Conservative Newsmax Media is reportedly set to launch its own 24-hour cable news channel in June. According to a Bloomberg Businessweek profile of Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy, "NewsmaxTV" will position itself as a "kinder, gentler" version of Fox News.
Ruddy tells Bloomberg that the channel's goal "is to be a little more boomer-oriented, more information-based rather than being vituperative and polarizing." That Ruddy sees an opening for a conservative outlet that is less aggressively partisan than Fox is a good indication of how far to the right that channel has veered during the Obama administration. It's also somewhat surprising, given Ruddy's personal history.
We've recently documented the close relationship between Donald Trump and the right-wing website Newsmax, which has been promoting Trump's potential presidential candidacy. Now, U.S. News & World Report's Paul Bedard has spoken with Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy, and Ruddy has confirmed that "Trump realizes the great potential of Newsmax and has been using it very adroitly" and that Newsmax is "happy" he's doing so.
Ruddy also responded to our description of Newsmax as an "early and enthusiastic promoter of Trump's presidential ambitions." Bedard wrote: "Ruddy has no problem with that description. 'Media Matters is right,' he says."
From Bedard's post on the Washington Whispers blog:
So is there a Trump-Newsmax conspiracy? "Yes," cheers Ruddy. "Trump realizes the great potential of Newsmax and has been using it very adroitly. We're well aware he's using it, happy he's using it" says Ruddy from the Newsmax HQ in Florida.
"He's been really responsive to our news team here," says Ruddy, who calls Trump a "friend."
Recently, the potential 2012 GOP primary candidate dropped by Newsmax's West Palm Beach HQ and even chose it as the place to reveal his American birth certificate, part of his effort to call into question President Obama's birthplace. Ruddy doesn't back the birther movement and says he told Trump that he believes Obama was born in Hawaii.
Media Matters last week put a spotlight on the news site's coverage of Trump, calling it an "early and enthusiastic promoter of Trump's presidential ambitions."
Ruddy has no problem with that description. "Media Matters is right," he says.
For at least the third time in the past year, right-wing website Newsmax has provided positive coverage to a Florida politician whose campaign or political committee has received money from Newsmax or its CEO, Christopher Ruddy. This financial support has not been disclosed in campaign endorsements or other articles about these politicians at Newsmax.
In June, Media Matters noted that Dick Morris was leading a fundraiser for Bill McCollum, who was in a Republican primary race for Florida governor (while falsely claiming that he rarely endorsed candidates).
Afterward, Morris appeared on Fox News twice -- on August 9 and August 23 -- to tout McCollum and attack his opponent, Rick Scott (who ultimately defeated McCollum in the August 24 primary). In neither appearance did Morris disclose that he had taken part in a fundraiser for McCollum.
As the invitation to the June 23 fundraiser shows – obtained by Media Matters from Morris' mailing list -- Morris was no passive participant. He is listed as one of two hosts for it, and he also starred in a "VIP Reception" area where, for a $300 donation, donors had the opportunity for a "VIP Photo Op With Dick Morris."
Was it the opportunity to snag a glowing profile from a right-wing outlet?
Could it have been the chance to reach Lou Dobbs' coveted demographic of aging anti-immigrant conspiracy theorists?
Perhaps he was given some sort of clue as to how glowing the profile would end up? There isn't really a harsh word in the piece… they cover his dashingly good looks, his affection for Ailes-Hannity-O'Reilly, his purported fairness to both sides, that he worked at the AP once upon a time when it was still fair, and all of the big politicos appearing on his show. The profile's author, Ronald Kessler, even explains to his readers what it means for King to "keep kosher" since his conversion to Judaism.
The only thing that makes sense is the idea that King agreed to the interview because he knew in advance that it would be a puff-piece. Then again, maybe he didn't know Newsmax's history of right-wing incendiary misinformation. For example, back in September the publication ran a column (eventually taken down) stating that a military coup "to resolve the 'Obama problem'" was not "unrealistic." There's a lot more where that came from.
Check out the interview's gems after the break.
In the run-up to right-wing website Newsmax's June 17 Economic Crisis Summit -- featuring Bill O'Reilly - CEO and Editor in Chief Christopher Ruddy used fear of inflation and skyrocketing gas prices to entice people to attend the event. Previous Newsmax "summit[s]" have similarly stoked fears to drive sales of Newsmax's financial-services products.
Earlier today, Karl Frisch highlighted the interest of Newsmax's Christopher Ruddy in buying Newsweek. While Newsmax makes rich Republicans its target demographic -- according to Talkers magazine, 20 percent of its readership claims a net worth of $1 million or more -- it likely doesn't throw off enough money for Ruddy to purchase Newsweek without help.
