Several Fox News hosts acted as former president Donald Trump’s “cable cabinet” of informal advisers, using a direct phone number to reach him in the White House and often dialling into Oval Office meetings, according to a new report.
Stephanie Grisham, the former White House press secretary who resigned after the 6 January Capitol Hill riots last year and wrote a book critical of Mr Trump, said that the former president often wanted to do things on the advice of Fox News hosts such as Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro, according to The Washington Post.
“There were times the president would come down the next morning and say, ‘Well, Sean [Hannity] thinks we should do this,’ or, ‘Judge Jeanine [Jeanine Pirro] thinks we should do this’,” she said.
“A lot of it was PR — what he should be saying and how he should be saying it; he should be going harder against wearing masks or whatever,” she added. “And they all have different opinions, too.”
Former insiders in the Trump administration also said that he was influenced by what the network showed and was particularly influenced by Hannity, Pirro, Lou Dobbs and Lindsey Graham.
A former official who did not wish to be named said that Mr Trump would often dial in Hannity and Dobbs directly into Oval Office meetings, the report said.
Michael Pillsbury, an informal Trump adviser, said that the former president started embracing false claims of electoral fraud after seeing them on Dobbs’ show. “It taught me the power of the young producers at Fox, and Fox Business especially,” Mr Pillsbury said.
John F Kelly, Mr Trump’s former chief of staff, allegedly highlighted the importance of the network in the White House and told others that Dobbs’ show was crucial to understanding the president and his ideas. He also asked others to monitor Fox News if he could not watch the prime time shows himself, according to the report.
Former White House communications director Alyssa Farah said that Hannity exerted the most influence on the former president in the final year of the Trump administration.
Ms Farah added that staff in the West Wing often raced to predict what advice Mr Trump would get from these Fox News hosts. The goal was simply to “try to get ahead of what advice you thought he was going to be given by these people” because their unofficial counsel “could completely change his mind on something”, she said.
Other former Trump administration officials said that Mark Levin, another Fox News host, and Maria Bartiromo, a Fox Business host, were also in regular touch with the White House. They added that several Fox News hosts had a direct phone number to the president in the White House.
The revelations come as the US House Select Committee investigating last year’s 6 January Capitol Hill insurrection made public in recent weeks the communications between former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Fox News hosts.
The communications also showed that Fox News hosts had urged Mr Trump to call off the riots last year when his supporters stormed Capitol Hill in protest against Joe Biden’s election.
Last week, the House Committee sent a letter to Hannity asking him to voluntarily testify after it made public a text that he had allegedly sent to Mr Meadows as well as Jim Jordan, a pro-Trump congressman.
The text from Hannity, just four days before the riot, said: “Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days.”
It added: “He can’t mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I’m not sure what is left to do or say, and I don’t like not knowing if it’s truly understood. Ideas?”
Mr Trump hit out at Hannity after the text became public and said he disagreed with what was said.