What happened to Fox News?

I have written several articles on postings related to Big Tech, Social Media and Corporations. A list of links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address different aspects on these Industries.

I always thought that Fox News was a supporter of President Trump. There were always a few that spoke out against him just for balance. However, after watching the hatchet job the Chris Wallace did on President Trump in the First presidential debate, I realized that the wind was starting to blow in a different direction. Then it was confirmed on November 3rd in their handling of the states that were given to Trump. It looked like they wanted Biden to have a lead of over 50 electoral votes before they would give him a state. Florida was in Trump’s pocket for a couple of hours before they finally gave it to him. They never gave Alaska to him that night, even though he had a commanding lead in that state. They gave Virginia to Biden even though Trump had a lead. They said that Biden would eventually win, and he did. But that is besides the point. They should never have given it to Biden in the first place, just leave it undecided. It was like they were playing PSYOP or PSYWAR games. They were trying to show that it was futile to vote for Trump, because Biden had such a commanding lead. Even Bret Baer asked about some of the choices being made. Apparently he was not in on the big secret.

Now as time progressed in the fight to prove that there was voter fraud, more and more hosts changed sides and started speaking out against Trump. Guests from the White House were harassed and treated poorly. Hosts like Juan Williams and Chris Wallace were even more blatant in the anti Trump Rhetoric. Just recently Tucker Carlson spoke out against President Trump on one of his talk shows. Though the next night he was back to his pro Trump stance. So now we only have a few people left, Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Jeanine Piero, Mark Levin, Steve Hilton, Jessie Waters and occasionally Tucker Carlson. The rest can’t be counted any more. I am not the only one that feels that way. Just look at their ratings, Newsmax is chiseling away at them. News max is unabashedly pro Trump and Republican.

I am sure the pressure on Fox is enormous to change sides to Biden, that is probably the reason they are making the switch. They are caring a large overhead with all of their highly paid hosts, especially Hannity making in excess of $40 million a year. Newsmax hosts make a lot less money, so they can operate on a tighter budget. So hopefully they won’t feel the pressure as much.

Evidence of the slide

Fox News’ favorability has tumbled among Republicans since Election Day, as the cable news network has faced a steady drumbeat of criticism from President Donald Trump. 

From late December 2019 through Nov. 2, 67 percent of U.S. adults who identify as Republican viewed Fox News favorably, according to Morning Consult’s Brand Intelligence, which tracks consumer attitudes of thousands of brands, while roughly 16 percent had an unfavorable view of the cable channel. 

Then came election night, when Fox News was the first news organization to project a Trump loss in the battleground state of Arizona. 

The announcement reportedly enraged the president, and in the days since he has continued to wallop the network on Twitter, saying its ratings have “completely collapsed,” criticizing its coverage of his supporters’ rally in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14 and suggesting that his followers turn instead to One America News Network or Newsmax, two conservative cable news networks. 

It appears such rhetoric has impacted public opinion of the brand. In polling conducted Nov. 9-16, the network’s average favorability rating among GOP respondents has dropped 13 percentage points, to 54 percent, and the average share of those with an unfavorable view of the network nearly doubled, to 30 percent. 

Even before Nov. 3, the president had been increasingly critical of the network, particularly its news operation, over the years, culminating in an Election Day interview on “Fox & Friends” in which he accused the network of abandoning him.

“Somebody said, ‘What’s the biggest difference between this and four years ago?’ And I say ‘Fox, it’s much different,’” Trump told the hosts.

Trump supporters have taken their cue from the president. When they marched through the streets of Washington to protest the election, at several points during their demonstration they chanted, “Fox News sucks!” 

The network did not respond to a request for comment.

Conservatives’ souring on the network has been reflected in other research: Conservative viewership of Fox News on YouTube dropped the week following the election, according to an independent research project called Transparency Tube. 

Trump reportedly wants to capitalize on this erosion of support for Fox. Last week, Axios reported that Trump has told friends he wants to create a digital media company to “wreck” the network, according to one source.

An intriguing media story that has sprung up since the election has been the modest rise of Newsmax — a conservative, very pro-Trump outlet that smells blood in the water that it can overtake Fox News as the go-to outlet for right-leaning viewers. The network has become a favorite of President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed as he touts its coverage, while occasionally taking shots that Fox News isn’t what it used to be — in his eyes, anyway.

So is there anything to all this? Is Newsmax actually making a dent? Well, this is true: Fox News’ ratings for certain time slots have dipped a bit since the election, while Newsmax has seen flashes of ratings success. For example, it had a night last week when more than a million people were watching. To be clear, that’s like a third of those who are watching Fox News on a typical night, but it’s quite the leap for a network that very recently was drawing fewer than 60,000 viewers a night.

Newsmax has become comfort food for staunch Trump supporters because it shamelessly promotes baseless conspiracy theories about election fraud. For the moment, Newsmax might be causing a bit of a headache for Fox News.

The New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum and John Koblin note that while Newsmax hasn’t overtaken Fox News in viewership, there are indirect ratings ramifications. For example, for the first time in 19 years, the morning show “Fox & Friends” drew a smaller weekly audience than MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” And you’ve likely seen Trump supporters chanting things like “Fox News sucks” during protests and marches.

