'Fox & Friends' savors head pat from the newspaper it loves to hate

"Fox & Friends," which relishes deriding the allegedly wayward liberal "mainstream media," bathed in the adulation of The New York Times on Thursday.

We all take compliments from where we can and, at 8:08 a.m., the three co-hosts of President Trump's favorite morning show held aloft the financial section back page of The Times, exhibiting a full-page Fox ad that quoted a Times review citing the show as "the most powerful TV show in America."

Yes, there it was: Fox enriching the coffers of The Times by heralding praise from a media bete noir of its political hero, President Trump.

"They call us the most powerful TV show in America and, for that, we agree," said co-host Steve Doocy.

But even as Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade thanked viewers, they couldn't resist exhibiting a sense of grievance.

Citing the show's No. 1 status throughout the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidencies, Kilmeade groused, "Why can't the New York Times actually write the story of the continuing success of 'Fox & Friends?'"

Why could it note how the show's popularity has "lasted through yet another administration? Why don't they pull up on that theme for a second? 'Cause that seems what the journalists might want to pursue," he concluded, raising two fingers on each hand to signal fake quotes on the word "journalists."

So TV's characteristic overweening self-regard succumbed to a minimum of magnanimity.

It all stems from Times TV critic James Poniewozik’s declaration that "Suddenly, for no other reason than its No. 1 fan, it is the most powerful TV show in America. (It’s also easily the most-watched cable news morning show, averaging 1.6 million viewers in the year’s second quarter, following a post-Trump ratings boost.)"

Of course, the notion of power is subject to debate.

For example, if Trump — or any other elected official, celebrity, wrongly-imprisoned inmate, you name it — had the choice of TV venue, say, between "Fox & Friends" and CBS' "60 Minutes," with the Sunday evening stalwart's average audience more than five times larger than the right-leaning morning show, would they mull the alternatives for more than two seconds?

Of course, they would not. But it was a good day, for sure, for "Fox & Friends," all the better as Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway surfaced from the North Lawn of the White House.

She preached to a choir as they berated anti-Trump leaks from the White House, leaving no doubt that some unidentified senior aides, perhaps including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, are to blame.

"There are leaks and then there are people using the press to shiv each other in the ribs. That's different than a leak," she said in a declaration that might have some media and politics observers a bit confused.

"A leak is 'did you see the memo Kellyanne put out?' 'Did you hear what Jared Kushner said in his senior staff meeting?' That's a classic leak."

Who's to blame? "People currying favor with the press, getting their own positive coverage, by hurting their colleagues. That's a complete disservice to the president."

It's an old Washington dynamic, a very old story, a set of frustrations that binds successive administrations. And with a chief executive as mercurial as Conway's boss, there's little reason to believe there will be a cessation.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.

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