Don’t bet against Trump and Fox News reuniting for 2024
Is the romance between former President Trump and Fox News officially over? Reportedly so. In the weeks since November’s midterm elections left Republicans reeling, much has been made of the supposedly messy breakup.
Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News, has said that that he wouldn’t back Trump’s reelection bid. Recent headlines at the network have taken an anti-Trump tone. Just this week, Fox News dumped Trump’s daughter-in-law as a contributor.
But will the breakup stick? Fox News needs Trump as much as Trump needs Fox News. America’s ultimate rightwing power couple may be on the ropes — but don’t bet against the pair reuniting for 2024. Here’s why.
Love Repeats Itself
Remember 2016? The Fox News boardroom didn’t seem thrilled with the idea of flirting with an oddball, reality-TV star with no shot of winning. Until, that is, Trump steamrolled “low energy Jeb,” destroyed “little Marco,” ripped up “Lyin’ Ted” — and proved that he was the consensus choice of fed-up Republicans and many independents.
Suddenly, Fox News was smitten.
Now, the flavor of the month is Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), whom many in the GOP have fawned over as Trump’s heir apparent and Fox News’s budding love interest. “Fox News has found their new Trump,” read one headline. “Ron DeSantis is the new Republican Party leader,” declared an article on Fox News.com.
DeSantis’s appeal shouldn’t be discounted. But he’s in no way replaced Trump in the minds of MAGA loyalists.
Once more candidates jump into the primary fray and split the anti-Trump vote, Trump’s front-runner status will solidify — and Fox News will remember why it crushed on Trump in the first place.
The station’s already proven once that it prioritizes dating a winner.
Trumpfest on Air
Rupert Murdoch may run Fox News, but its voice, and its heart, belongs to celebrity anchors likely Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and a litany of other figures who’ve become household names in red America. They not only love Trump, but in some cases have been the brains behind his policies and messages.
While some at Fox News, such as Laura Ingraham, have questioned whether Republican voters are ready to move on from Trump, that’s the exception, not the rule. The general view: Let’s get this party started.
“Trump’s like the guy that shows up at the night club with…this huge entourage and just takes over the place…[E]xcept it’s like 70 million people who are going to vote for him,” Fox News’s Greg Gutfeld has said. “[W]e need him to launch this adventure for us.”
Murdoch may try to break up with Trump. But the odds of him muzzling – much less canning – Fox News’s prime-time personalities are about the same as Trump conceding the 2020 election.
Unless its celebrity anchors change their tune toward Trump (which they won’t), Fox News will remain a Trumpfest on-air.
The Jealous Type
Fox News isn’t the only station vying for MAGA affection. Compared to 2016, the rightwing cable landscape has exploded. In 2020, Fox News faced mounting competition to its right, especially from emergent powerhouses like Newsmax and One America News Network (OAN).
There was an unrelenting competition to “outfox Fox News,” wrote one journalist at the time. Another analysis cited a “race unfolding among several conservative outlets who don’t think Fox is pro-Trump enough.”
Like all for-profit ventures, Fox News is the jealous type. Today, if Fox News veers too far to the center, or doesn’t defend Trump like its viewers demand, other networks might again woo its share of the conservative audience.
To some extent, that’s already happened. Fox Corp. executive Steve Tomsic, for instance, conceded in 2020 that his station “do[es]n’t take lightly the potential for competition, whether it’s the existing sort of classic MSNBC or CNN or the sort of emerging ones like Newsmax and OAN.”
Even more reason for Fox News to dance with its old flame.
Thomas Gift (@TGiftiv) is associate professor and the director of the Centre on US Politics (@CUSP_ucl) at University College London.
NOTE: This post has been updated from the original to make clear the Newsmax and OAN analyses were from 2020 and to more accurately reflect Mr. Tomsic’s executive status.
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