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Fox News gave its contributors Pete Hegseth and Scott Brown platforms to publicly audition to be President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of veterans affairs, a position for which they are both reportedly being considered.
On the December 16 edition of Fox & Friends, Hegseth answered viewers' questions about veterans' issues and explained his vision for the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). The hosts openly acknowledged Hegseth’s possible pick as VA secretary, and he acted as if the segment were an audition for the role, answering questions sent to the show, such as, “How will the VA combat corruption and avoid awarding bonuses to executives who do not meet targeted objectives?” and, “What will you do about the corrupt unions that continue to play politics and use intimidation tactics to keep all corruption issues quiet?” In addition to pushing for firing certain VA officials and allowing the use of private doctors, he bragged that the VA union disliked him because “we've been taking them on for years.” Hegseth discussed his meetings with Trump and lauded the president-elect for being “willing to fight back” and said he will be “an amazing president.”
The same day, Brown appeared on America’s Newsroom, where he also acknowledged he was “in the mix” for the VA position and was asked by co-host Bill Hemmer “what [his] big sales point” was to Trump about why he deserved the position. Brown said he had “political” and “media experience” and pushed for fixing “mismanagement” at the VA. He also praised Trump’s “plain talk” and his “positive” message.
Hegseth and Brown are reportedly top contenders to be Trump’s VA secretary, and have met with Trump multiple times to discuss the position. According to The New York Times, veterans groups have strongly opposed Hegseth and Brown. The groups told the Times that their opposition to Hegseth stems from his work with “Republican-funded activist groups and think tanks that have portrayed veterans health care as feckless and corrupt,” including the right-wing group Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) where he served as CEO. The group, which is backed by the Koch brothers and supports the privatization of the VA, has been criticized for its “partisan attacks” against Democrats. Hegseth was also criticized by veterans groups for his position that veterans should have “the choice to seek care in the private sector,” which those groups said could “siphon billions of dollars away from veterans hospitals, causing the system to collapse.”
Joe Chenelly, the executive director of the advocacy group Amvets, told the Times that Brown “lacks the experience to run a nationwide health care and benefits system with 350,000 employees.” Brown, a former Republican senator, has used Fox multiple times previously as a platform to criticize the VA and the Obama administration’s promise to help veterans.
If picked to head the VA, Hegseth or Brown would join the multiple Fox personalities who have joined or are being considered for the incoming Trump administration.