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How Fox & Friends changed Bobby Lewis, the Media Matters writer who helped us through the Trump years
"I think the show kind of pushed me into a bit of a minor depressive episode."
If you were on Twitter at all during the Trump years, you probably came to enjoy Bobby Lewis’s tireless live-tweeting of the show that, more than any other, served as the unofficial mouthpiece of the Trump administration — Fox & Friends.
And, if you’re like me, these days you might be missing having his tweets to help wash down your breakfast.
Lewis, a writer at Media Matters for America, covered Trump’s favorite morning show with humor …
… and a keen eye for a good clip …
… but he’s now moved on to covering material that’s somehow even worse — One America News Network (OAN).
For this edition of Public Notice, I checked in with Lewis to see how he’s doing now that he’s had some time to detox from Fox & Friends. I also reached out to the Daily Show senior producer Matt Negrin to get some perspective on Lewis’s work from someone who relied on it.
“Bobby watched every day for his job, which is honestly insane to watch three hours of Fox & Friends every day,” Negrin said. “And I remember so much his tweets that were like, ‘I'm losing my mind. I just can’t do this,’ and yeah, I don't think I could either.”
Lewis told me that while he of course “never really came to, like, believe any of the nonsense that I was watching,” spending so much time immersed in Fox & Friends legitimately took a toll on his mental health.
“It feels like it like dragged my mental capacities down. I had a harder time explaining concepts, analyzing things, writing out sentences,” he told me. “At first I didn't believe it, but a couple years in I really noticed a difference. And I think the show kind of pushed me into a bit of a minor depressive episode. It’s just so bad.”
Lewis, of course, watched the show because it was his job. But as Negrin pointed out, hundreds of thousands of people watch it in earnest each day.
“If you put yourself in the mind of someone who sits down and watches four to eight hours of Fox News every day for fun or because it's what they believe, it's not hard to see how you’d end up extremely radicalized,” he said.
As I’ve written about in this newsletter, Fox & Friends seems a little less relevant now that Trump is out of power. Instead of having a direct pipeline to the highest echelons of the executive branch, the show is more focused up on ginning up faux outrage and undermining Biden at every turn, including by spreading Covid misinformation.
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Lewis concurs the show isn’t what it was when Trump was live-tweeting every segment.
“Frankly, now that Donald Trump is no longer the president and is basically no longer on social media, he no longer has the power to catapult a Fox & Friends moment into the one thing that everybody in the political world is talking about that day,” he said. “Without the man himself to make that show the thing that everybody is obsessed with, I feel like the show has lost a bit of importance for journalists to keep tabs on it.”
Lewis’s beat switched in March of this year, so he did catch a little of Fox & Friends’ post-Trump era.
"They pretty seamlessly shifted gears into an opposition footing, and I think part of that is attempting to gin up outrage against Biden or Democrats or whoever doesn't like the Republican line,” he said.
But he still tunes back in for the big moments, such as when he came out of Fox & Friends retirement last month to cover Ainsley Earhardt’s unintentionally hilarious comments about the Fox Christmas tree going up in flames having something to do with Hanukkah.
Mostly, however, he doesn’t miss it.
“The things they're saying are so terrible and it's always the same and it was a lot,” Lewis said. “It was a lot.”
While Lewis may no longer be watching Fox & Friends, Media Matters continues to cover it. And Negrin said that mainstream journalists who too often mistake Fox News for journalism would benefit from paying close attention to MMFA’s work, if not watching more Fox News themselves.
“There's a lot of people who know other journalists who go to work for Fox, and they probably lie to themselves — ‘well, they’re the exception, he’s a good guy, he’s one of the good ones.’ But the truth is there’s probably zero good people on Fox at this point,” he said. “This is a full blown propaganda network. If you work there you're part of the problem, and there's no wiggle room there. If the argument is like, ‘oh, they're one of the good ones, they're doing change from within’ — okay, show me where the change is, because nothing is happening here.”
I talked to Lewis the day before DirecTV announced it’s dropping OAN, which could end up being the death knell for the Trumpiest of the Trump propaganda channels. So I circled back with him this week to see if it’s possible he’ll return to the Fox & Friends beat if OAN goes dark.
“I guess we’ll see what happens,” he said.
Count Lewis’s wit as one of many reasons to root for OAN’s demise. And if he does end up on the Fox & Friends beat, buy him a drink if you see him out on the town.
If you watched Fox News on Tuesday, you might’ve come away with the impression that America was just hit by some sort of calamity that has the population on the verge of cannibalism.
Check out these chyrons:
I managed to capture screenshots of a couple of them.
The “apocalyptic hellscapes” bit pertains to thieves in California who have “been raiding cargo containers aboard trains nearing downtown Los Angeles for months, taking packages belonging to people across the US and leaving the tracks blanketed with discarded boxes,” as the Associated Press describes it.
That’s obviously not great. But it’s a pretty big leap from that story to the idea that America is now akin to a scene from Mad Max: Fury Road. Unless, of course, you’re deeply invested in pushing a narrative that President Biden and the Democrats governing blue cities are failing, and doing so under the guise of “reporting” the news.
— As these tweets from MSNBC’s Kyle Griffin indicate, there were big developments late Tuesday in both the New York investigation of the Trump Organization and in the January 6 committee’s investigation of the attack on the Capitol.
— And, finally, the ghoulishness of Laura Ingraham’s show was laid bare Monday night when clapped just before announcing that Gen. Mark Milley, the nation’s top military officer, tested positive for Covid.
Support the troops, indeed.