicans who do not cite Fox as their main source of information.
“Fox controls the flow of information—what facts are, whether allegations are to be believed—to huge swaths of [Trump’s] base,” Gabriel Sherman wrote last month in Vanity Fair. “And Republican senators, who will ultimately decide whether the president remains in office, are in turn exquisitely sensitive to the opinions of Trump’s base.”
Yet Fox itself has been showing a few cracks of late. After last week’s announcement that the next G7 would be held at President Trump’s resort in Miami, a number of Fox personalities labeled the move an “unforced error” – and the president quickly backtracked.
On-air sniping over impeachment coverage between daytime anchor Shep Smith and evening host Tucker Carlson reportedly resulted in Mr. Smith’s abrupt decision to leave the network. And Mr. Sherman reports that Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son, has been “holding strategy conversations with Fox executives and anchors about how Fox News should prepare for life after Trump.”
It’s worth remembering that Fox was not particularly pro-Trump during the 2016 Republican primary campaign, notes New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait. And “if the two began to work at cross-purposes,” he speculates, “it would likely turn on him as rapidly as it fell in line after he won the nomination.”
At the moment, however, that’s pretty hard to envision.
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