As CEO, Scott was tasked with navigating the fallout at the network from the #MeToo movement, which swept up some of Fox’s most public-facing figures. Now she finds herself confronting periodic calls for advertiser boycotts because of commentators’ frequently inflammatory rhetoric. “She’s more concerned about monitoring outside critiques than Ailes was,” the person who has spoken with Scott said. Recent decisions, such as hiring Brazile and hosting town halls with Democratic presidential candidates, are in part Scott’s response “to the trauma from the #MeToo stuff,” this person continued. “She’s just trying to do stuff to make it a modern workplace.”
Still, these changes don’t mean that Fox is undertaking a wholesale reinvention or scrubbing the basic formula that first magnetized its conservative Republican viewers. This obvious truth prompts some within Fox to wave off Trump’s criticisms as disingenuous, if not whiny. “Mr. President, we’re giving you a fair shake! Fucking take it!” the second Fox employee told us. “Suzanne is … bringing in new voices and diversifying Fox, and if you’re Donald Trump, you no-likey. He’s like, What am I seeing here? This looks more like CNN. It’s not! It’s nowhere close to CNN!”
Indeed, while the network employs some well-respected reporters, its identity is rooted in the commentary coming from its star opinionators. Carl Cameron, a former chief political correspondent at Fox who left the network in 2017 after more than 20 years, told us: “The opinion makers, the entertainment side of Fox News is absolutely promoting [Trump]. They are defending him, they are buying into his nonsense, and when it’s just too ridiculous to even untangle and make sense of it, they simply ignore it.”
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For Trump, Scott’s ascension may have been unwelcome. Trump thought enough of Bill Shine, a former senior network executive, that the president hired him to run the White House communications shop in 2018. (Shine has been accused in civil lawsuits of helping to cover up for Ailes. He has denied those allegations, and has not been accused of sexual harassment himself. He resigned from the White House in March, after about eight months on the job.) After Ailes left the network, he helped Trump prepare for the 2016 presidential debates with Hillary Clinton. (Ailes died the next year.)
Those allies long gone, Trump’s now got Scott, whose politics are a mystery even to some of the people working for her. “In private,” however, “she has said she’s horrified by some of the things that he says and does,” the second Fox News employee told us.
At this point, the president is likely the one with more to lose. As Trumpworld sees it, Fox is an essential corrective to a cable-news ecosystem that masquerades as objective while plotting to sink his presidency. He needs Fox to counter the media criticism coming his way, and if the network wobbles, it’s trouble. Trump barely won in 2016, and any defections inside his base could potentially doom his prospects.