Ron DeSantis and Fox News, Old Friends, Hit Turbulence


When the Fox News host Laura Ingraham urged Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida “to step aside and endorse Trump” on Tuesday night, it was the latest sign of a sharp deterioration of relations between the Republican presidential hopeful and the network that made him a star.

Ms. Ingraham’s exhortation, in the wake of Mr. DeSantis’s second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, was met with mockery and derision by two of the governor’s most prominent aides.

“Why would DeSantis take advice from the opposing campaign?” Christina Pushaw, the campaign’s rapid response director, wrote on X, to which Mr. DeSantis’s spokesman in the governor’s office, Jeremy Redfern, chimed in.

“The Fox News PAC,” he wrote.

It was the latest broadside from Mr. DeSantis’s inner circle against the cable network that until recently had been among the loudest advocates of his candidacy.

But Mr. DeSantis lashed out last week, accusing Fox News of bias toward his rival, former President Donald J. Trump. Speaking to reporters in Iowa, Mr. DeSantis said that conservative media outlets, including Fox, had acted as “a Praetorian Guard” for Mr. Trump. “They just don’t hold him accountable because they’re worried about losing viewers,” Mr. DeSantis said, “and they don’t want to have the ratings go down.”

The governor’s campaign manager denounced Fox as “full blown Trump TV, honesty thrown to the wind.” On caucus night, Ms. Pushaw assailed Fox News for projecting a victory for Mr. Trump only a half-hour after Iowans began to caucus. “Corporate media election interference,” she wrote on X.

Mr. DeSantis’s campaign and Fox News declined to comment.

Despite the apparent ill feelings toward Fox from some of his aides, the candidate has continued to appear on the network. On the day of his “Praetorian Guard” remarks, he appeared on Ms. Ingraham’s show. He later sat for interviews with “Fox News Sunday” and Monday’s edition of “Fox & Friends.” He taped an informal interview on Wednesday with a Fox correspondent, Alexis McAdams, in New Hampshire, and he is scheduled to appear on Neil Cavuto’s program on Friday.

Still, the dynamic is a far cry from the days when Mr. DeSantis relied on admiring coverage from the channel, tossing a softball in Florida with Brian Kilmeade and promoting his memoir in prime-time with numerous hosts, including Ms. Ingraham. At the same time, he shunned CNN and the major broadcast networks.

On Thursday, as he fought to salvage his candidacy heading into the New Hampshire primary, Mr. DeSantis openly regretted that early media strategy, saying he should have tried to engage with news outlets beyond Fox News.

“I should have just been blanketing, I should have gone on all the corporate shows, I should have gone on everything,” he told the radio host Hugh Hewitt. “We had an opportunity, I think, to come out of the gate and do that and reach a much broader folk.”

Mr. DeSantis had given the cold shoulder to much of Florida’s local press on his way to becoming a popular governor in the state. But political experts had long warned that a presidential race, particularly against a rival as well-known as Mr. Trump, could require a wider aperture.

“The DeSantis campaign should be studied by future presidential campaigns as a ‘how not to’ of press relations,” said Lis Smith, a Democratic strategist who oversaw Pete Buttigieg’s victory in Iowa four years ago. “His needlessly antagonistic posture toward the press amplified his weaknesses as a candidate.”

“He was given no grace,” Ms. Smith added. “By the time he changed strategy, it was too late.”

In planning his run, Mr. DeSantis may have also miscalculated the staying power of Mr. Trump with the Republican electorate.

At the time, the governor was enjoying hours of Fox News coverage, while Mr. Trump had been virtually banished from the network, an absence that lasted from November 2022 to March 2023. A series of criminal indictments thrust Mr. Trump back into the headlines and helped revive his popularity within the Republican Party.

Mr. DeSantis was still featured on Fox News, including a one-on-one debate with Gov. Gavin Newsom of California in November that drew an impressive 5.4 million viewers. But by the time the caucuses rolled around, Mr. Trump was again a regular presence on the channel. When the network hosted Mr. DeSantis for a live town-hall-style event in Iowa last week, it aired at 6 p.m.

Mr. Trump’s town hall, per conditions stipulated by the Trump campaign, received star billing at 9 p.m. in prime-time, opposite a CNN debate in which Mr. DeSantis was participating.





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