The Fox News reporter the White House hates to love
Now, As Biden’s first press conference approached, a whole range of talent at Fox began to openly seek out the young correspondent. Sean Hannity, on his prime-time program, expressed little confidence in the rest of the White House press. “I don’t expect tough questions,” Hannity said, “except maybe Peter Doocy.” Chris Bedford of The Federalist, appearing on Fox, said: “I hope [Biden] gets a few tough ones – at least from Peter Doocy. Brian Kilmeade, another Fox & Friends co-host, told me he’s keeping his fingers crossed for Doocy. “I know they have their list” – the names of the White House reporters order the president to call – “but I hope they will call on him,” Kilmeade said.
But that did not happen. Instead, the date for the press conference arrived, March 25, and for 62 minutes in the East Room of the White House, Doocy watched impatiently, signaling Biden’s attention, as the president summoned others.
Almost instantly, Fox – who had over 3.2 million viewers tuning in to the event – appeared to decide that Doocy himself would become the story. “BIDEN SNUBS FOX DURING FIRST NEW CONF,” a Fox chyron read. On air, Doocy flipped through a thick, black binder that he said was filled with questions he had prepared for Biden, on everything from his “green jobs” program to the origins of Covid-19 in China. . “Sorry, you didn’t have a question,” Fox anchor Sandra Smith told him. Network’s Dana Perino, a former White House press secretary for George W. Bush, said she would have asked the president to call Doocy if she had been there. “Why make Peter Doocy a story?” she asked. “Just answer his question and move on. Joe Concha, media and political columnist at hill and a Fox News contributor, dismissed the whole episode as a disgrace to the press and to Biden, whose managers were to explain why they were “so scared of a rookie White House press correspondent.”
The subplot Fox ignored finally reached its climax the following afternoon, when Doocy himself rushed Psaki into James S. Brady’s briefing room. Leaning out of a front row seat, he asked about immigration and Senate obstruction before arriving at his final question: Is he ignoring official Fox News administrative policy?
Psaki’s response was no: she retorted that she was conversing with the Fox reporter at this precise moment. She reminded Doocy that she regularly asks him questions and that Biden has done this in other contexts as well. Other reporters in the room knew that Biden ignored many other major news organizations during the press conference, even the New York Times. Psaki quickly moved on to another reporter, but not without praising Doocy on his “awesome” argyle socks. The exchange predictably ricocheted across the internet and featured on Fox.
In a sense, the Doocy saga can be seen as a distillation, in one journalist, of the challenge facing Fox in the Biden era. Everyone expects the network to be a source of irritation to the new White House, as it was in the Obama years. CEO Lachlan Murdoch recently said ratings would improve as the network becomes Biden’s “loyal opposition”, borrowing a phrase from European parliamentary politics, which has not gone unnoticed among Biden’s aides. But Fox also faces some competition for its conservative audience from Newsmax and One America News Network, strident right-wing networks that have been keen to question the validity of the 2020 election. Fox must stand by its end. pro-Trump and anti-Biden demographic observation, at a time when “opposition” and “loyalty” are more often seen as contradictions of the American right – while protecting its position as a news network with great attire reporting. Fox wants a seat in the room, but a lot of his viewers want to see a fight as well.
This conflict is embodied in Doocy: a gentle but aggressive correspondent, social media connoisseur who might feel like a new face on television, but who is unmistakably from, by, and for Fox.
Jim Acosta, the former CNN White House reporter, adopted a version of this role during the Trump era by throwing himself into loud and heated fights with Donald Trump and his spokespersons. This is not Doocy’s style. He rarely raises his voice. “He doesn’t yell at them. He doesn’t prick his finger in the air, ”said Bryan Boughton, senior vice president and Fox Washington bureau chief. “It presents a question to answer, and how they choose to answer is totally up to them.” Fox supporters also praise him for being ready to challenge an administration they think most rival media outlets show too much deference to, and his colleagues describe him as having an innate sense of what makes a good story on their airwaves. .
Doocy himself claims he’s just an honest reporter doing his job, which he sees primarily as getting officials to say newsworthy things on camera. He even revealed, and a White House official confirmed, that when he plans to ask questions about a story that is not in national news, he is leading the topic (but not the question) through assistants at Biden press ahead of time. Doocy says he really wants to understand the President’s thinking – besides, “I’ll have to get back to you on this,” a common refrain from Psaki, isn’t a useful phrase. Reflecting on the press conference snub, he noted that Biden’s aides had left Fox off their list of reporters the president could call for months, returning to the campaign and transition. He said it was finally the right time for Psaki to respond to this on camera. “There are bigger problems in the world than the fact that Fox is not called,” Doocy admits. “However, there was an interest on my part in trying to get to the bottom of this.”
But many other media watchers and television rivals see his cutting-edge, juxtaposed questions as a dangerous drift into the bad faith tail. Doocy, these critics accuse, is an official of an agenda-driven network, and more concerned with personal confrontations than with the news. Ultimately, they see Doocy’s rise as a sign of how Fox, even its more traditional news division, has become. Throughout the Trump years, veteran Fox anchors like Bret Baier and Chris Wallace have sought to draw a line between their reporting and the overwhelming coverage of opinions of opinions on the network. For detractors of Fox, Doocy’s style is more in line with the latter, and it doesn’t help that he’s the son of a network host beloved by Trump.
Within the Biden White House, all of this begs the question of how to handle Doocy. Some liberals, including former Obama administration alumni, have publicly urged Biden’s team to ignore Doocy, arguing that Fox is a branch of the Republican Party, not a serious outlet, more than ever. But there may be more compelling arguments for staying engaged with Doocy that have traction inside the president’s orbit, according to White House aides. On the one hand, Biden’s team wants to avoid the combative and disruptive attitude of their predecessor towards the media. They also acknowledge that Peter Doocy is a proxy for a huge audience, or a significant part of it anyway, that could still be accessible with Biden’s post. By engaging with Fox, a president who has campaigned for the unification of the country has a better chance of being heard with the voters he wants and could possibly need.
On a cold March morning at the cafe at the Willard hotel near the White House, Doocy arrived dressed in an overcoat and sat down on the nearly empty patio. He scrolled through his phone and sipped half and half coffee, pausing between measured responses about his work at Fox. Depending on his shift, he gets up at 4 or 7 in the morning, reads the emails he missed during the night and scans his note from Fox’s “brain room” which includes international and international titles. great opinion pieces. He clicks through the show recaps to see what his TV hits might be like. If he’s in the briefing room that day, he’s starting to figure out what to ask. He arrives at the White House about an hour before going on the air and doing a greeting tour with the people on the ground.
Anticipating Biden’s big infrastructure push, he had recently picked up Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s latest book, mostly out of curiosity, after getting to know the former mayor somewhat during the presidential campaign. He scanned it for inconsistencies or toggles – a Doocy report trait – but didn’t spot many.