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Cable news booking is a competitive business, and a new tranche of emails obtained from the Trump Treasury Department by way of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit illustrates how this pressure can even pit a network’s shows against each other.
In April 2017, a producer for Lou Dobbs’ Fox Business Network program played up the show’s ratings advantage over Maria Bartiromo’s morning show when trying to land an interview with Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin. “Secretary Mnuchin next week you think?” the producer said in an email to Mnuchin’s spokesperson. “He is doing Maria Bartiromo you know — much lower ratings than us and I say this in an endearing way.”
The producer also played up Dobbs’ popularity among supporters of the president, writing: “I just want to make sure he is reaching ALL of the commuters from the Trump train! :)”
A month later, then-Treasury spokesperson Tony Sayegh assured the Fox Business Network producer: “You guys are next!!!!! we love LOU!!!!”
Then, in June 2017, the producer wrote back: “My dearest Tony! I see [Mnuchin] is doing Varney tomorrow. I am hurt! I really really need him for Lou.” She then added, “Thank God, I just asked someone from [Stuart Varney’s show] and they said he won’t be doing their show. That’s great news.”
A few months later, a different Fox Business Network producer requested that Mnuchin appear on Bartiromo’s show. During a discussion of when to schedule the interview, the producer said: “As long as he is NOT on CNBC or another FBN program, please.”
In the fall of 2017, a planned interview with Mnuchin on anchor Bret Baier’s weekday Fox News show was scrapped after his production team learned that Mnuchin would also appear two days earlier on Chris Wallace’s Sunday morning show. “We would really like to have some sort of exclusivity with our interview,” Baier’s booker wrote.
After Sayegh apologized for the double booking and said that he “didn’t realize a Sunday show would trigger this,” Baier weighed in directly. Baier, one of the network’s biggest news personalities, wrote: “Ok — we assumed you knew that a major Sunday show interview (or two) two days before a sit down with me would take a little of the stream off of the booking. We would love to have the Secretary on…but maybe later in September now.”
As a make-good, Sayegh suggested then-Small Business Administration administrator Linda McMahon as a replacement guest, to which Baier seemed amenable. “Would love to have her,” he wrote.
A few days later, Baier wrote to Sayegh: “Any chance we can lock in an interview with the Secretary Friday? I know you all are doing Maria tomorrow morning.”
The emails, which were obtained by the nonprofit advocacy group Democracy Forward and provided exclusively to The Hollywood Reporter, also show that Baier enlisted his staff and personally intervened to help book a tour of a government building for a family friend and members of the Baier family.
A producer for Baier’s show asked the Treasury Department spokesperson for the favor Oct. 18, 2017, two days before the requested tour of the U.S. Mint.
“If it doesn’t work — don’t worry about it,” Baier wrote to Sayegh. “Meant to request last week. Don’t spend too much time on it. If you can point us to someone — and it’s easy — great. If not — no worries. Thanks.”
Sayegh conveyed the request to a member of his staff, writing in an email: “Bret Baier is asking to help him get his friends and family a Mint tour tomorrow. Who can help us do that?”
The tour, of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, was quickly booked. “Thank you very much for the help,” Baier wrote to Sayegh. “All lined up for tomorrow. I appreciate it.”
Previously, THR reported that emails between the Fox News Media networks and top Treasury Department officials “paint a picture of a close, friendly bond.”
In a newly obtained email from the fall of 2017, a booker for Dana Perino’s weekday news show on Fox News asked a Treasury Department spokesperson to keep her posted on agency developments and asked her to reach out if there is a new policy proposal that Mnuchin “would care to promote” on Perino’s new show.
The Treasury spokesperson responded warmly. “I’m a big Dana fan,” she wrote back. “Please tell her I said hello!”
Fox News Channel did not comment on the new batch of emails and revelations.
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