If you were taking odds on a Fox News host that was going to go on a rant against President Trump that would send social media into a tizzy, not much money would have been on Neil Cavuto. While Cavuto has had his moments of disagreement with the president, he’s also gone to bat for Trump in the past and has generally been conservative in bearing.
That’s what made Cavuto’s anti-Trump screed on Thursday all the more surprising.
The monologue, which was prompted by presidential attorney Rudy Giuliani revealing that the president had indeed authorized a $130,000 non-disclosure payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, certainly drew plenty of angry reactions — some of which Cavuto read out on air Friday.
“President Trump is fond of calling out the media on fake news,” Cavuto said at the beginning of his rant. “But is he the one giving them real ammunition? Maybe not intentionally, I’ll even give you the benefit of the doubt, Mr. President, say maybe not deliberately. But consistently, way too consistently.”
“So let me be clear, Mr. President: How can you drain the swamp if you’re the one who keeps muddying the waters?
“You didn’t know about that $130,000 payment to a porn star until you did. You said you knew nothing about how your former lawyer Michael Cohen handled this, until acknowledging today you were the guy behind the retainer payment that took care of this.”
“You insist that money from the campaign or campaign contributions played no role in this transaction, of that you’re sure,” he added. “Thing is not only 24 hours ago, sir, you couldn’t recall any of this, and you seemed very sure.”
“Now I’m not saying you’re a liar. You’re president, you’re busy. I’m just having a devil of a time figuring out which news is fake,” Cavuto continued. “Let’s just say your own words on lots of stuff give me, shall we say, lots of pause.”
Cavuto went through a litany of times where he said Trump’s words didn’t match up with what was really happening, including Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the departures of Rex Tillerson from the State Department and Reince Preibus from the position of White House chief of staff, inter alia; the president’s allegations of voter fraud and the “time you claimed that you signed more bills than any president ever, neglecting to mention the other four presidents, FDR, Truman, Carter and Clinton, who all signed more,” among other incidents.
Cavuto said that none of these things made him “a never-Trumper, just always confused.”
He later added that “none of this makes what you say fake, just calling out the press for being so, a bit of a stretch.”
“Your base probably might not care, but you should. I guess you’re too busy draining the swamp, to ever stop and smell the stink you’re creating.”
“That’s your doing. That’s your stink,” Cavuto added with dramatic flair. “Mr. President, that’s your swamp.”
Cavuto’s anti-Trump fulmination drew significant pushback from social media:
When has Cavuto on Fox EVER been right about Trump?
Why does he get paid so much to be constantly wrong? I'm asking a serious question.
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) May 4, 2018
Well Neil Cavuto has lost me as a listener and fan after his rant just now about the president..SMH
— Carol (@Carol38553) May 3, 2018
Neil, Stick to your money show.
We know you don't like Trump anymore than Juan or Shepard do.
Thus, the lead in this story is misleading.
— Daniel Baranowski (@DFBHarvard) May 4, 2018
Cavuto decided to have some fun with this, even reading off some of the responses on air.
Well, that’s certainly one way to generate viewer input.
Without judging the correctness of Cavuto’s rant (there was plenty to unpack there, some of it fair and some of it exceptionally nit-picky) it’s worth noting that the “fair and balanced” network has seen a ratings hit of late. According to TV Newser, while Fox News continues to be number one in cable news viewership, it still saw a double digit year-over-year ratings decline in the first quarter of 2018.
It’s also worth noting that first quarter of 2017 was Fox News’ most-watched quarter ever, given that it was during the opening months of the Trump administration, and that the network’s seen a lot of departures over the past year. Still, a double-digit decline is pretty significant, especially considering that Trump has mostly been a ratings boon to the cable news industry.
Perhaps Cavuto’s speech was one way of drumming up some ratings. It also a very likely way of explaining the decline, too.
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