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President Donald Trump returned to familiar territory by granting an interview Thursday to Laura Ingraham of Fox News Channel, by far his venue of choice to answer questions one-on-one.
It makes 20 interviews that he’s given to Fox as president, including three to the Fox Business Network and one to Fox Radio. It’s more than double the number of interviews he’s given to all other television networks combined, said Mark Knoller, CBS Radio White House correspondent, the press room’s unofficial record-keeper. NBC News, with three, is the next closest network. CNN, a frequent target of the president’s ire, has had none.
Trump used the session with Ingraham to plug the Republican tax reform plan, introduced earlier Thursday, saying he’s “never really seen anything quite like” the reception the plan has received.
The president also criticized the visa lottery program used by the New York City truck attack suspect to enter the U.S. in 2010, saying countries “are not putting their best and their greatest” into the program. Earlier in the week, Trump called on Congress to terminate the program, which allows individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. a chance at entry. “It’s going to end, and it’s going to end fast,” Trump told Ingraham, saying he had “already instructed” Congress to eliminate it.
Trump, who departs Friday on a 12-day visit to Asia, held open the door to a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the trip. “We may have a meeting,” he said.
When asked about State Department vacancies and if he is worried there aren’t enough Trump nominees to push his vision through, the president replied, “Let me tell you, the one that matters is me. I’m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that’s what the policy is going to be. You’ve seen that, you’ve seen it strongly.”
Trump, as a former reality TV star, knows promotion: it’s Ingraham’s first week on the air with a new prime-time show, The Ingraham Angle, and Fox is looking to make a ratings splash.
With Fox, Trump generally stays in friendly territory, speaking on opinion shows that consistently back him, and to hosts like Sean Hannity, Jesse Watters and Lou Dobbs. Fox journalists Bret Baier, Shepard Smith and Chris Wallace haven’t talked to him as president.
“He’s president of the United States,” said Frank Sesno, a former CNN bureau chief and now a professor at George Washington University. “He should be wanting to talk to different constituencies and different demographics and not just the base. “It’s also important that the president of the United States understand that part of his job includes being challenged and not always being on friendly territory,” he said. “That’s called accountability.”
Christopher Ruddy, CEO of the conservative Newsmax Media and a confidant of Trump’s said the president is under siege by the media. “He sees them as hostile and they are,” he said. “He is the type of guy that likes to support media that’s either friendly or fair so it’s no surprise he goes on Fox a lot,” Ruddy said. “I have encouraged him to reach out to media that might offer the possibility of being fair. I think some of the shows on CNN make an effort to get both sides, for example.”
Ruddy said he believed Hillary Clinton and Democrats unwisely failed to engage with media outlets that appealed to Republicans, like Fox News or Newsmax. Many independent-minded people seek out alternative media, “and if you’re just talking to your base all the time that’s a bad thing.” He said, “The Democrats made that mistake first and I hope the president doesn’t fall into the same trap.”
Trump has given 66 interviews since he’s been president, compared to the 132 that Barack Obama did at the same point in his presidency, Knoller said. His conversation with Maggie Haberman of The New York Times this week made it five interviews he’s done with the Times, more than any print outlet. The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press and Breitbart News have all had one.
Trump spoke to Lesley Stahl of CBS’ 60 Minutes the day after he was elected president last year. The newsmagazine had hoped to open its fall season with Trump but that interview didn’t happen.
Obama did so many interviews with that show that it raised expectations, Jeff Fager, the show’s executive producer, told Brian Stelter of CNN’s Reliable Sources. He said he didn’t believe Trump was ducking television’s top-ranked news show. “At some point they’re going to want to do and need to do a mainstream interview,” he said.
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