A big winner in Trump's first 100 days? 'Fox & Friends'
By Tom Kludt
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- As the political commentariat debates the successes and failures Donald Trump's first 100 days in office, there has been at least one clear winner in the start of his presidency.
"Fox & Friends," the show adored by the president more than any other, has seen itself elevated in the public discourse by Trump, going from mere morning gabfest to perhaps the most influential program on cable news. And it has enjoyed a ratings surge to boot.
The relationship between Trump and "Fox & Friends" has been a symbiotic one, with the three co-hosts -- Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade and Ainsley Earhardt -- among Trump's most steadfast defenders in the media. It's also created a feedback loop between the Oval Office and the show.
When Trump was under fire last month for accusing President Obama -- without evidence -- of wiretapping him, it was on "Fox and Friends" that Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano tried to substantiate the claim with his own on-air reporting, effectively handing the White House a talking point.
"Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the CIA, he didn't use the FBI and he didn't use the Department of Justice," Napolitano said during a March 14 appearance on "Fox & Friends." "He used GCHQ. What the heck is GCHQ? That's the initials for the British spying agency."
Two days later, White House press secretary Sean Spicer quoted Napolitano to lend credence to the president's claim, prompting a vigorous denial from British officials.
Trump has returned favors like these, often going out of his way to heap praise on the show. "Fox & Friends" has the rare distinction of being the only show on television to count the president as a promoter.
At a press conference in February, Trump called "Fox & Friends" the "most honest morning show," and he has frequently hyped the program from his ever-active Twitter feed. Trump often uses his Twitter account to weigh in on what he appears to be watching on TV, but no show has inspired more presidential tweets than "Fox & Friends."
Trump has mentioned "Fox & Friends" 11 times on Twitter since Inauguration Day. At times, he has encouraged viewers to tune in while praising the show for coverage that is unfailingly friendly to his administration.
"The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred," Trump tweeted on February 15. "@MSNBC & @CNN are unwatchable. @foxandfriends is great!"
Whether it's a result of those promotional efforts or not, "Fox & Friends" has experienced considerable audience growth during the start of Trump's presidency.
From the week of Trump's inauguration through Sunday, "Fox & Friends" has averaged 1.66 million viewers, according to Nielsen. That's more than its two cable news rivals, CNN's "New Day" and MSNBC's "Morning Joe," combined, continuing a streak of similar dominance over the two.
"Fox & Friends" has seen a 52% jump among viewers aged 25-54 years old, the demographic most prized by advertisers, compared to the same period last year.
Cable news has enjoyed nearly across-the-board ratings gains in the age of Trump, with heightened interest in the 2016 campaign spilling over into the new presidency.
That includes "Fox & Friends'" competitors. CNN's "New Day," for example, has had a 62% jump in the 25-54 demo, more than the increase "Fox & Friends" has seen, while "Morning Joe" has at times eclipsed a million total viewers during Trump's first 100 days
But the other two shows have been shunned by Trump, who has repeatedly called CNN "fake news" and has grown frosty toward "Morning Joe" co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, with whom he once had a good relationship.
"Fox & Friends," by contrast, has landed multiple interviews with Trump since he took office. And when he isn't appearing on the show, it seems as if Trump is almost always watching.
During an interview earlier this month with the conservative author Michael Knowles, Kilmeade tossed a softball question.
"Do you think when it comes to foreign policy, the last eight years are being exposed right now?" the host asked.
"It is unbelievable," Knowles replied, "how within the first 100 days of this presidency, we have exposed the total failure of the last eight years of foreign policy."
Less than an hour later, Trump tweeted this:
Six minutes after that, Trump fired off another tweet promoting Knowles' book, "Reasons to Vote For Democrats," which is a joke book that contains 200 blank pages and few words.
Trump came in to the presidency with a long history with "Fox & Friends," having participated in a weekly call-in segment that began in 2011 and ended when he launched his White House bid in 2015.
"You have treated me very fairly, and I've been a friend of your show for a long time," Trump told the three co-hosts in an interview in February. "Remember those call-ins, right?"
"For years," Doocy replied.
"Maybe without those call-ins," Trump said, "somebody else is sitting here."
TM & © 2017 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.