Enter Richard Mellon Scaife.
Scaife, that longtime right-wing sugar daddy, has been Ruddy's benefactor for well over a decade, since Ruddy brought his Clinton conspiracy-mongering to the Scaife-owned Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. When Ruddy started Newsmax in 1997, Scaife was among the original investors, and by 2002 he was the third-largest shareholder. Today, all the other shareholders have been bought out, and Scaife and Ruddy are the sole owners of Newsmax, with Ruddy holding a majority stake.
Ruddy and Scaife purchasing Newsweek is not as far-fetched as it sounds, actually. Newsmax already publishes a monthly magazine that, despite an unmistakable rightward tilt, is professionally designed. A Ruddy-operated Newsweek would likely look much as it does now -- but would definitely have a lot more right-wing content, with an additional focus (like its current magazine has) on two other areas of Newsmax interest, money and health. It may also give a bigger platform for longtime Ruddy buddy (and failed prognosticator) Dick Morris, who has a history of helping Ruddy shill for Newsmax' financial products.
If, say, George Soros had expressed interest in buying Newsweek, Fox News wouldn't be able to report on anything else for days. But two right-wing political activists looking into obtaining the number-two weekly newsmagazine is raising barely a ripple.
UPDATE: Newsmax has confirmed that it has made a bid for Newsweek, adding that if it succeeds in obtaining the magazine, "Newsweek would continue in its mission to objectively report the news and provide analysis from a wide spectrum of perspectives."
Right-wingers love to claim that troubles in the print-media world can be chalked up to news consumers rejecting "liberal media bias." As Media Matters' Terry Krepel noted a few weeks ago, the decision by Washington Post Co. to sell Newsweek was no different:
At NewsBusters, the Media Research Center's Brent Baker claimed that Newsweek "repeatedly showcased their favorite candidate, Barack Obama, on the cover" and asked, "Might such obvious blatant liberal advocacy, which anyone could see in the grocery store checkout line, help explain its decline in fortunes -- in credibility followed by finances?"
He was joined by fellow MRC employee Clay Waters, who complained that a New York Times article on the sale failed to mention "Newsweek's purposeful shift toward liberal opinion over news-gathering."
At Fox News on May 8, contributor Liz Trotta highlighted John Podhoretz's claim that Newsweek is "a liberal journal of opinion masquerading as a news publication," added that "even The Washington Post" called it left-leaning, and posited that Newsweek's strategy of "shoving liberal opinion down [people's] throats" failed because it "colossally ... misjudged what the American public and the American readership is. It's not a bunch of lefties from New York."
Of course, this is the same right-wing media establishment that ignored the also-up-for-sale conservative Washington Times' lack of profits.
Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Newsmax publisher Christopher Ruddy is interested in purchasing the faltering news weekly (emphasis added):
OpenGate Capital, the investment firm that owns TV Guide, plans to formally declare its interest in acquiring Newsweek before Wednesday's deadline for nonbinding bids, according to managing partner Andrew Nikou. Christopher Ruddy, publisher of the conservative monthly magazine Newsmax, said he also plans to bid.
A right-wing "news" outlet is now interested in picking up a magazine that media conservatives claim failed because of "liberal bias." It would be funny if it weren't so delusional.
So, who exactly is Christopher Ruddy? For starters, Ruddy was a bit too nutty even for Rupert Murdoch's New York Post. As the New York Times reported in 1997:
...Chris Ruddy, a ferociously dogged reporter who says he lost a job at The New York Post partly because he would not let go of the Vince Foster story. Ruddy now works for The Tribune-Review, a right-wing Pittsburgh paper, and his stories are reprinted in newspaper advertisements around the country, paid for by the Western Journalism Center in Sacramento, Calif. Richard M. Scaife, an angel of the far right, owns The Tribune-Review and contributes money to the center.
The "Vince Foster story" to which the Times refers would be the crazy right-wing conspiracy theory that Foster didn't commit suicide and was instead killed.
As for Newsmax, it's a rabidly conservative "news" outlet that traffics in just the sort of right-wing Obama conspiracy theories and misinformation that Ruddy cut his teeth on during the Clinton years.
From the August 3 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Right-wing website Newsmax reports:
Join Vitter, Coburn, Ruddy in New York
Sunday, May 17, 2009 7:24 PM
The largest conservative insider meeting - The Monday Meeting in New York - will take place in New York this Monday, May 18.
