President Donald Trump is far from thrilled about the fact his favorite television station broadcast a Bernie Sanders town hall on Monday evening — one in which Sanders repeatedly laid into him and called him “dangerous.”
On Tuesday morning, Trump — who regularly live-tweets Fox News shows, programming that almost always covers him favorably — bemoaned the Fox News event featuring one of the 2020 Democratic frontrunners, and notably used the pronoun “we” while decrying the network’s recent move to hire former Democratic National Committee chair Donna Brazile as a contributor.
“So weird to watch Crazy Bernie on @FoxNews,” Trump tweeted. “Not surprisingly, @BretBaier and the ‘audience’ was so smiley and nice. Very strange, and now we have @donnabrazile?”
While it’s unclear exactly what Trump meant with his use of “we,” the pronoun aptly characterizes the symbiotic relationship he enjoys with a cable network that since his inauguration has veered ever closer to serving as a form of state TV for his administration.
Trump promotes Fox News, and network personalities (with some exceptions, including most notably Shep Smith) defend him. But that dynamic was interrupted on Monday evening by Sanders, who is starkly opposed to Trump across a range of policy issues, but whose white working-class base overlaps with the Trump fans who make up Fox News’ core audience these days.
But despite what Trump would have you believe, Baier was not particularly “nice” to Sanders. As my colleague Dara Lind explained:
Baier and MacCallum’s questions were often rooted in the conservative assumptions that a stereotypical Fox News viewer might have: that cutting the defense budget would “send a message” to other countries that the United States is weak, or that migrant asylum seekers “have to go somewhere” because there’s no room for them in border communities (and therefore, implicitly, that they should go to sanctuary cities). Sometimes, Sanders simply dodged them without any newsworthy gaffes or saying anything that Democratic primary voters might disagree with.
Though the first questioner was a student organizer with the conservative youth organization Turning Point USA, most of the audience was on Sanders’s side. By the end of the hour-long town hall, Baier and MacCallum were getting booed.
Sanders didn’t hold back on Trump
During the town hall, Sanders characterized Trump as a “pathological liar,” noting that “Trump cannot even tell the truth as to where his father was born.” He called on Trump to release his tax returns and blasted the tax cuts bill he championed through Congress as a “bad idea” because the vast majority of the benefits went to “the top 1 percent.”
Perhaps the most memorable moment of the town hall came when Baier polled the audience about how many of them would be willing to switch to Medicare-for-all — a health care plan Sanders champions but that Trump has attacked because it would result in Americans losing “their beloved private health insurance.”
Suffice it to say, the way the poll turned out didn’t reflect well on Trump’s health care messaging — messaging that already cost his party dearly in last year’s midterm elections.
Trump was clearly bothered to see scenes of that sort on a network that reliably defends him and amplifies his talking points, even if the network did revert to attacking Sanders immediately after the town hall ended.