Grynbaum and Koblin wrote, “The loss of viewers has set off alarm bells inside Fox News, said several people with ties to the network who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid straining relationships. A new slogan promoting its pro-Trump opinion hosts — ‘Standing Up For What’s Right’ — is now in heavy rotation.”

On his “Reliable Sources” show, CNN’s Brian Stelter said Fox News is “feeling pressure from the right, from Newsmax.” Stelter said he believes that’s why it aired Rudy Giuliani’s wacky press conference in its entirety last week.

“Newsmax’s ratings are going up, up, up,” Stelter said, “because they are providing an alternative reality for Trump fans. They claim the election is not over.”

Trump’s cheerleading for Newsmax raises some other questions, most notably whether he has his sights on either partnering with or buying Newsmax. There have long been rumors that Trump would be interested in owning a cable network to use as his personal megaphone and buying Newsmax would allow him to take over a cable outlet that is already up and running instead of starting one from scratch. Newsmax is available in a little more than 70 million households, but many cable subscribers have to hunt for it on their televisions.

Newsmax owner Christopher Ruddy has been quoted recently as saying he has had no discussions with Trump about Newsmax’s future, although he does admit that a Trump-hosted talk show would be “terrific.”

My two cents: Newsmax is really going to have to up its game in every way, particularly with technology and talent and strategy, if it wants to have staying power in the cable news game. It doesn’t have a credible news division, and its programming is built around talk shows with opinion hosts. Spouting off conspiracy theories about the election might attract a few viewers for now, but there’s an expiration date on that script.

To suggest that what we’ve seen from Newsmax in the past couple of weeks is a precursor to it becoming a major player feels like an overreaction. It’s a niche cable company that is having a moment with the one story that appeals to the most extreme Trump supporters.

In an interview with The Associated Press’ David Bauder, Nicole Hemmer, a Columbia University professor and author of “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics,” compared Newsmax’s rating surge to a temper tantrum by some Fox News viewers.

Eventually, it’s going to have to bring more to the table than conspiracy theories that have been dismissed about an election that has been decided.

For the first time, Fox News has a little competition for conservative viewers. But when the dust settles, I still believe that Fox News will maintain its viewers, while Newsmax will only draw a small cult-like (if that) following.

Now, could Trump joining Newsmax in some capacity be a game-changer? Sure. But I’ll believe that when I see it.

There may be no media figure more important in preparing Republicans and President Trump himself for a post-Trump period than magnate Rupert Murdoch.

Among his properties, the top-rated Fox News Channel stands out, its role in shaping conservative thought and Republican Party politics unrivaled, at least within media. Murdoch allied himself with Trump despite holding the former reality show host in low esteem. And Fox has been one of Trump’s strongest sources of support. So how the channel presented Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s rising election fortunes matters. Deeply.

On Tuesday night, Fox News became the first major news outlet to declare that Biden would win Arizona. An angry Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, dialed Murdoch to demand he reverse the network’s call. Pro-Trump supporters in Maricopa County, Ariz. — some of them armed — led chants of “Fox sucks.” And for days, the network’s top opinion hosts gave ballast to the president’s unfounded and corrosive claims of voter fraud by Democrats, seeking to discredit the entire electoral process.

Fox News’ journalists, by and large, have attempted to navigate a gentle landing for their audiences so that they recognize Trump has lost the election. But the network’s stars have larded their shows with Trump advocates. All this week, they’ve made baseless but incendiary accusations to ensure that viewers never accept Biden as legitimate.

Murdoch threw his weight and his media outlets behind the president early on, although his Wall Street Journal‘s news pages have also offered muscular investigative reporting on Trump. That alliance has served Murdoch well, giving him full and frequent access to Trump as well as a presidential seal of approval on his sale of entertainment properties to Disney despite antitrust concerns.

The president considers many Fox News figures among his closest advisers. These include Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro and others. He has drawn from the ranks of Fox contributors to fill senior White House appointments and even considered stars for Cabinet positions. And they, in turn, have been ferocious in relaying the president’s baseless claims, winning his frequent appearances on their programs and stratospheric ratings in response.

Earlier this year, Fox News stars helped whip up protests in opposition to shutdowns related to COVID-19 and orders to wear masks. Fox News stars stoked potential scandals involving Biden’s son Hunter based on unauthenticated reports from Murdoch’s New York Post — material Fox’s own reporters largely could not validate.

As one small sign of the ways in which Fox and Trump Republicans can orchestrate programming, on Friday evening, NPR reviewed an internal GOP memo sent to top party officials to prepare Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel for her appearance on Hannity’s show that night. It set out in great specificity the intended flow of the show’s lengthy opening segment — including its guests, articles and subjects — and the primary points Hannity would make. The two jointly focused on stoking suspicions of voter fraud. (The RNC confirmed the memo’s authenticity but declined to comment on the collaboration.)

