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Where Fox News and Donald Trump Took Us

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Over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, a caravan of journalists chased her up the East Coast during a six-day trip from Washington to New Hampshire, believing she might use the occasion to announce that she would run against Mr. Obama. The trip also included a dinnertime stop at Trump Tower, where she and its most famous resident stepped out in front of the paparazzi on their way to get pizza.

She wouldn’t reveal her intentions until later that year, in October. And when she did, she broke the news on Mark Levin’s radio show — not on Fox News. It was a slight that infuriated Mr. Ailes, who had been paying her $1 million a year with the expectation that it would pay off with the buzz and big ratings that kind of announcement could generate.

There were signs at the time that Mr. Trump was starting to fill the void in Fox’s coverage — and in conservative politics — that would exist without Ms. Palin center stage. He had been getting a considerable amount of coverage from the network lately for his fixation on wild rumors about Mr. Obama’s background.

One interview in March 2011 on “Fox & Friends” — the show known inside the network to be such a close reflection of Mr. Ailes’s favorite story lines that staff called it “Roger’s daybook” — was typical of how Mr. Trump used his media platform to endear himself to the hard right. He spent an entire segment that morning talking about ways that the president could be lying about being born in the United States. “It’s turning out to be a very big deal because people now are calling me from all over saying, ‘Please don’t give up on this issue,’” Mr. Trump boasted.

Three days after that interview, the network announced a new segment on “Fox & Friends”: “Mondays With Trump.” A promo teased that it would be “Bold, brash and never bashful.” And it was on “Fox & Friends” where Mr. Trump appeared after his pizza outing with Ms. Palin in the spring, talking up his prospects as a contender for the White House over hers.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Ailes were, at first, seemingly well matched.

Though he had financial motivations for promoting sensational but misleading stories, Mr. Ailes also seemed to be a true believer in some of the darkest and most bizarre political conspiracy theories.

In 2013, Mr. Obama himself raised the issue with Michael Clemente, the Fox News executive vice president for news, asking him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner whether Mr. Ailes was fully bought-in on the conspiracies over the president’s birthplace. “Does Roger really believe this stuff?” Mr. Obama asked. Mr. Clemente answered, “He does.”

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