While Fox News and Donald Trump are engaged in the latest episode of their ongoing war of words over Trump's refusal to attend last Thursday's primary debate, they have a symbiotic relationship dating back years. Despite their current feud, the network has continued to lavish the Republican front-runner with far more interview airtime than any other presidential contender this cycle, and Fox has been promoting Trump's political ambitions since before the 2012 election.
Media Matters looks at some of the highlights of the past five years of Trump and Fox News' up-and-down relationship:
- During one of Trump's frequent appearances on Fox & Friends, the network started teasing the idea of Trump in the Oval Office. While asking him for his opinions on Libya policy, on-screen text asked, "What Would President Trump Do?"
- Multiple Fox hosts promoted Trump's conspiracy theory about President Obama's place of birth and his call for the president to "show his birth certificate."
- The network continued to go all-out in promoting Trump's birther crusade well into April of 2011 (when Obama released the "long-form" version of his birth certificate). According to a Media Matters study, Fox News devoted more than 50 segments and over two hours of airtime to the issue.
- Tied up with Trump's birther crusade were his supposed presidential ambitions, which Fox happily helped him promote. Hannity featured "Trump 2012" in on-screen text in a segment about the Republican real estate mogul:
- Sean Hannity admitted that he was advising Donald Trump about getting involved in the 2012 election, warning him off running an independent presidential campaign since he would split the Republican vote. "I'm wearing my Donald Trump tie, he gave me a gift," he noted.
- After then-Fox News host (and current Republican presidential candidate) Mike Huckabee floated the idea that Trump should be appointed Treasury secretary, several other Fox News hosts joined the call, saying Trump would be preferable to then-secretary Timothy Geithner particularly because of his business experience.
- When Trump issued a challenge to President Obama to release his college transcripts and his passport in order to prove his citizenship, offering $5 million to "charity," Fox & Friends gave him a platform to hype the birther stunt. Trump noted that it was a "possibility" that the records would show Obama wasn't born in the U.S., which would make his presidency a "sham."
- After Obama won re-election in November 2012, Trump called for "a revolution in this country." Between that moment and the declaration of his presidential campaign, Trump made frequent appearances on Fox News, often within the context of discussing a possible presidential run. In one appearance on Hannity, the host told Trump, "You might run for president and you could be elected. Nice independent guy with common sense." Between January 2013 and April 2015, Trump appeared on Fox News' evening and primetime programming and Fox News Sunday 48 times*, most often on Greta Van Susteren's On the Record.
- As Trump declared his official candidacy for president, Fox News figures hailed his entry into the campaign. Kimberly Guilfoyle said his speech "got me excited," while Andrea Tantaros said, "I found myself going, 'yeah.'"
- After Trump described Mexican immigrants as criminals and "rapists" in that announcement speech, he was widely criticized and NBC cut its ties with him. Fox, of course, began rallying to his defense. Bill O'Reilly said Trump was "highlighting a problem ... that is harming the nation."
- Trump began a run in which he was the of being the most-interviewed GOP presidential candidate on Fox, appearing for a total of 1 hour and 48 minutes of airtime over the month of June.
- Trump began citing Fox's defense of his incendiary remarks while being interviewed by other media outlets. He told NBC News, "On Fox they say that I did a great service because I'm the one that brought up the whole discussion on immigration." Even with a request from the RNC chairman for Trump to tone down his rhetoric, many Fox figures continued to praise his immigration remarks, and even lashed out at the party chairman.
- On the stump, Trump praised the hosts of Fox & Friends -- the show which had hosted him the most often as a political pundit -- as "great people," and they in turn thanked him on air the next day.
- Trump extended his lead over the GOP field as the candidate with the most interview airtime on the network, appearing in July for another 4 hours and 45 minutes.
- The first of several Trump vs. Fox feuds ignited in August after Fox anchor Megyn Kelly challenged Trump about his history of sexism during the network's August debate. Trump responded by repeatedly publicly criticizing Kelly, including telling CNN that Kelly had "blood coming out of her eyes" and "her wherever." To defuse the situation, Fox chairman Roger Ailes reportedly called Trump's office and negotiated a temporary peace. Soon after Trump appeared on Fox & Friends and co-host Steve Doocy told him he was "glad we're friends again."
- Later that month, Trump complained that Fox "treats me terribly," and he promoted a tweet calling Kelly a "bimbo." That resulted in more backlash from hosts and anchors at Fox. Ailes again reportedly intervened directly with Trump to keep the two parties in sync.
- Despite the conflict with Fox, Trump still got the most airtime of all the candidates on the network in August. That month, Trump interviews aired for a staggering 4 hours and 48 minutes, more than three times as much as any other contender.
- When Trump made disparaging remarks about the physical appearance of candidate Carly Fiorina, Fox & Friends defended him and asked, "Is it another Rolling Stone hit job?"
- Later that month, things turned sour and Trump again announced that he would boycott Fox "for the foreseeable future" for treating him "very unfairly." That second boycott lasted less than a week, and Trump smoothed things over during an appearance on The O'Reilly Factor.
- Even with his "boycott," Trump was still ahead of the pack in interview airtime, appearing for 2 hours and 42 minutes, roughly 30 minutes more than any other candidate.
- After Trump got CNBC to cut the amount of time it planned to conduct its presidential debate, Fox News figures applauded Trump as a "great negotiator."
- As candidates like Carly Fiorina began to fade back into the pack, Trump kept steadily dominating the network's airtime.
- Fox figures continued to defend Trump's policy proposals. Eric Bolling said Trump's idea of a "deportation force" to forcibly remove undocumented immigrants was "good for Latinos," while Steve Doocy said Trump "hit it out of the park" when he endorsed waterboarding suspected terrorists.
- Despite a surge by Senator Marco Rubio, Trump still led the pack with 3 hours and 18 minutes of airtime during the month.
- With Trump under fire for his debunked claim that "thousands" of American Muslims were seen celebrating 9/11, Fox News responded by giving him nearly 30 minutes of its prime-time air on one night to defend himself, with interviews on both The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity. (Other network personalities sought to defend his comments, as well.)
- For the year, data showed that despite their up-and-down relationship, Trump far outpaced other candidates in interview airtime on the network. An analysis of the data showed that Fox's interview airtime was worth $30 million in free exposure.
- Trump announced that he would skip the presidential debate hosted by Fox unless the network removed Megyn Kelly from the moderator panel. The network refused and issued a statement that said, "We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president." Trump responded: "I didn't like the fact that they sent out press releases toying, talking about Putin, and playing games. I don't know what games Roger Ailes is playing, what's wrong over there?"
- According to MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, Ailes tried to speak to Trump as he had done in the past, even calling Trump's daughter and wife, but Trump said he would only speak to Ailes' boss Rupert Murdoch.
- While Fox did attack Trump for refusing to attend the debate he nonetheless appeared on The O'Reilly Factor, where O'Reilly begged him to reconsider.
- Trump made good on his threat and did not appear at the debate. The day after, both camps attempted to declare ratings victories. Trump tweeted, "They say that if I participated in last night's Fox debate, they would have had 12 million more & would have broken the all time record." Fox News sent out a press release noting that the debate audience "beat CNN and MSNBC combined in both total viewers and key demo" while those networks were airing a Trump rally as counter-programming.
*language updated for clarity