EDITORIAL: The Fox guarding  the White House

York Dispatch Editorial Board
FILE - In this March 4, 2016, file photo, Sean Hannity of Fox News appears at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Md. A decision by coffee maker manufacturer Keurig announced on Nov. 11, 2017, to stop advertising on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program has supporters of the conservative host destroying the company’s products. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

President Donald Trump and his water carriers at Fox News engaged in a bit of a public spat last week.

It was about as hard-hitting as a preschool game of tag. And it won’t last; the attention-starved president and the ratings-chasing channel need each other too much.

But it should serve as a reminder to fans of both the network and the nation’s leader that the former is little more than a communications arm of the latter.

That’s certainly how Trump views things.

After all, his administration has hired more than a dozen former or current Fox News employees. And the president regularly promotes or compliments Fox segments on his Twitter account.

In fact, such is the president’s proprietary posture toward the network that it took little more than Fox interviewing a Democrat on-air for the president to launch into meltdown mode, again on Twitter.

“Just watched Fox News heavily promoting the Democrats through their DNC Communications Director, spewing out whatever she wanted with zero pushback by anchor, Sandra Smith. The New Fox News is letting millions of GREAT people down! We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us any more!”

Where to start?

The president’s obligatory claims that he “just watched” or “happened to see” something on television — in one case he claimed he “got to see, by accident” comedian Bill Maher’s show — are as entertaining as they are unconvincing. This president spends precious little time not in front of the small screen — except when he’s in front of an even smaller screen, his cellphone, sending out Twitter messages about what he’s watching.

The president is a master of — or, more accurately, a slave to — projection, the defense mechanism of attributing to others one’s own deficiencies. “Spewing out whatever she wanted with zero pushback” is exactly what Trump does on his frequent Fox appearances. His distaste for pushback, and Fox’s disinclination to provide it, are why the president has appeared on the station more than 60 times (compared to five times each on CBS and ABC, seven times on either NBC or CNBC, and zero on CNN).

But it’s Trump’s declaration that “Fox isn’t working for us any more (sic)” that really pulls the curtain back on the network’s compliant relationship with the administration.

So brazen and patronizing was the statement that a couple of the network’s broadcasters — evincing decidedly un-Foxlike shreds of journalistic integrity — were rightfully embarrassed by it.

Brit Hume and Neil Cavuto responded almost in unison with variations of “we don’t work for you.”

They may believe that’s true — at least on the news side of things. But the stable of opinion hosts, the Sean Hannitys and Jeanine Pirros and morning Friends, they work very hard for the president. Thus, so does the network.

It’s more or less an open secret, which is why the president believes the network shouldn’t waste time talking to — gasp! — Democrats; it should be promoting his presidency.

Plenty of its viewers likely feel the same way. Who can blame then after the past three years, in which Hannity has advised, traveled with, and even campaigned for the president; in which the White House promised to “look into” the network’s decision to stop broadcasting Trump rallies live and in their entirety; in which the network gleefully parrots Trump storylines like the hoax about a migrant caravan?

“Fox News isn’t supposed to work for you,” Hume fumed onTwitter. No, it’s not supposed to. But it does.

Which makes the president’s advice that viewers should “start looking for a new News Outlet” exactly right. Just not for the reason he thinks.