The most pro-Trump cable-news outlet was helped in its founding by none other than Donald Trump himself.
Even more than its sister network Fox News, the Fox Business Network is often President Trump’s fiercest ally for his agenda, often echoing his conspiratorial thinking. The network’s top-rated host, Lou Dobbs, was the most prominent media personality to repeat the president’s suggestion that the pipe bombs sent to various Trump critics last month were a hoax.
Prior to the Fox Business Network’s debut in 2007, late right-wing cable-news chief Roger Ailes consulted with then-reality-TV star Trump on how it should look and feel, according to former Fox executives. The two maintained their relationship well into the 2016 campaign, during which the disgraced and ousted Fox News chief briefly advised Trump, the executives and a source close to Trump said.
As longtime friends, Ailes and Trump spoke often, and during this period a frequent topic of conversation was the Fox CEO’s plans for the business network, which sought to rival CNBC, which Ailes had revamped as its president in the early 1990s.
Trump was patched into conference calls to discuss how Fox Business should take shape, what it should focus on, and what top talent should be given marquee treatment, the former executives said.
According to one source, Trump advised Ailes to angle the network more toward news, entertainment, and politics instead of only business coverage. It was Trump’s decade-old vision for Fox Business that would, especially during the Trump presidency, become reality.
In fact, Ailes relied on Trump’s opinions so much that he even discussed offering the future president a show on the network “to generate buzz,” said a source familiar with the conversations. At the time, Trump was the host of The Apprentice, arguably America’s most popular business-themed reality-TV series.
Those discussions, however, didn’t go very far and a show ultimately never came to fruition. Instead, Trump began appearing on the network as a lauded guest. Ivanka Trump appeared on the network’s first day of programming, and she and her husband, Jared Kushner, attended the launch party.
Eventually, sources said, the Trump patriarch instead opted for the “bigger stage” of a weekly Fox & Friends morning hit on Fox News, which he ceased doing as he launched his 2016 presidential bid. Fox & Friends remains one of his all-time favorite shows, and one that became one of the single most influential programs on the face of the planet now that Trump regularly watches and tweets based off what the program covers.
And according to those present at the Fox News sister channel’s creation, it was a business-centric network that Ailes wasn’t even all that into.
Eric Bolling, a former Fox Business and Fox News host and a friend of Trump’s, told The Daily Beast on Monday that “I’d spoken to Roger Ailes on many occasions about the business network [and] he said he never really believed that the business news pie would be big enough to justify three networks [including competitors CNBC and Bloomberg]… But he said ‘the boss,’ Rupert Murdoch, demanded it.”
Bolling said he does not recall Trump’s informal involvement with Murdoch and Ailes in creating Fox Business. However, he added, “I don’t think it’s a secret to say what people in the building were calling it at the time. They called it ‘Fox News Lite’… And they kinda proved Roger wrong… The brand is strong enough after all these years.”
One of the reasons Fox Business has endured in political relevance is that the most powerful person in the world agrees with that sentiment.
In the West Wing, Trump is still a frequent consumer of the Fox Business Network, former and current White House aides say, and is particularly taken by shows hosted by Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo. The president cites and praises both Fox Business stars regularly within the halls of the White House, both in official meetings and in casual conversations.
Dobbs, for instance, continues to be a close friend and confidant of the president. Trump has put the Fox Business prime-time star on speaker-phone during multiple Oval Office meetings so that Dobbs can offer his thoughts on policy and politics, as The Daily Beast previously reported.
In at least one meeting, Trump would cut off other senior administration officials in the room so that his informal presidential adviser “Lou” could speak.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on this story. In a statement, FBN President Brian Jones said: “Fox Business Network never relied on or consulted with President Donald Trump for any aspect in the channel’s business plan or in the creation of the network. Any suggestion otherwise is a complete lie.”
The Daily Beast, of course, stands by its reporting. None of the sources indicated Jones was privy to the conversations in question, and no one can deny that Trump’s influence has been all over the network.
Even without Trump’s physical presence at the Fox Business Network, the president’s fingerprints are all over the network 11 years later in that the channel has morphed from a right-leaning CNBC competitor into what can often be viewed as an even more fervently pro-Trump outlet than its big sister.
FBN’s ratings growth in recent years has tracked with the ascent of a president to whom the network has devoted hours of unabashedly glowing coverage.
Along with ratings leader Dobbs, Trump-boosting FBN stars like Bartiromo have transformed into unofficial mouthpieces for the White House, often veering into conspiratorial and alt-right-friendly Trump cheerleading.
Prominent hosts like Stuart Varney and Trish Regan, for example, frequently run relatively small business news items that they claim reflect poorly on liberals, the “far-left media,” or academics.
And many of the network’s hosts helpfully assist in spreading the Trump White House’s baseless attacks on his various critics.
In a recent example, Dobbs, Regan, Varney, and others parroted the Trump talking point—based off a doctored InfoWars video—that CNN reporter Jim Acosta “assaulted” or “put his hands on” a White House intern who attempted to grab away his microphone during a heated exchange with the president. Acosta’s supposedly violent behavior, the hosts all suggested, warranted the revoking of his press credentials.
Even after his Fox bosses backed Acosta and the White House somewhat backed off—reinstating the reporter’s press access and hard pass—Dobbs stayed in attack-dog mode, advising Trump through the TV to tell a judge to “go to hell” for ruling in Acosta’s favor.
It epitomizes a very Trumpian arc of recent history, where a decade ago, private citizen Trump was patched in on conference calls to help advise on the development of Fox Business. And now, it’s Fox Business advising President Trump via speakerphone and through the television screen.
Disclosure: Andrew Kirell worked at the Fox Business Network from 2009 to 2012.