For the first time in its six-year existence as a cable-news network, Newsmax is finally being discussed in the same breath as its far superior competition. While the channel’s ratings still lag far behind the industry-leading Fox News and its production value leaves much to be desired, Donald Trump’s post-election tantrum and the well-advertised changes in his TV diet have given Newsmax a massive boost in both name recognition and viewers. Ratings for Greg Kelly Reports, Newsmax’s top prime-time program, recently broke the million-viewer mark for the first time, while the network overall averaged 568,000 prime-time viewers the week after the election—a dramatic shift from the 58,000 it logged before Election Day, according to Nielsen.
Of course, Newsmax is not enjoying a dramatic ratings spike because it offers viewers powerful scoops and profound on-air analysis. Rather, the network is basking in the fallout from Trump’s blowup at Fox News, which was months in the making but boiled over on Election Day when he felt Fox had stabbed him in the back by (accurately) calling Arizona for Joe Biden before many of its mainstream competitors. With the president already enraged by a Maricopa County–sized wound, Fox’s Decision Desk HQ then twisted the knife by becoming one of the first to project a Biden election victory. These perceived betrayals from the network Trump has spent the last four years hyping, turning its hosts into his unofficial advisers and dictating policy based on their coverage, led him to herd his supporters away from Fox and toward Newsmax and One America News Network, both of which have still not called the race for Biden. (It remains to be seen whether Newsmax can keep up the momentum after Trump is finally forced out of office.)
In the meantime, Newsmax has planted its stake as the president’s ride-or-die media outlet, and its hosts have shown unquestioning loyalty in going along with Team Trump’s convoluted election-fraud conspiracies. And every sign points to the network continuing to capitalize on the Trump–Fox schism. “Fox was very schizophrenic in this previous election in its support and consistency about the president,” Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy said in an interview with CNBC this week. “I think Newsmax was consistently supportive of the president. I think he was very disappointed—he has told me personally that he wasn’t happy with the Fox News coverage, and, you know, the election night where they called Arizona, but they wouldn’t call Florida and a number of other things.” Ruddy, who has a segment bragging about his recent calls with the president and has been identified as “Trump’s Friend Ruddy” in Newsmax copy, also asserted that Fox has had “no competition. We are the first. We have the distribution, now, to compete with them head-on.”
It is worth noting that despite Newsmax airing a segment that lumped Trump's least favorite Fox News personalities with ABC News and MSNBC coverage, the Rupert Murdoch–controlled network is arguably still the most valuable player in Trump’s weak attempt at stealing the election. More than a week after Decision Desk HQ called the race for the former vice president, Fox News has promoted Team Trump’s election conspiracy theories or otherwise questioned the legitimacy of the race at least 574 times, according to a report from Media Matters. The majority of such claims were given airtime on opinion shows, but 208 such instances apparently appeared on the network’s “hard news” programming. A few personalities at the network are critical of the president’s half-assed coup, but at this point, Fox’s Trump problem—which may or may not be a contributing factor in its post-Election Day decline in viewership—resembles not so much an editorial issue as a lover’s quarrel.
Fox News isn’t the only GOP pillar that Newsmax has in its crosshairs. The network’s most popular host wants to take out the entire system and form a new one under the banner of Trump. “We need a new party,” Greg Kelly said on the Wednesday airing of his Newsmax show. “Democrats aren’t cutting it, and quite frankly, I don’t think the Republicans are cutting it. At least a lot of them are just mailing it in.” He went on to wish aloud for the creation of “The ‘MAGA Party’—a party about ideas, the Constitution, opportunity, liberty...term limits, the Second Amendment, and canceling…the deep state and the federal bureaucracy.”
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