President Donald Trump, an avid consumer of media, has been known to alternatively heap praise and vitriol on television news networks as he sees fit. During a joint press conference with Finland’s president Monday, Trump went out of his way to say nice things about One America News Network, a right-skewing television network that has been referred to as a “Fox wannabe.”
After answering the first part of a question from OAN’s 23-year-old White House correspondent, Trey Yingst, Trump added, “And, I want to congratulate you on the network. It’s a great network.”
That bit of praise struck some in the media as odd, but not Charles Herring, the president of OAN parent company Herring Broadcasting. Trump, he said, has been an OAN supporter since before he entered the White House.
“The president’s buildings in New York have Verizon FiOS TV, and we learned that the president and his family are avid viewers of our network,” Herring said in an email to The Hollywood Reporter. “I believe that the president respects professional journalism. A fair but tough question asked in a respectful manner always seems gets a thorough response by the president.”
However, according to Herring, OAN “has no special access to White House staff.” The network is proud of Yingst, who has been the subject of sympathetic profiles and is known as a tough questioner in the briefing room. Yingst asked Trump about FEMA funding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and asked a follow-up question about the president’s desire to build a wall to stem illegal immigration from Mexico.
“He’s been a very good presence in the WH press corps from everything I can tell,” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes wrote on Twitter about Yingst.
Asked if Trump’s compliment Monday might be part of an effort to get Yingst to be more sympathetic to the White House, Herring demurred. “I don’t believe that the president is looking for or would respect ‘soft’ questions,” he said. “I’ve noted that the president will fully engage in a tough but fair line of questioning. Perhaps it gives the president an opportunity to tackle the toughest counterarguments to policy questions and explain his point of view.”