Fox News Is Planting Thoughts in Donald Trump’s Head

Donald Trump appears at times to be almost a victim of the conservative channel's capacity to induce rage in its most loyal viewers.

Photo: The Intercept

It has been evident for some time now that the President of the United States is, like many older white American men, addicted to Fox News.

Like a bird trapped in a behavioral psychology experiment, unable to stop responding to the stimuli of flashing lights and noises that promise food, Donald Trump appears at times to be almost a victim of the conservative channel’s capacity to induce rage in its most loyal viewers.

A series of updates to the president’s personal Twitter feed on Monday illustrated just how severe the problem has become, with Trump now relying so heavily on the network’s morning program, “Fox and Friends,” for political arguments, that he appears almost unable to think for himself.

The cycle began at 6:12 a.m. when Fox News gave an inaccurate account of a new report from The Hill, asserting falsely that it contained evidence that “material James Comey leaked to a friend contained top secret information.” Trump quickly shared that incorrect claim with his millions of Twitter followers, and then echoed it, almost verbatim, in his own voice.

In fact, what The Hill reported was that there was classified information in some of the memos prepared by James Comey, the former FBI Director fired by Trump, to document conversations with the president he found alarming. The publication did not assert that there was anything secret in the memo Comey admitted providing to a friend so that he could describe its contents to the media.

Closing the feedback loop, Trump then retweeted a subsequent update from “Fox and Friends” in which the on-screen headline was a report of his tweet repeating the inaccurate information he’d gleaned from the same show.

Minutes later, there was more evidence that the voices the president hears in his head come from Fox News, when Trump commented on the outrage over his decision to give his seat at a table of world leaders meeting in Germany on Saturday to his daughter Ivanka.

After first suggesting that he had asked his daughter to “hold” his seat, like a place in line that he could lose by being absent, Trump then argued that critics who deplored his behavior as nepotism would have been delighted had Hillary Clinton done something similar.

The mystery as to what had prompted this bizarre assertion was solved by Media Matters, a liberal watchdog group, which noted that Trump’s tweet precisely echoed a claim made an hour earlier by Madison Gesiotto, a former Miss Ohio turned Fox News pundit.

“If another woman was sitting at that same table, say Chelsea Clinton,” Gesiotto said, “I think they would be touting her as a future presidential candidate — you know, a figure of female empowerment.”

Gesiotto may be relatively unknown to those outside the Fox News echo chamber, but she is a frequent guest on the network and part of a circle of Trump defenders now clustered around the White House that also includes Katrina Pierson and Omarosa Manigault.

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