Let’s play a game of “connect the dots.”
Dot No. 1: The Financial Times reported Monday on the latest indication that Donald Trump might launch a cable TV station if he loses the presidential election.
Dot No. 2: Also Monday, the Huffington Post published an article under the headline, “Is Shep Smith the future of Fox News?”
Here is the connection: Trump TV would be much more viable in a future in which the straight-shooting Shepard Smith really is the face of Fox News.
I wrote last week about how certain opinion programs on Fox News have fled the confines of reality in defense of the Republican nominee — but that will be a short-term trend if polls hold true and Trump falls short on Nov. 8. A post-election evaluation of the network’s long-term direction seems likely, given that Fox News hasn’t really had a moment to catch its breath since the stunning ouster of long-time chairman Roger Ailes in the middle of the major-party conventions.
The new direction could be toward the political center, according to HuffPo’s profile of Smith.
Since the forced departure of Roger Ailes — who has now gone on to advise the spawn of Fox News, the Trump campaign — Rupert Murdoch’s two sons, James and Lachlan, have taken a bigger role inside the network. If they get their way, some of the knuckle-dragging, opinion-heavy approach to politics may be less welcome at headquarters, clearing the way for journalists like Smith, Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly. The brothers are reportedly working hard to woo Kelly, hoping she’ll stay at Fox past the election and help shape the network’s post-Ailes identity.
In a more grounded Fox, Shep would take on a much greater role. In his most recent meeting with Murdoch, he asked where Murdoch felt the center of gravity was going to move post-Ailes, whether toward news or toward the opinion side. “He said, ‘I’m a newsman. I want to be the best news organization in America,’ ” Shep recalled.
A “more grounded Fox” would open a gap in the media market — a gap Trump TV could fill. Imagine a split in which Fox News becomes more newsy, with center-right pundits who represent traditional Republican perspectives, while Trump TV becomes the new home for the kind of populist-nationalist rhetoric he espoused during the campaign.
Trump certainly has the personnel to make it happen. As the Huffington Post noted, Ailes is now an adviser. The Trump campaign’s chief executive is Steve Bannon, the chairman of Breitbart News. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner — who is involved in preliminary TV talks, according to the Financial Times — is the owner and publisher of the New York Observer.
That’s a lot of combined media savvy. And a lot of money.
Just think of the (hypothetical) lineup this group could put on the air:
6-9 a.m.: Billy Bush runs the point on a morning show with Scottie Nell Hughes and Milo Yiannopoulos
9-11 a.m.: John Nolte and Joel Pollak read the latest headlines from Breitbart
11 a.m.: Ben Carson discusses foreign policy
Noon: Carl Higbie and Pete Hegseth lament the deterioration of the U.S. military under Hillary Clinton
1 p.m: Chris Christie gets stuck with a lousy midday time slot, after thinking he would land a prime-time show
2 p.m.: Jerry Falwell Jr. and Mark Burns lead a program about Christianity under attack in Clinton’s America
3 p.m.: Kellyanne Conway shoots down negative Trump headlines that might appear elsewhere in the rest of the media
4 p.m.: Jeffrey Lord relives the greatness of Ronald Reagan
5 p.m.: Trump TV’s answer to “The Five” features Newt Gingrich, Katrina Pierson, Kayleigh McEnany, John Phillips and Adriana Cohen
6 p.m.: Omarosa Manigault reports on Trump’s latest business successes
7 p.m.: Rudy Giuliani anchors a legal-themed program focused on the many ways the Clinton administration is breaking the law
8 p.m.: Rush Limbaugh rails against liberals’ obsession with “consent“
9 p.m.: Ann Coulter delivers her nightly update on the scourge of illegal immigration
10 p.m.: Alex Jones explains how the government is turning men gay through estrogen-lined juice boxes
11 p.m.-6 a.m.: Infomercials for Trump golf courses, hotels, steaks, ties and other tremendous products
This is assuming Trump TV fails to pry Sean Hannity away from Fox News, and is unable to convince Matt Drudge to go on camera. In a perfect world, those guys get shows, too.