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Wed Jan 20, 2021, 05:36 AM

The end of the Trump-Fox feedback loop

Early in his administration, it seemed novel but almost frivolous to reveal the source of the president’s tweets. The Fox-Trump feedback loop explained that Trump fixations like NFL players who protest racism and seemingly random presidential statements about topics like his administration’s aviation record resulted not from madness or strategy, but from his inability to stop posting about what he was watching. It was unnerving that the president preferred to learn about the world through the lens of right-wing propaganda, and it was troubling how quickly his tweets could upend the news cycle, though his habits didn’t necessarily seem dangerous.

But as Trump’s presidency continued, this dynamic between the president and his preferred network began playing a major role in federal policy. Fox News personalities and guests became aware of the power their shows had over the president and tried to leverage it, with some success.

That pattern reached a crescendo in 2020, with deadly results. Fox News’ coverage consistently downplayed the danger posed by the coronavirus pandemic, and Trump was watching. He sent live tweets of Fox News segments promoting the use of untested antimalarial drugs as possible “game changers” for COVID-19 treatment; claiming that social distancing measures would be more damaging than the virus; and endorsing anti-social-distancing protests. And he warped the federal response to match the network’s take, even putting the radiologist Dr. Scott Atlas on the White House coronavirus task force because he liked Atlas’ Fox News appearances promoting a minimalist response to the pandemic. Fox’s coverage got Americans killed specifically because the president was watching the network, taking notes, and tweeting out his thoughts.

His removal is already improving the information ecosystem. Online misinformation about election fraud plummeted by 73% after social media companies banned Trump and some of his key allies, Zignal Labs reported. Notably, without access to Twitter, the president was unable to promote Fox reports that fueled his apparent belief that antifa was behind the Capitol riot.


“The president’s TV addiction inspired at least 1,375 tweets dating back to September 1, 2018. The vast majority came in response to his favorite programs on the pro-Trump Fox News and Fox Business networks.”

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