Trump-friendly Newsmax a sudden competitor to Fox News
NEW YORK (AP):
Now that his largely invisible network has suddenly been flooded by fans of President Donald Trump, Newsmax television personality Grant Stinchfield is puffing out his chest.
“They don’t know what to do with all of us,” Stinchfield said on the air Monday night. “We’re killing it here on Newsmax with a tactic they’ve never tried. It’s called the truth, the stone-cold truth, and once you get a taste of it, you will never tolerate being lied to again.”
In many cases, the opposite is true. Newsmax, the television arm of a conservative website, has reported falsely that Joe Biden is not the legitimate president-elect because of largely non-existent voter fraud. Its viewers are fed a diet of conspiracy theories to salve the wounds of an election loss – a tactic that’s misleading at best and damaging to democracy at worst.
Yet Newsmax’s burst, whether or not it lasts, has been astonishingly swift and could foreshadow the first serious threat to Fox News Channel’s dominance with conservative viewers in two decades.
“We’ve really cornered Fox from the right,” said Chris Ruddy, Newsmax founder and friend of Trump. “They’ve never had that.”
From the beginning of July to the week before Election Day, Newsmax averaged 58,000 viewers from 7 to 10 p.m. on weekdays. That jumped to 568,000 the week after the election, the Nielsen company said. In the same period, daytime viewership increased from 46,000 to 450,000.
For the same dates, Fox News averaged 3.6 million viewers in the evening, Nielsen said. Fox’s prime-time viewership during the two weeks after the election was up 50 per cent over last year.
“We love competition. We have always thrived on competition,” Fox Corp CEO Lachlan Murdoch said on an Election Day earnings call.
Ruddy traced much of Newsmax’s increase to Trump supporters angered by Fox’s election night call that Democrat Joe Biden had won Arizona – ahead of any other news organisation. While that call proved correct, for the president’s backers it was an ill-timed sign of insufficient loyalty from their favourite network.
Trump, who criticised Fox throughout the campaign, has driven the point home with repeated tweets suggesting his followers check out Newsmax or a smaller rival that also presses a conservative viewpoint, One America News Network (OANN).
“There’s a large part of the country that wants to have a voice, the same people who gave birth to what turned into a very robust Fox News,” said Michael Clemente, Newsmax’s CEO until last April and a former Fox News executive. “Now, more than ever, they want to be heard, and have influence equal to their peers on the coasts. Their loyalty is to that voice and not to any place or another.”
Unlike Fox, Newsmax’s news operation is largely non-existent. Most of the company’s reporters are attached to a website, which at midday Wednesday led with stories about Trump’s press secretary calling restrictions on Thanksgiving gatherings “Orwellian”, and the president’s latest false tweet claiming an election victory.
The television network is running a clever ad telling conservative viewers not to be “out-foxed”, but it was telling on Monday that both Newsmax and OANN spent considerable time discussing an interview that was conducted on Fox, where a Trump lawyer predicted her client would win by millions of votes.Programming generally consists of news talk shows, and it’s not difficult to see where the loyalty lies.
“Donald Trump is the most powerful person in the world,” said Greg Kelly, a former personality at Fox’s New York affiliate who is Newsmax’s most polished broadcaster. “Not because he’s president, but because he’s loved by so many people.”