It’s easy to ridicule “Fox & Friends” for its unabashed crush on President Donald Trump. But to a significant portion of the American TV audience, the Fox News show is the best part of waking up, as stimulating as a Venti-sized order at Starbucks — and healthier.
Its America-is-great-again formula attracts roughly 1.5 million viewers a day, a 25 percent jump since 2016 and more than any of its cable competitors. And while that number pales in comparison with the network morning shows — ABC’s “Good Morning America” averaged more than 4.1 million viewers the last week of April — it’s impressive enough to merit a closer look.
I spent four mornings watching Fox News’ three-hour block with occasional peeks at “GMA,” NBC’s “Today” and CNN’s “New Day.” The takeaway: Fox knows exactly what it’s doing and is darn good at it.
The show’s A-team, Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade, broadcasts from a tidy but modest Manhattan studio — think Martha Stewart, decorating with furniture exclusively from Target — without the big-name guests or fanfare that the network operations rely on.
The few spectators who show up for outdoor segments look like they’re just waiting for the waffle taco food truck. Fox News has a full battery of journalists around the world, but they don’t get much airtime. By comparison, “New Day” invites so many reporters into its studio that CNN producers should get a stern warning from the fire marshal.
“F&F” doesn’t distract from its hosts’ mission: to assure loyal fans that the world is in fine shape and would be even better if the mainstream media would stop picking on the president.
They scolded ABC and NBC for not giving enough airtime to the recent arrests of top ISIS officials and expressed dismay that other channels focused less on the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem than on the deaths of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza Strip. (“Media paints Israel as aggressor, not Hamas,” read an on-screen headline Wednesday.)
When Doocy pointed out that the Newspaper of Record had written about Trump as a Nobel Peace Prize contender, he didn’t hide his enthusiasm. “I’m sure a number of New York Times readers were choking on their Cheerios,” he said.
Comedians are also frequent targets. The show lambasted “The View” moderator Whoopi Goldberg twice, once for suggesting that the president subject himself to torture, another time for criticizing a Fox News contributor during a debate on immigration. Jimmy Kimmel got taken to the woodshed for referencing a nun’s outfit in a bit poking fun at the Met Gala’s Catholic-church theme.
“F&F’s” idea of laughs is Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, who tickled them pink with a politically incorrect campaign ad starring a deportation truck.
At least Kemp is a newsmaker. Fox’s competition seems more interested in throwing a killer brunch than in dissecting the headlines. “GMA” and “Today” both kicked off their summer concert series, celebrations that filled nearly a fourth of their broadcasts. “Today” was so ga-ga over the royal wedding, you’d think the bride-to-be was Hoda Kotb.
“F&F” doesn’t have time for such nonsense. There’s a glaring absence of Hollywood headlines and cooking segments. Not that the show covers all the news. If it mentioned Stormy Daniels in the past week, I missed it.
While the hosts seem mainly interested in furthering their political agenda, Earhardt did a decent job of pressing White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on White House leaks and why an aide hadn’t publicly apologized for a withering aside about Sen. John McCain’s health. The show also allowed guest Jeff Weaver, former campaign manager for Bernie Sanders, to take a few potshots at the commander in chief.
More typical, though, is the way Kilmeade “grilled” Fox contributor Alan Dershowitz about Ivanka Trump’s facial expressions at the embassy opening.
“I find it unthinkable and distasteful that they think Ivanka can’t smile at this historic event when you’re representing America,” he said, patiently waiting for the attorney to agree with him.
Of course, this is just the way the show’s most important viewer prefers it. Trump, who dedicated nearly a half-hour this month to a live phone interview with “Fox and Friends,” seems to wake up every morning believing he’s the most beloved figure in American history.
Spending some time with “Fox & Friends” helps explain why.