The epic and occasionally saga-like relationship between Donald Trump and Fox News—their lovers’ quarrels and occasional feuds interrupting long periods when only an invisible line separated the network from the West Wing—is the stuff of media legend, the content of best-sellers and documentaries, and the syllabus material of political science courses for the rest of time. Trump, of course, began the relationship as a frequent caller to whom Roger Ailes gifted a weekly slot on Fox & Friends to wax on about politics. Others at the network didn’t take him seriously until they did, ostensibly to the mild vexation of Rupert Murdoch, who nevertheless opportunistically, and then mega-enthusiastically, abetted his election and presidency through various executive orders and impeachments.
The first real, potentially marriage-altering rupture occurred after Fox (accurately) beat the competition to call Arizona for Joe Biden on election night. From there, it was a slowly devolving spat. Fox became a safe space for pro-Trump election denialism, but the chasm between the two sides grew ever more distant in the wake of Trump’s callous allowance of a near coup, followed by his various deplatformings, which exhausted many network executives and hosts’ patience. By that time, anyway, Trump was out of the White House, absent his Twitter megaphone, and ostensibly exiled to Mar-a-Lago. In the cynical language of cable news, in other words, he was no longer a ratings machine.
“It’s as simple as money and ratings,” said former Fox News editor Chris Stirewalt, whose new book, Broken News, explores, among other things, how he was fired by the network after the decision desk he was on called Arizona for Biden. (A Fox spokesperson disputed that characterization, saying he was laid off for unrelated reasons.) “He’s not the president anymore and he’s not a ratings goldmine like he was before, so I think the power dynamic has shifted.”