How Will Fox News Solve a Problem Like Donald Trump?

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Feeling the Donald Trump overload yet? Well, you’d better get used to it, because there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. Fox News recently began airing commercials to promote “Mondays Mornings With Trump” on Fox & Friends. Viewers will be treated to a full dose of the “bold, brash, and never bashful” businessman as he plays with the idea of running for the Republican presidential nomination.
Trump isn’t the first potential Republican presidential candidate to have a regular gig on Fox. In fact, a significant portion of the possible GOP field has had a working relationship with the network, which has started to cause problems, both for the channel’s reputation, and because of potential legal complications.
Fox recently suspended two of its contributors, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum, for making concrete moves towards a run. At the time, Fox News Vice President Dianne Brandi made it clear that keeping possible candidates on the payroll would be a “clear conflict,” and in a letter to Gingrich obtained by the Daily Beast, explained, “The longer candidates stay in the Fox camp, the longer they can utilize the platform of the country’s top-rated cable news channel—and pad their bank accounts to boot.”
Former governors Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, also possible 2012 candidates, are still on the network’s payroll, however. According to Brandi, that’s because they haven’t shown “serious intention” yet.
According to Mediaite, “The [Trump] ad merely advertises a regular appearance, not a contract.” That could be a bid by Fox to avoid some of the scrutiny and complications that come with having a possible candidate as an employee.
But Trump’s presence poses other issues for Fox News—like his new embrace of Birtherism, the belief that President Obama might not have been born in the U.S. or might not be eligible to hold his office due to his father’s British citizenship. Not so long ago, coming out as a Birther would have meant a death sentence for a mainstream pundit’s career. Lou Dobbs’ questioning of Obama’s legitimacy appeared to be one of the precipitating factors in his breakup with CNN, which he left in November 2009, a few months after then-CNN President Jon Klein publicly shamed him for his credulous coverage of the Birther conspiracy theories.

@adweekemma Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.
Publish date: April 1, 2011 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT