President Donald Trump, angry at what used to be his most prominent champions in conservative media, is sending his followers to Newsmax and Newsmax is relishing the attention from the president — and the surge in interest.
Christopher Ruddy, the Boca Raton company’s CEO, a longtime friend of Trump’s and reportedly a member of the Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago Club, appeared on one of the channel’s programs on Thursday to describe a conversation in which the president praised his network and trashed his former favorite, Fox News.
Ruddy quoted the president as being “quite critical of Fox News and says everybody’s telling me I’m turning off Fox and going to Newsmax” adding that Trump “seemed to be happy about Newsmax getting the ratings.”
.@FoxNews daytime ratings have completely collapsed. Weekend daytime even WORSE. Very sad to watch this happen, but they forgot what made them successful, what got them there. They forgot the Golden Goose. The biggest difference between the 2016 Election, and 2020, was @FoxNews!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2020
Earlier in the day, the president excoriated Fox News Channel in a Twitter post and retweeted a supporter’s comment that “Fox has been completely unfair and untruthful. Moving to Newsmax.” Earlier this week, Trump tweeted clips from Newsmax programming to his 89 million followers.
Unlike the website Drudge Report, which began abandoning Trump more than a year ago, and the news side of Fox, which calls Joe Biden the president-elect, Newsmax is providing more comfort to those who hope Trump can remain in office past Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.
Trump supporters have noticed — big time, said Scott Newmark, president of Americans for Trump, which is based in Broward.
“People are disgusted with Fox News right now, and it will help Newsmax big time,” Newmark said. “People are leaving Fox News in droves.”
He said his social media is filled with people talking about switching to Newsmax, and to a lesser extent another conservative outlet, One America News Network. It was a frequent topic of conversation, Newmark said, at a Trump club event Tuesday night.
Trump has been increasingly unhappy with Fox News, which he believes wasn’t as supportive of him this year as it was in 2016. Writing Thursday on Twitter, he said the channel “forgot what made them successful, what got them there. They forgot the Golden Goose. The biggest difference between the 2016 Election, and 2020, was @FoxNews.”
In July, the president tweeted that “@FoxNews weekend afternoons is the worst! Getting into @CNN and MSDNC territory. Watch @OANN & @newsmax instead. Much better!”
Newmark said the event that galvanized the president’s most loyal supporters was Fox News calling an Arizona victory for Biden on Election Night. “This was the precipitating factor,” he said, adding that the Fox News on-air team that night appeared to many as “biased against President Trump. It’s like they leaned over backwards to support Biden. … People were saying ‘what’s happening here’ and ‘Why is this occurring.”
For much of the Trump era, Ruddy, has been a go-to source for national media outlets trying to discern the president’s thinking. Now, in the aftermath of the 2020 election that Trump lost, the loyalty from Newsmax and Ruddy is paying off.
Unlike all major news organizations that have said Biden is the winner, Newsmax and Ruddy haven’t said the outcome isn’t certain. Ruddy said the contests were so close in several states that Trump has “every right” and “every legal right” to question the results. If continued counting and recounting and challenges don’t result in a change, he says, “we’re not denying Joe Biden the victory.”
Echoing much of what the president’s most fervent supporters are saying, Ruddy said Thursday that the “same press” that sponsored polling showing Biden with a huge win has declared the Democrat the winner, suggesting that those conclusions also may be wrong. He also said there is evidence of voter fraud, though he added it is anecdotal and “we don’t know how widespread it is.” Top election officials have said there is no evidence of fraud.
“We’re not saying that Joe Biden is not going to be the president of the United States. We’re saying the Electoral College should make that decision. Newsmax will support whoever is the duly elected president,” Ruddy said.
Charles Zelden, a professor of history and legal studies who specializes in politics and voting at Nova Southeastern University, said the Newsmax programming is allowing Trump and his supporters to find a media home they’re comfortable with. And it’s providing Newsmax an opportunity to show itself off to people who haven’t sampled its website or cable channel before.
“What he’s discovering is that his old standbys like Fox News, like Drudge, aren’t willing to go further down the river to fantasy that he is, that they still have some ties, for lack of a better term, to reality,” Zelden said. “And rather than taking the hint that maybe I should pull back a bit, he’s just saying that they’re really on the other side.”
Zelden said it’s probably good business for Newsmax and OANN. “This is a way for them to earn their nuts, to establish themselves in people’s minds,” he said. “The question is how many of the president’s followers are willing to follow him down this rabbit hole, to follow his lead.”
Clearly the attention is helping Newsmax attract a new audience. Ruddy said in his Thursday afternoon appearance on Newsmax that his channel’s ratings early this week outpaced CNBC and Fox Business combined. (That’s a low bar, because those are low-rated networks whose audience don’t come close to Fox News Channel.)
Newsmax also said this week that downloads of its smartphone app have grown dramatically. And Google Trends shows searches for Newsmax started soaring the day after the election and have continued to far outpace anything in the last year.
The big unknowns are what happens when Trump leaves office.
Newmark said a long run issue is how accessible Newsmax is to viewers. On Comcast cable in parts of Broward County, for example, it’s at channel 1115 — not something channel surfers are likely to stumble across.
Republican analyst Myra Adams of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, who writes frequently for conservative national publications, wrote recently that Newsmax could turn into a vehicle for Trump TV — something that people in the Trump orbit talked about before he won in 2016 and have discussed since Biden was declared the victor of the 2020 election.
“Now it has a different perspective, because now Trump is like Fox News is enemy No. 1,” Adams said. “He wants to get back at Fox News.”
Adams, who said she’s never written for Newsmax, served on John McCain’s Ad Council during the 2008 presidential campaign and on President George W. Bush’s campaign creative team in 2004.
Ruddy, 55, founded the Newsmax website in 1998, and launched Newsmax TV in 2014. It’s become a home for some not especially well-known personalities who used to work at Fox News, including Rob Schmitt, who disappeared as the co-host of the early morning program “Fox & Friends First” in August and the duo “Diamond and Silk” whose show on the streaming platform Fox Nation was cancelled after what The Daily Beast reported was their promotion of “conspiracy theories and disinformation about the coronavirus.”
Another Newsmax personality is Sean Spicer, who was Trump’s widely ridiculed first press secretary.
The founder’s allegiances aren’t always completely transparent. CNN reported that Ruddy pursued scandals connected with former President Bill Clinton, but then became a Clinton friend and donated $1 million to the Clinton Foundation. That donation prompted this 2015 analysis on Twitter from longtime Trump confidante and Clinton critic Roger Stone: “WTF@newsmax Publisher Chris Ruddy gives $1 M to Clintons, says Hillary would be a ‘great President.’”
Adams said the latest dose of presidential publicity is a bonanza. “This is the best thing to happen to Newsmax since Trump got elected. This is the best thing for [Ruddy]. The more you hear ‘Newsmax,’ the better for him.”
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