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GOP lawmakers are showing up more frequently on Newsmax

Watch the conservative cable television outlet Newsmax on a given night and you'll see a parade of GOP lawmakers and other influential conservatives.

As President Trump openly feuds with Fox News, conservative lawmakers and loyal Trump officials have increasingly added Newsmax to their rotation of media stops, giving a sheen of credibility to the fledgling network as it seeks to compete for conservative viewers.

Newsmax is still not in the same ratings stratosphere as Fox, which draws millions of viewers nightly to its flagship opinion shows and has a robust, around-the-clock news division.

But GOP lawmakers say Trump's criticism of Fox, coupled with reports from their home districts about how some conservatives are adding Newsmax to their media diet, has them eager to appear on the network.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) said he's been doing more appearances on Newsmax and its smaller rival, One America News (OAN), in recent weeks.

Asked whether Trump's criticism of Fox News is a factor for the small segment of Republicans considering the alternative networks, Harris replied: "It is for me."

Newsmax, which was founded by Trump friend Christopher Ruddy, has been unapologetic about its pro-Trump content, although it began referring to Joe Biden as the "president-elect" following the Electoral College vote.

Fox News has been using that term since election night, while OAN has still refused to recognize Biden's victory.

Still, Republican strategists say that when they're trying to get their clients' message out, there is no better network to place a lawmaker or official than Fox News.

"If you're a Republican and want to get your message out to the masses, Newsmax isn't even in the same galaxy as Fox," said one former Trump campaign official.

Newsmax has been around since the late 1990s and the fact that it books conservative lawmakers is not totally new. But it has taken on new significance in light of Trump's feud with Fox.

On a recent weeknight on Newsmax, anchor Sean Spicer and co-host Lyndsay Keith hosted a segment with two up-and-coming Texas Republicans, Reps.-elect August Pfluger and Tony Gonzales, in which they picked apart Biden's Cabinet nominees.

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the incoming chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said he has no idea who's up or down when it comes to TV ratings. He's still a regular on Fox, but he said he's appeared on Spicer's show multiple times because he has a relationship with the former White House press secretary and the show is popular with voters back in northeastern Indiana.

"Sean Spicer is well respected on Capitol Hill and his show with Lyndsay is both substantive and widely viewed in Congress," Banks told The Hill. "I enjoy doing it and get feedback from constituents when I do."

Over one 24-hour period last week, Newsmax featured new interviews with Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.).

Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) stopped by to attack elected Republican officials in Georgia for not doing enough to root out fraud. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) hammered Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) for his office having been infiltrated by a Chinese spy. And Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) came on to blame Democrats for stalling COVID-19 relief efforts.

Part of Trump's problem with Fox has been its news division's skepticism of his claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread fraud.

In interviews this week on Newsmax, Reps. Biggs and Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who is spearheading an effort to challenge the Electoral College vote on the floor of the House next month, received no pushback on their fraud claims or about the likelihood that their revolt could succeed.

For some GOP lawmakers, Newsmax is a safe space where they can espouse their theories and promote their efforts to overturn the election, even if that outcome is far-fetched.

"I am going to assure the American people, I am going to do everything I can to reverse these Electoral College votes submitted by states that have election systems that are so badly flawed that their reporting of Electoral Colleges votes is rendered untrustworthy," Brooks told Newsmax's Grant Stinchfield.

Other Republicans reached by The Hill say they have not appeared yet on Newsmax or OAN, but they are taking notice - not only of Trump's broadsides at Fox but also of what their constituents are tuning into each night.

"I know back home people are watching Fox less and watching the other outlets," said a second GOP lawmaker who hails from a conservative district in the Midwest.

Those kinds of anecdotes about conservatives switching to Newsmax have not materialized in any meaningful sense in the Nielsen ratings, which are dominated by Fox.

Fox News Channel is the top-rated network in both total daytime and prime time across both total viewers and the key 25- to 54-year-old demographic.

Newsmax's ratings have been choppy since the election, as it works to professionalize its operations to capitalize on the buzz Trump has brought it.

Still, Fox can book anyone it wants - including Trump, who sat for an interview with Fox & Friends last week, despite his criticism of the network.

"I don't think anything they've done over the past two months is going to have a long-term positive effect for Newsmax," said the former Trump campaign official. "They've taken advantage of a short-term play and it's already starting to fade, as are some of the attacks on Fox. The end of their short ascension came when they started calling Biden the president-elect. How does that make them different from anyone else?"

Mike Lills contributed.

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