This important meeting will include Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. Bob McDonnell, the former Virginia attorney general and Republican nominee for governor of Virginia, also will be there.
Obviously, it's probably too late for you to be there in person.
But thanks to Fox News, the Monday Meeting will be streamed live at www.foxnews.com/strategyroom.
To view the meeting, which will air Monday evening from 6 to 7:30 p.m. EDT, simply go to www.foxnews.com/strategyroom.
The Monday Meeting has received extensive coverage in the media. The Meeting has been profiled in New York Magazine and the Washington Post, among other publications and referenced extensively on electronic media. This is the first time that the meeting has been opened up to a broader audience.
In addition to attending "conservative insider meetings," Ruddy's past work involved spreading discredited conspiracy theories about the death of Vince Foster. Numerous official investigations have conclusively established that Foster committed suicide.
In the March/April 1996 Columbia Journalism Review, contributing editor Trudy Lieberman reported:
That Christopher Ruddy would win the Western Journalism Center's first "Courage in Journalism Award," with its crystal trophy and $2,000 check, is hardly surprising. Ruddy is a free-lance writer for the Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Tribune-Review, whose oeuvre is the 1993 death of White House aide Vincent Foster. The Western Journalism Center, based in suburban Sacramento, bills itself in a biweekly newsletter as a "nonprofit tax-exempt corporation promoting independent investigative reporting" and "the only national news agency supporting a full-time probe of the mysterious death of White House deputy counsel Vincent W. Foster, Jr." What this means, it seems, is that the Center mostly recycles stories written by Christopher Ruddy.
Ruddy was a reporter for the New York Post until the summer of 1994. A few months later he was hired by the Tribune-Review, which is owned and published by Richard Mellon Scaife, a Pittsburgh philanthropist well-known for funding right-wing causes and media watchdog organizations (see "Citizen Scaife," cjr, July/August 1981). At the Tribune-Review, Ruddy, who did not return calls to cjr, turns out frequent Foster stories, often on Sunday. The Western Journalism Center, too, has a strong connection to Scaife: last year a good chunk of its funding came from the Carthage Foundation, one of several foundations connected to him. Another large Center contributor is James Dale Davidson, who co-edits the newsletter Strategic Investment and is also chairman of the National Taxpayers Union, a conservative group whose research arm has received thousands of dollars from Scaife foundations.
One of the Center's major activities is trying to inject the dark view of Foster's death into mainstream reporting and thinking. Last year, to this end, the Center bought full-page ads in several major newspapers, including The New York Times, to showcase Ruddy's work and to offer for sale special Vince Foster reports, including a compilation of Ruddy's stories, titled "The Ruddy Investigation," for $12, and a forty-minute "riveting new video documentary" titled "Unanswered -- The Death of Vincent Foster," which Ruddy helped produce, and which goes for $35.
In an October 19, 1997, Slate.com review of Ruddy's book The Strange Death of Vincent Foster: An Investigation, Michael Isikoff wrote:
Ruddy, of course, is the Inspector Clouseau of the Foster case -- a determined, if bumbling, former New York Post reporter who has virtually single-handedly spawned a cottage industry of conspiracy buffs dedicated to the proposition that a foul and monstrous cover-up surrounds the circumstances of Foster's death.
Financed by a cranky right-wing philanthropist, Richard Mellon Scaife, Ruddy's repeated bromides about the Foster case have been republished in newspaper ads across the country; his sheer persistence has led some casual observers to conclude he might be on to something. The Strange Death, published by The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, is endorsed as "serious and compelling" by former FBI Director William Sessions. In the New York Times Book Review, National Review senior editor Richard Brookhiser chides political journalists for failing to pursue Ruddy's many "unanswered questions" about the case.
Don't worry, when it comes to how Foster died, there aren't any -- or none that matter. Ruddy's book -- and the entire movement he has helped create -- is utterly preposterous. Turgidly written and dense with 534 footnotes and seven appendixes, Ruddy's plodding book repeatedly confuses the evidence and chases after scores of imaginary holes in the official verdict -- without ever positing an alternative scenario that makes the least bit of sense.
A New York Times essay by Jason DeParle highlighted a resurgence of the use of the word "welfare" among conservatives, this time to attack President Obama's economy recovery plan. Indeed, while economists agree that provisions in the legislation targeting needy people are among the most economically stimulative, Media Matters documents below the pervasiveness of what DeParle called the "weaponiz[ation]" of the "very word, welfare," in the media, particularly, but not exclusively on Fox News, to denounce the stimulus bill.