Rightwing Media Competition Ensues Between Fox News and Newsmax

8 mins read

Refusing to call the 2020 Presidential Elections despite Biden’s decisive lead and major media networks already calling him President-Elect has surprisingly done Newsmax more good than bad, propelling the network into a momentum worthy enough to be on the scope of Fox News as a threat. Recently, CNN reported that Fox News is allegedly asking guests to stop appearing on Newsmax. 

The day after Elections marked the start of a momentous phase for Newsmax gaining a tenfold increase from their usual five-digit prime time viewership to six figures. No one knows for sure if the audience growth will keep up considering that the large viewership may have been a peel off of disaffected Fox News viewers due to several points the network had made “indirectly against” Trump. 

Fox News who had bolstered Trump in his four years of presidency, functioning as the Trump administration’s mouthpiece has called in Arizona for Joe Biden on election night much to the disappointment of its viewer base who are mostly ideologically right. According to an article published by Pew Research Center earlier this year, survey data showed that around two-thirds or 65% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents trust Fox News for political and election news. Additionally, less than a third of Republicans trust any other news sources with ABC News at 33% and CBS and NBC News both at 30 percent. 

Subsequently, Fox News also labelled Trump’s claims of election fraud as not credible further distancing the network from its “symbiotic relationship” with Trump. According to news sources, Trump’s anger was even stoked by the fact Fox has already recognized Biden as President-Elect. 

Newsmax, on the other hand, is another story. After a month after the Elections, they are still floating the results with Greg Kelly, Newsmax TV’s breakout star, saying, “This is Newsmax, where we have not called the election.Why would we? We do not know who has won. This whole idea of a president-elect? It is a media fabrication.”

Kelly also ramped up Trump’s election fraud narrative and also fueled his disappointment against Fox. He told viewers, “Fox does seem to be going through something of an identity crisis.” He then proceeded to add, “They’re not very supportive of the president these days — they seem to be bending over backward to hurt him.”

Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax, has defended the stance of the network. In an interview, he said, “It was an organic thing across social media and elsewhere.” According to him, the message was: “Take a look at Newsmax. Their coverage is more fair.” To which NPR’s David Folkenflik jabbed by noting that Ruddy’s “more fair” is actually equivalent to “denial of political reality.”

But Ruddy noted that while he is sympathetic to the President’s cause, it does not mean that he is actually endorsing the idea of election fraud. Rather, he was just encouraging the flow of free ideas not found elsewhere. 

“I don’t want to start censoring opinions of people on Newsmax, like I wouldn’t expect NBC to start censoring people that come on MSNBC,” Ruddy said.

The network has also been doubling down on conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated assertions, according to Folkenflik. He noted the appearances of the president’s repeatedly defeated attorney Rudy Giuliani, rogue Trump lawyer Sidney Powell as well as pro-Trump personalities Diamond and Silk who made outrageous and controversial claims that COVID-19 was unleashed to hurt Trump’s polls. 

Kurt Bardella, a former Republican congressional staffer and spokesman for Breitbart News who is now a Trump activist, said, “Really, it is just an audio-visual extension of Trump Twitter.” 

In an interview, Bardella also said, “There’s no question that this is 100% opportunistic. I don’t believe that the majority of people who are part of Newsmax actually believe what they’re saying. They just see it as an opportunity to get an audience so that they can make more money.”

“[Ruddy] is acting purely as a capitalist at this point,” Bardella said. “And I do think that it’s a shortsighted approach, because there is a limitation to how many people are going to be willing to change their behavior, if only because Donald Trump says so.”

While Bardella’s statements might just be dismissed as baseless punches, The New York Times’ article The King of Trump TV Thinks You’re Dumb Enough to Buy It written by Ben Smith is backing up the capitalist Ruddy persona. 

According to Smith, “Chris Ruddy, the C.E.O. of Newsmax, has found a business opportunity in feeding Trump supporters the fantasy that the president could still win the election.”

He also added, “All successful TV programmers have some mercenary in them, of course, but even by those standards, Mr. Ruddy is extreme. He has turned Newsmax into a pure vehicle for Trumpism, attacking Fox News from the right for including occasional dissenting voices. And when Trumpism turned this month from an electoral strategy into a hallucinatory attempt to overturn the election, Mr. Ruddy saw opportunity: Newsmax, available on cable in most American households and streaming online, became the home of alternate reality.”

In an interview with Ben Smith, Ruddy said, “In this day and age, people want something that tends to affirm their views and opinions.”

Trump has recently encouraged his followers to switch to Newsmax while simultaneously catapulting shade against Fox News. In his tweet last November 29, one in his series of tirades, he said that Fox News is virtually unwatchable. He also noted to watch Newsmax or One America News instead saying, “[So] You won’t have to suffer through endless interviews with Democrats, and even worse!”

The intense rivalry between the two networks is definitely up especially with the constant pitting but Fox News has denied to CNN that there was any directive from the higher-ups to stop guests from appearing on Newsmax. 

On the other hand, Chris Ruddy confirmed that the pressure from Fox was indeed real. He even accused Fox of “anti-competitive violation” citing the network’s move to block guests from appearing on his network. 

To which Fox News sources simply responded, “Welcome to the big leagues.”

Thomas Lake

Resident tech nerd for the SF Times.

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