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Trump, the Television President, Expands His Cast

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Ms. Nauert is just one of the as-seen-on-TV faces now starring in President Trump’s White House. And the cast is set to grow.

The television pundit Larry Kudlow, best known for his patter on CNBC, was named on Wednesday as Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser. Pete Hegseth, a co-host of “Fox & Friends Weekend,” is on the short list to become secretary of veterans affairs. John R. Bolton, the former United Nations ambassador and a frequent Fox News commentator, is under consideration for national security adviser.

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A media uproar followed President Richard M. Nixon’s nomination of the television correspondent John A. Scali to the role of United Nations ambassador in 1972.

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Bettmann, via Getty Images

The moves are another sign that the dividing line between media and government has been all but erased under Mr. Trump, a former reality star who views himself as the casting agent in chief.

Television figures have served as press aides in past administrations, tasked with handling their former colleagues in the media. But the selection of Mr. Kudlow crossed a threshold of sorts: the elevation of a television star to a position of real influence over policies affecting millions of Americans.

It was perhaps inevitable that Mr. Trump, whose view of the world is indelibly shaped by what he sees on TV, would be a president eager to break the fourth wall.

People close to him have said a major part of his deliberative process is how a decision will play on cable news. Where previous presidents courted news personalities, Mr. Trump consults them, seeking policy and strategic advice from Fox News hosts like Jeanine Pirro, who at one point was interviewed for the job of deputy attorney general, and Sean Hannity.

At least three Fox News hosts — Tucker Carlson, Kimberly Guilfoyle and Laura Ingraham — were approached about joining his communications team. Last week, Mr. Trump dined at the White House with Jesse Watters, the Fox News co-host of “The Five,” who is best known for ambush interviews and an offensive video mocking Asian-Americans, for which he later apologized.

Now Mr. Trump is inviting the commentators to shape the policy they comment on. Mr. Hegseth, if hired for the veterans affairs job, would be in charge of reforming a bureaucracy that administers benefits to millions.

Mr. Kudlow, a zealous advocate of lowering taxes on the wealthy, will be expected to forge an economic policy that, until this week, he had the luxury of merely judging from the safe harbor of a television studio.

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Heather Nauert, a former “Fox & Friends” host, became a State Department spokeswoman last year. This week, she was named the department’s under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.

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Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

In a hall-of-mirrors moment on Wednesday, Mr. Kudlow went on television to describe how Mr. Trump was impressed with how he appeared on television.

“He said, ‘You’re on the air,’ and he said, ‘I’m looking at a picture of you,’ and he said, ‘Very handsome,’” Mr. Kudlow said during a chummy interview with his soon-to-be-former CNBC colleagues. He let out a laugh: “So Trumpian!”

Installing the TV crowd in this West Wing could play out in unpredictable ways.

The administration sparked an international incident last year after Sean Spicer, its press secretary at the time, repeated an unsupported accusation about a British spy agency’s wiretapping of the Trump campaign. The source? Andrew Napolitano, the TV judge and Fox News legal analyst, who made the claim on “Fox & Friends.”

Mr. Napolitano — who also met with Mr. Trump to discuss potential Supreme Court picks — had heard the rumor from a conspiracy theorist known for spreading hoaxes. Mr. Trump later defended Mr. Napolitano, saying, “All we did was quote a very talented legal mind.”

Then came the incident involving Omarosa Manigault Newman, who made a name for herself as the villain of Mr. Trump’s “The Apprentice” in 2004 and lasted a year in the administration as director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison.

After she left her position, the reality-show presidency collided with an actual reality show: Ms. Newman joined the cast of “Celebrity Big Brother” and impugned the Trump administration as “so bad.”

The White House decided to respond — on live television. “Omarosa was fired three times on ‘The Apprentice,’ and this was the fourth time we let her go,” a deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, said during a White House briefing. (Unsurprisingly, after the back-and-forth, the ratings for “Big Brother” went up.)

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Pete Hegseth, a “Fox & Friends Weekend” host, at Trump Tower in Manhattan in 2016. He has been mentioned as a leading candidate to be the next secretary of veterans affairs.

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Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

The empty-calorie genres of reality shows and cable punditry, which fill the hours with ginned-up conflict, can be a strange fit for the more consequential environment of the White House. The Newman uproar, in particular, seemed to knock some of Washington’s more levelheaded commentators off kilter.

“It feels like we have reached a level of crazy in this White House, and it is difficult to take it anymore,” Chuck Todd said on MSNBC after Mr. Shah’s comments.

Mr. Kudlow’s arrival in Washington could cause similar agita.

The CNBC host’s smooth demeanor is catnip for the image-focused Mr. Trump, who chose Mr. Kudlow despite his opposition to tariffs authorized by the White House this month. But Mr. Kudlow is more familiar with television lights than the glare that comes with public service; his Washington experience is largely limited to a 1980s stint as a bureaucrat in Ronald Reagan’s Office of Management and Budget.

His predecessors who led the National Economic Council include Lawrence Summers, a former Treasury secretary, and Gary D. Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs.

In 1972, when Nixon nominated Mr. Scali for his ambassadorship, he was choosing someone who had spent a year in the White House as an image consultant. Mr. Scali had also played a diplomatic role in managing the Cuban missile crisis, acting as a covert liaison between Soviet officials in Washington and the Kennedy administration.

Still, the choice of Mr. Scali had its detractors: News of his nomination prompted a New York Times editorial that denounced the “downgrading of the United Nations” and asked why Nixon had picked a newbie “to fill a position once held with distinction by Adlai E. Stevenson.”

Mr. Kudlow offers a fresh test case for how a TV personality can make the transition. But he will have to contend with one of Mr. Trump’s peculiar traits: The president often prefers the pundits he watches on television to the advisers who work in his West Wing.

“He got hired because the president has seen him on TV,” Alex Conant, a Republican strategist in Washington, said. “To stay hired, he’s going to have to continue to be on TV. A lot.”

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