Trump turns on Fox News over 2020 coverage: 'What's going on there?'

Adam Gabbatt in Montoursville, Pennsylvania

Anyone watching Donald Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania on Monday would have been introduced to an unlikely new attack figure for the president: Fox News.

The rightwing cable network is a well-known Trump cheerleader. Literally: in November Fox News host Sean Hannity appeared with Trump at a campaign rally. But on Monday night, under an azure Keystone state sky, Trump was not happy.

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“What’s going on with Fox by the way? What’s going on there?” Trump asked his supporters in Montoursville, northern Pennsylvania.

“Someone’s going to have to explain the whole Fox deal to me.”

Some of the crowd booed, a sort of Pavlovian response to Trump criticizing something or someone. But others looked confused. Could Trump really be attacking Fox News?

He was. Specifically it was the appearance of Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg on the channel that had upset Trump.

“They’re putting more Democrats on than you have Republicans. Something strange is going on at Fox. Something very strange,” Trump said.

“Did you see this guy last night? I didn’t want to watch it. You always have to watch the competition, if you call it that. And he was knocking the hell out of Fox.”

It was jarring to anyone who has witnessed the obsequiousness that is Fox & Friends, the Fox News morning show where the hosts seem to wake up each morning amazed anew that it was possible for such a glorious man as Trump to exist. (Even the recent revelation that Trump’s business empire had managed to lose more than $1bn over a 10-year period from 1985, as revealed by the New York Times, was described as “pretty impressive” by one host.)

But the truth is Trump has been souring on Fox News – Fox & Friends and other sycophants such as Hannity and Laura Ingraham aside – for some time. Trump had already tweeted his displeasure at Buttigieg on Sunday, after the Democrat drew applause at the town hall for saying he wanted to abolish the electoral college, and criticized Tucker Carlson and Ingraham.

Back in February Trump criticized Fox News’ White House correspondents as having “even less understanding of the Wall negotiations than the folks at FAKE NEWS CNN & NBC”. In March he kicked up a stink after Jeanine Pirro was dropped from the network for viciously criticizing Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and in April Trump seemed to suggest Fox News had barred his supporters from a Bernie Sanders town hall.

As ever, it’s unclear how long Trump’s focus will remain on Fox News. But at least, amid this new found animosity, there’s one show that has been remained safe: Fox & Friends.

The morning after Trump had assailed Fox News on Twitter, Fox & Friends were right there in lockstep with the president, hitting out at Buttigieg for his appearance on their network.

“Don’t hop on our channel and continue to put down the other hosts on the channel or the channel. If you feel that negative about it don’t come,” said Brian Kilmeade.

“For him to go out there and take shots on our primetime lineup, without going on our primetime lineup, shows to me absolutely no courage.”