The Fox News Primary For July: Trump Holds Commanding Lead
After three months, Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the Fox News Primary. Trump has more appearances (31) and far more airtime (4 hours and 45 minutes) than any other Republican presidential contender.
For the month of July, Trump (2 hours and 5 minutes) actually placed second in airtime to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (2 hours and 12 minutes), but Jindal's total is inflated due to a handful of breaking news appearances he made in the wake of the July 23 shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.
The stakes in this cycle's Fox Primary are higher than ever, due in large part to the rules for Fox News' August 6 debate. In May, the network announced that only 10 candidates would be featured in the debate, selected based on national polls that the network would choose.
Fox News has faced substantial criticism for the debate rules from several candidates, Republican activists, and media critics for essentially seizing control of the nominating process and undermining the importance of the early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire. (Multiple Fox personalities have taken to labeling the network's debate the first actual primary of the cycle.)
In a Los Angeles Times column branding Fox News a “GOP primary gatekeeper,” Doyle McManus cited GOP strategists who argued that due to the debate rules, candidates would be “even more desperate to boost their name recognition -- by appearing on Fox News.”
That has certainly been the case -- from May 1 through July 31, 17 Republican presidential candidates made a combined 273 appearances on Fox News, totaling more than 39 hours of airtime. (Note: Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore announced his candidacy on July 30 -- for the purposes of this study, Media Matters included only appearances that occurred after his announcement. He will be fully included in future months.)
Through three months, Trump's 4 hours and 45 minutes of airtime far exceeds the second place candidate, former Fox News host Mike Huckabee, who has appeared for 3 hours and 21 minutes. Huckabee is followed by former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (3 hours and 12 minutes), Gov. Jindal (3 hours and 8 minutes) and Carly Fiorina (2 hours and 47 minutes).
Trump, whose constant presence on Fox News has likely aided his rise to first place in Republican primary polls, has caused a rift among conservative media figures, including within Fox News. Last month, New York magazine reported that Rupert Murdoch had asked Fox News head Roger Ailes to have the network “back off the Trump coverage,” which Ailes refused to do.
If appearance data is any indication, Ailes is winning that fight (though CNN reported yesterday that Murdoch and Trump recently spoke on the phone as part of a “peace making effort”):
(This chart has been revised to fix an error.)
For July, the candidates made 132 appearances for more than 19 hours of airtime, a significant increase over May (68 appearances over 8 hours of airtime) and June (73 appearances over almost 12 hours of airtime). Four candidates -- Huckabee, Jindal, Perry, and Trump -- tied for first place with 13 appearances each. Those four also had the most airtime:
Since the beginning of May, Hannity has featured both the most candidate appearances (52) and the most airtime (9 hours and 50 minutes).
During a February appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Hannity told the crowd, “On both my radio and television program on the Fox News Channel I promise you this: As somebody who has not made up his mind, I am going to give access to every single solitary candidate as often as I can, as often as they'll come. By the end of the process, I will ask them every question I can possibly think of.”
He wasn't bluffing. Hannity's show has featured hour-long, post-announcement interviews with nine candidates: Perry, Bush, Trump, Christie, Santorum, Walker, Jindal, Kasich, and Fiorina. His program has also featured more than twice as much airtime with candidates as Fox & Friends, which has been the second most-frequent destination for candidates. (Hannity's lead is even more substantial considering his show airs for only an hour, compared to the three-hour Fox & Friends.)
In July, Hannity featured by far the most appearances (35) and total airtime (5 hours and 20 minutes). Special Report finished second in airtime with 2 hours and 21 minutes over nine candidate interviews:
This month, the Fox Primary competition also bled into commercial breaks, as candidates and the groups supporting them spent millions on Fox News ad time hoping to increase their national profile ahead of the debate. (This time was not included in candidate airtime data.)
Most Total Airtime In July: Bobby Jindal (2 hour and 12 minutes)
Most Total Appearances In July: Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and Donald Trump (13 appearances each)
Fox Show With The Most Total Candidate Airtime In July: Hannity (5 hours and 20 minutes)
Fox Show With The Most Candidate Appearances In July: Hannity (35 appearances)
Softball Question of the Month: On the July 13 edition of Hannity, the host asked Walker this:
HANNITY: Have you been able to decode the president and his inability to say “radical Islamic terrorism”? Why can't he say that?
WALKER: It is mind-boggling! And you can't -- you can't fight the enemy unless you can identify it. This is, indeed, radical Islamic terrorism. It comes in many forms, be it ISIS or al Qaeda or other elements out there. But we need to recognize that.
And you know, in Iraq, it's a good example. It's not just ISIS. It's not just the Islamic State. The Iran-backed Shi'ite militias that are in there are, I think, in many ways, a very similar problem we face there. We see their impact not only in Iraq. We see it obviously in Syria. We've seen it in the last few months. And I mean, the president still even to last year, his administration was calling Yemen a success story. The Houthis are directly connected to Iran out there -
HANNITY: In Yemen.
WALKER: -- Iran is not -- right, in Yemen with the Houthis there. That is not a place we should be doing business with. And we need to identify the enemy, and the enemy is radical Islamic terrorism in many different forms.
Most Total Airtime Since May 1: Donald Trump (4 hour and 45 minutes)
Most Total Appearances Since May 1: Donald Trump (31 appearances)
Fox Show With The Most Total Candidate Airtime Since May 1: Hannity (9 hours and 50 minutes)
Fox Show With The Most Candidate Appearances Since May 1: Hannity (52 appearances)
Previous Fox Primary Reports
For this study, we used FoxNews.com's “2016 Presidential Candidate Watch List.” Jim Gilmore's inclusion in the study began after his formal announcement on July 30.
Media Matters searched the Nexis database and our internal video archive for all guest appearances on Fox News Channel and Fox News Sunday for the 17 presidential candidates in question: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker.
For programs where a transcript was unavailable, we reviewed the raw video.
Note: Starting in August, we added all weekend programming to the study. For full data including weekends and a revised methodology, click here.
Charts by Oliver Willis. Additional research by Media Matters' research staff.