Politico’s West Wing Playbook dubs Fox News reporter Bill Melugin “a [Peter] Doocy on the border.” Both Melugin and Doocy defy the White House yen for the love slathered on it approximately everywhere else in the media. I thought readers who haven’t seen this might find it of interest in a variety of respects. Yesterday the Playbook reporters added a footnote via a Democratic source who complained that they had “left out the best part” regarding Melugin’s former part-time job as an Abercrombie & Fitch employee. However, their source had it wrong. This is the best part.
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There’s a tall Fox News reporter in his mid-30s with slicked back hair and an air of combative indignation who is getting under the skin of some people in JOE BIDEN’s administration. And he’s not PETER DOOCY.
BILL MELUGIN, a former local Los Angeles Emmy-winning reporter, has become a growing presence online and in broader political circles as Fox’s go-to reporter at the U.S. southern border. He’s done hundreds of television hits since joining the network last year, largely from border states, where he often focuses on the historic flow of migrants that are overwhelming communities there.
In recent days, several current and former White House and administration officials expressed to West Wing Playbook their increasing frustration with his on-air coverage, arguing that there is an alarmist quality to it, designed to feed political narratives rather than illuminate the actual issues feeding the migrant flow. Last week, he was the first to break the news that Florida Gov. RON DESANTIS chartered two planes to transport 50 Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard to make a political statement about immigration. He followed up that story with appearances on Fox News opinion primetime — which some of Fox’s straight news reporters notably avoid — and a series of exclusives on DeSantis’ escalating fight with the Biden White House over migrants.
Immigration has been a key issue that has filled many hours of programming for Fox News since its inception. The network regularly dispatches people to the border to cover illegal border crossings, stoking fears about caravans of immigrants. The coverage is often accompanied by stories of crimes committed, despite studies showing the immigrants have a lower propensity for committing such acts.
But Melugin has helped usher in a new style of coverage of the issue by the network. He is part of a more technologically savvy generation of Fox reporters and producers whose work leans more heavily on on-the-ground reporting augmented by soaring aerial drone footage of migrants crossing the border. The technique gives the story a dramatic visual scale that Fox pundits use to bolster their arguments about the enormity of the problem (Fox has built up its flight team in recent years to incorporate aerial drone footage into the network’s coverage.)
Last year, Fox clashed with the Federal Aviation Administration over its use of drones to cover border migration in Texas after claiming the agency temporarily restricted drone use in the area. (The FAA said it first learned of drones being grounded from Fox reports claiming the agency was “trying to keep Fox News from covering what is happening.”)
As Melugin has become an increasingly visible figure on the network, his coverage has caught the attention of the White House, which has become increasingly irritated by his reporting. During a press conference last week, press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE noted that Fox News got the heads up on the Martha’s Vineyard flight before local, state and federal agencies.
“The fact that Fox News — and not the Department of Homeland Security, the city, or local NGOs — were alerted about a plan to leave migrants, including children, on the side of a busy D.C. street makes clear that this is just a cruel, premeditated political stunt,” she said.
One administration official who used to work on immigration issues told West Wing Playbook that the Biden team has complained about the lack of nuance in the network’s coverage of the topic, which focuses more on the number of migrants rather than explaining the root causes of the situation. Another administration official believes that the conservative network amps up border coverage whenever there are bad headlines for conservatives in the news….
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Read the whole thing here. It is all worth reading. See if you can decipher the concluding sentence: “Top White House officials like RON KLAIN, ANITA DUNN, and others have made it clear to staff that they are aware of the powerfulness of immigration as a wedge issue for Republicans.”