An image of former President DOnald Trump photoshopped in front of an off-kilter TV and Republican Party elephant logo, against a stark red background

Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

STUDY: Trump dominates right-wing media primary on his way to likely GOP nomination

Trump received nearly 69 hours of candidate airtime from Fox News, Newsmax, and OAN, compared to a combined 52 hours for seven of his competitors

This is the third in a series of data-focused articles on how former President Donald Trump has maintained a massive lead in the Republican presidential primary with the unwavering backing of the right-wing media machine. Read the first and second articles here. 

According to polling data, the 2024 Republican primary has not been much of an actual competition: Though the first votes are still months away, former President Donald Trump has held a dominant lead the entire time. Part of the reason is that right-wing media simply cannot quit Trump, showering him with hours upon hours of TV time, far more than any other major competitor.

According to Media Matters databases, continuing a trend from the summer, Trump has thoroughly dominated the race for candidate airtime (a figure encapsulating interviews, live campaign event coverage, and paid programming) on the three right-wing cable news networks: Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News. We examined candidates who had at least 6 hours of airtime total and got at least 5% support in at least one national poll.

Across these three networks, well over half of total candidate airtime from June through October went to Trump, who had 68 hours and 50 minutes. The next closest candidate, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, had approximately one-seventh the amount of airtime, 10 hours and 8 minutes, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis not far behind, at 9 hours and 56 minutes.

Edging out Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) by a single minute, Trump came in third on candidate airtime from Fox News -- 5 hours and 8 minutes compared to Ramaswamy’s 8 hours and 36 minutes and DeSantis’ 6 hours and 28 minutes-- the Trumpy Newsmax and OAN made up for it, granting Trump 21 hours and 59 minutes and 41 hours and 44 minutes, respectively. And even on Fox, Trump-related coverage (or lack thereof) is still resolutely defensive, undermining efforts to promote other candidates with airtime. 

Trump cruised to the 2016 Republican nomination on the back of a right-wing media apparatus that was almost entirely on his side, and the data shows that, for the 2024 primary, right-wing cable news remains in Trump’s corner.

  • Trump dominates the primary field in candidate airtime

  • A chart showing candidate airtime on right-wing cable news, comparing total figures across all networks for each of the selected candidates.
    • In total, the three right-wing cable news networks provided 121 hours and 2 minutes of candidate airtime from June-October for the following eight candidates: former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Ambassador Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and businessman Perry Johnson.
    • Trump dominated total candidate airtime (68 hours, 50 minutes), in large part through live events, as Trump rallies are still programming fixtures on Newsmax and OAN. 
    • Ramaswamy accumulated the most interview airtime (9 hours, 38 minutes), followed by DeSantis (7 hours, 16 minutes), Scott (6 hours, 9 minutes), and Haley (5 hours, 50 minutes). Trump came in fifth, with 5 hours and 36 minutes of interview airtime, barely ahead of Christie (5 hours, 31 minutes). 
    • Little-known candidate Perry Johnson paid for a large amount (4 hours, 45 minutes) of his total Newsmax airtime (6 hours, 19 minutes). He was the only GOP primary candidate to have prepaid candidate airtime, and Newsmax was the only network to air such paid programming. Newsmax reportedly offered the same deal to Ramaswamy. 
  • Newsmax and OAN are Trump territory, while Fox pretends to be balanced

  • A chart showing candidate airtime for the GOP presidential primary by network
    • Fox’s candidate airtime roughly reflects its wavering preferences for a non-Trump candidate: Ramaswamy actually led Fox in candidate airtime (8 hours, 36 minutes), followed by DeSantis (6 hours, 28 minutes). Trump came in third (5 hours, 8 minutes), just barely ahead of Scott (5 hours, 7 minutes) and Haley (5 hours). 
    • On Newsmax, Johnson’s paid programming allowed him to overshadow Pence (3 hours, 57 minutes), DeSantis (2 hours, 54 minutes), Scott (1 hour, 27 minutes), Christie (1 hour, 20 minutes), Haley (1 hour), and Ramaswamy (36 minutes). Trump, however, lapped them all with 21 hours and 59 minutes -- more than everyone else combined (17 hours, 33 minutes).
    • One America News Network far and away led Trump airtime on right-wing cable. OAN gave Trump 41 hours and 44 minutes of airtime, almost double that of Newsmax (21 hours, 59 minutes) and more than eight times that of Fox (5 hours, 8 minutes). On OAN, only Trump received more than 1 hour of total candidate airtime -- Haley, Christie, and Johnson received none.
  • Trump swamps rivals’ airtime with rally coverage

  • A chart displaying candidate airtime (interviews, live events, and paid programming) ranked by network, with data for Trump and other candidates combined for each networkby network
    • Echoing trends from earlier in the primary, Fox aired a total of 34 hours and 35 minutes of candidate interviews, only 10% of which (3 hours, 30 minutes) were Trump interviews.
    • Despite Fox’s investment in other candidates, Trump interviews still made up more airtime on Fox (3 hours, 30 minutes) than his interviews on Newsmax (1 hour, 45 minutes) and OAN (21 minutes) combined.
    • On Newsmax, Johnson’s paid programming (4 hours, 45 minutes) accounted for about 27% of total non-Trump candidate airtime (17 hours, 33 minutes). Johnson’s paid programming took up more candidate airtime on Newsmax than live events for all non-Trump candidates (3 hours, 51 minutes) and Trump interviews (1 hour, 45 minutes).
    • OAN aired hardly any interviews -- only 21 minutes for Trump, and 37 minutes for the other six combined -- yet was cartoonishly lopsided on live event airtime, racking up 41 hours and 23 minutes of Trump events (largely entire campaign rallies) versus just 1 hour and 21 minutes for the other candidates combined.
  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream and Kinetiq video databases for all original programming on Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and One America News for any of the terms “Trump,” “Haley,” “Ramaswamy,” “Scott,” “DeSantis,” “Johnson,” “Christie,” or “Pence” (including misspellings of any name where appropriate) within close proximity of any of the terms “phone,” “guest,” “interview,” “in studio,” “with us,” “with me,” “bring in,” “to discuss,” “to talk,” “calling in,” “drop,” “take,” “rally,” “event,” “press conference,” “stage,” “introduce,” “heard,” or “thank” or any variation of any of the terms “speak,” “react,” “join,” or “town hall” from June 1, 2023, through October 31, 2023.

    We also searched our internal database of all original, weekday programming on Fox News Channel (shows airing from 6 a.m. through midnight ET) for segments that analysts determined to include any of the aforementioned declared GOP presidential primary candidates as guests or live coverage of any campaign-related event for any of the aforementioned declared GOP presidential primary candidates from June 1, 2023, through October 31, 2023.

    Finally, we searched transcripts in the Nexis database for all available programming on Fox News Channel for any of the terms “Trump,” “Haley,” “Ramaswamy,” “Scott,” “DeSantis,” “Johnson,” “Christie,” or “Pence” within the transcript’s “guest” field or that appeared at least five times in all caps within the body of the transcript from June 1, 2023, through October 31, 2023. We then reviewed the text to determine whether any of the aforementioned declared GOP presidential primary candidates appeared as a guest or the network aired live coverage of a campaign-related event.

    We timed interviews and panels, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host interviewed any of the aforementioned declared GOP presidential primary candidates either alone or with other guests, and live coverage, which we defined as instances when the program cut to a live campaign-related event of an aforementioned GOP presidential primary candidate. We included coverage only after each individual contender officially announced their candidacy and excluded coverage, when applicable, after an aforementioned GOP presidential primary candidate dropped out of the race..

    We rounded all times to the nearest minute.