After Fox’s election project decision desk called Arizona for Biden late Tuesday night local time, the Trump campaign put out a statement trashing its head, Arnon Mishkin, who later appeared on-air to acknowledge he had done work for Democrats in the past. One Republican senator, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, accused Fox of a cover-up in a radio interview and called on the network to fire Mishkin. “Fox News owes the American people an apology,” he said.

The network stood by its decision desk.

But others say the Murdochs need to do more to help viewers accept the verdict of the American public. CNN anchor Jake Tapper said on-air, “The Murdochs and the people at Fox have an obligation to put their country above their profits.” Murdoch’s liberal daughter-in-law Kathryn Murdoch tweeted that she agreed. She is married to Murdoch’s younger son, James, who is no longer a top executive within the family media empire, though he retains a major stake.

And the culture clash between the network’s top news anchors and its brightest stars, many of whom climbed aboard the Trump train to ratings glory, is at its most stark.

“The transparency and watching the ballots is different than finding fraud that narrows the gap,” anchor Bret Baier told McDaniel, the GOP chairwoman, on the air Friday morning. “There’s all kinds of stuff flying on the Internet. But when we look into it, it doesn’t pan out.”

He and anchor Martha MacCallum sounded like they were staging an intervention: They were affirming, even soothing McDaniel, while taking issue with the substance of her claims.

Compare that with Hannity’s rhetoric on Thursday night: “Americans will never be able to believe in the integrity and legitimacy of these [election] results.” Or Dobbs, who condemned GOP lawmakers Thursday for being insufficiently loyal to Trump: “I don’t even hear thank yous, let alone engagement to do the right thing and stop this corruption at the ballot on the part of the Democrats.”

Fox’s conservative stars gave guests uncritical time to make baseless claims bashing the integrity of the electoral system, as Trump has for weeks.

“President Trump won this election,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said without offering any evidence. “So everyone who’s listening: Do not be quiet. Do not be silent about this. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes.” (McCarthy later claimed he was referring to Trump’s winning seats in the House for Republicans, not the White House, but that would render the rest of his comments incomprehensible.)

CNN reported Friday that Fox News anchors had received a memo warning them not to call Biden “president-elect” even if the network projected him to win Nevada’s six electoral votes. (Because of the Arizona projection, that would give Biden enough to secure the network’s call for the presidency.) According to a Fox News staffer, midlevel producers were advising on-air journalists to await more concrete direction from the network’s Washington desk before bestowing that title. A Fox News spokesperson said there have been no networkwide memos or editorial guidance from Fox News.

Later in the day, Baier and Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace went out of their way to indicate Biden would be president-elect should he win Pennsylvania or another state.

On Thursday, the New York Post published online two stories deeply discounting claims made by Trump in his White House remarks that night and in an earlier tweet from his son Donald Jr.

What Trump and his supporters may forget is that Murdoch’s conservatism is tempered by his pragmatism. He is always in the business of finding a way to do business. And he very much wants to back a winner. Which means, at times, that Murdoch and his properties pivot — severely.

Just after Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney went down to defeat in 2012, Hannity announced he had had an “evolution” on immigration. It happened within 24 hours of then-Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes telling his broadcasting team that people in the U.S. without legal status could no longer be demonized as illegal immigrants. (Ailes, and Fox, would later backslide in a big way on that conclusion.)

And indeed, on Friday, after a fairly fiery hour of Hannity’s show, Laura Ingraham encouraged Trump to depart the scene with dignity, should the occasion arise. (And yes, Fox hosts do communicate with Trump by speaking directly on the air as well as off.) “President Trump’s legacy will only become more significant if he focuses on moving the country forward,” Ingraham said. “And then the love and respect his supporters feel for him? It’s only going to grow stronger.”

Now you can watch Fox’s conservative hosts on the air — the ones who make the network so profitable — maintain their loyalty to Trump, while the news side gently pulls the network into the orbit of political gravity. How deftly the network negotiates that shift more completely — and how soon it does so — will help determine how readily its viewers, the president’s fans and the president himself come to terms with the political reality.

Murdoch’s Fox will always emerge to greet another day. It flourished during the Clinton and Obama administrations. “The news cycle will moderate,” Fox Corp. Executive Chairman and CEO Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert’s older son, told investors this week. “We fully expect to be No. 1 and maintain share through that.”

And it’s pretty clear what Fox News would look like under a Biden administration: giving airtime to potential Republican presidential hopefuls and attacking Joe and Hunter Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and young progressive House stars, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

Conclusion

So the question remains will Fox News continue to be able to walk the tightrope between Trump and Biden? Will Hannity and Ingraham and their large salaries become too much of a burden to bear, and will they have to let them go, as ratings slip and profits diminish?

Resources

morningconsult.com, “Fox News’ Popularity Slips Among Republicans in Wake of Election: The network’s average favorability rating among Republicans dropped from 67% to 54%,” By Joanna Piacenza; poynter.org, “Trump supporters turning to Newsmax? The network has become a favorite of President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, while he occasionally claims Fox News isn’t what it used to be,” By Tome Jones; npr.org, “With Trump’s Loss, Murdoch’s Fox News Faces Wrath And Tough Choices,” By David Folkenflik;

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