FRESH AIR: CNN correspondent Brian Stelter says President Trump’s “cozy” relationship with Fox News is “like nothing we’ve seen in American history.” In his new book, Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth, Stelter describes the president as a “shadow producer” to Fox News host Sean Hannity — who, in turn, acts as a “shadow chief of staff” for Trump.
“This is a relationship that is extraordinary, because Trump shapes Hannity’s show [and] Hannity advises the president on policy and personnel,” Stelter says. “And then at 9 o’clock sharp, the president is watching Hannity deliver the talking points that they have already discussed.”
But Stelter notes that Trump’s close relationship with Fox News goes beyond Hannity. “Fox is Trump’s safe space. It’s where he’s not going to be humiliated, where he’s not going to hear uncomfortable truths,” Stelter says. “There’s just no example of this kind of alliance between a president and a media outlet ever before.”
Stelter adds that Trump’s reliance on Fox News has created a dangerous feedback loop — especially with regard to COVID-19. “When the virus was silently spreading in the United States in February and early March, some of his biggest stars [on Fox News] downplayed the threat, almost edged into denialism,” he says. “And the biggest problem about that is that Trump heard it. He echoed it. They echoed Trump back. So we’re into this grotesque feedback loop where they’re telling each other it’s going to be OK, and they are lulling the president into a false sense of security about the virus.” MORE
FRESH AIR: It’s impossible to understand the Trump era, with its unparalleled polarization, without tracing Stephen Miller’s journey to the White House. That’s what my guest, Jean Guerrero, writes in her new book, “Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, And The White Nationalist Agenda.” She describes Miller as the architect of Trump’s border and immigration policies, helping Trump, quote, “conjure an invasion of animals to come steal American jobs and spill American blood,” unquote. She describes the ideological arc of Miller’s life and investigates his ties to right-wing mentors and far-right groups. She adds, many are baffled at how someone so young with so little policy or legal expertise gained so much power, outlasting and overtaking his mentor, Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist. Her book helps show how he did it.
Guerrero is an investigative reporter who formerly was with KPBS, the radio and TV station in San Diego. She previously covered Mexico and Central America for The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. She’s the author of a previous book called “Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir” about growing up with a Mexican father and Puerto Rican mother.
Jean Guerrero, welcome to FRESH AIR. Let’s talk about the arc of Stephen Miller’s ideology. He was anti-immigration in high school, and you describe him as growing up in California at a time when there was a strong anti-immigration movement. What are some of the things in his world, in his personal life that you think helped lead to his extreme views on immigration? MORE