An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Newsmax Benefits From Trump Fans' Resentment Toward Fox News


Donald Trump's reelection bid was good for the cable news business, especially Fox News, which reached all-time high ratings this past year. But the president and his loyalists didn't like it when Fox acknowledged reality and called the election for Joe Biden. That has opened an opportunity for rival networks full of alternative facts. Here's NPR's David Folkenflik.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Fox News has been one of the president's chief pillars of support. Yet Fox has been pulling back, at least somewhat, from denying the outcome of the election. Take Fox's Laura Ingraham.


LAURA INGRAHAM: But unless the legal situation changes in a dramatic and, frankly, an unlikely manner, Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20.

FOLKENFLIK: This concession to the facts has made Trump's true believers see red.


RANDY QUAID: (Reading) Fox News' daytime ratings have completely collapsed.

FOLKENFLIK: President Trump retweeted the Hollywood actor-turned-right-wing conspiracy theorist Randy Quaid reading aloud from Trump's own tweets. One of the places Trump has been touting - the 6-year-old Newsmax TV, which, much like Fox, is attacking the media as much as Democrats. The difference is now Fox is the media giant taking hits from the right, in this case from Newsmax host Greg Kelly, best known as a former Fox News personality.


GREG KELLY: People are talking about what's happening in Fox. Fox does seem to be going through something of an identity crisis. They're not very supportive of the president these days. They seem to be bending over backwards to hurt him.

FOLKENFLIK: If you thought Fox gave a lot of time to Trump's advocates making unfounded claims, at least it sometimes pushed back. Newsmax doubles down on conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated claims with Rudy Giuliani, rogue Trump lawyer Sidney Powell and pro-Trump personalities Diamond and Silk, former Fox Nation stars who claim COVID-19 was unleashed to hurt Trump at the polls.


DIAMOND: That don't work like that.

SILK: Yeah. No, no, no, no.

DIAMOND: I believe that this whole fiasco was planned, including the China virus. All of this was part of the scamdemic (ph) for this moment right here.

KURT BARDELLA: Really, it is just an audiovisual extension of Trump Twitter.

FOLKENFLIK: Kurt Bardella is a former Republican congressional staffer and Breitbart spokesman-turned-anti-Trump activist.

BARDELLA: 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.

FOLKENFLIK: Here's Newsmax founder and CEO Christopher Ruddy, a longtime friend of Trump. Ruddy says he's sympathetic to Trump's claims but doesn't actually endorse them.

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: I don't want to start censoring opinion people on Newsmax, like I wouldn't expect NBC to start censoring people that come on MSNBC.

FOLKENFLIK: Ruddy says Fox wrote Trump off too quickly.

RUDDY: That sounds like something ABC News would do. You know, it was an organic thing across social media and elsewhere. Take a look at Newsmax. Their coverage is more fair.

FOLKENFLIK: Newsmax is having a moment. It has become the fourth-highest rated cable news channel. And Fox's own ratings, while still high, have fallen. For all that, Bardella tells Newsmax, enjoy your moment. He argues Ruddy is not preparing for a world after Trump.

BARDELLA: He's acting purely as a capitalist at this point. 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.

FOLKENFLIK: There had been a lot of talk about Trump TV, about him joining Newsmax. Ruddy says that's unlikely but is happy for the president to shine the light on his upstart network. David Folkenflik, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.