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 TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE 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 HarrisAndrew (Andy) Peter HarrisRepublicans demanding Blinken impeachment are forgetting one thing — the Constitution Sixth House GOP lawmaker issued K metal detector fine Overnight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade MORE (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 BidenJoe BidenFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push Protesters demonstrate outside Manchin's houseboat over opposition to reconciliation package Alabama eyes using pandemic relief funds on prison system MORE 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 SpicerSean Michael SpicerOvernight Defense & National Security — Iron Dome funding clears House Sean Spicer, Russ Vought sue Biden over Naval Board removal Psaki defends move to oust Trump appointees from military academy boards MORE 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 BlackburnMarsha BlackburnBig Tech should pay for damaging mental health Facebook to testify in Senate after report finds Instagram harms mental health House Oversight Democrat presses Facebook for 'failure' to protect users MORE (R-Tenn.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 White House debates vaccines for air travel Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken MORE (R-Ky.) and David PerdueDavid PerdueTrump stokes GOP tensions in Georgia GOP sees Biden crises as boon for midterm recruitment Trump campaign, RNC refund donors another .8 million in 2021: NYT MORE (R-Ga.).
Rep. Jody HiceJody Brownlow HiceTrump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Trump stokes GOP tensions in Georgia Herschel Walker will speak at Trump rally in Georgia MORE (R-Ga.) stopped by to attack elected Republican officials in Georgia for not doing enough to root out fraud. Rep. Chuck FleischmannCharles (Chuck) Joseph FleischmannHouse Democrats include immigration priorities as they forward DHS funding bill The Memo: Biden feels the heat from all sides on immigration Biden official defends Trump-era immigration policy MORE (R-Tenn.) hammered Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellGreene heckles Democrats and they fire back on Capitol steps Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails MORE (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 BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksWatchdog group seeks ethics probe over McCarthy's Jan. 6 comments Jan. 6 panel seeks records of those involved in 'Stop the Steal' rally Jan. 6 panel to ask for preservation of phone records of GOP lawmakers who participated in Trump rally: report MORE (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.