Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

STUDY: Trump leads the 2024 Fox primary, is dominating on OAN and Newsmax

In June and July, Trump led all candidates with 32 1/2 hours of interviews and live event coverage across the three right-wing cable networks

Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in polls for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and the MAGA media machine is determined to help him keep it. The former president dramatically outpaced the rest of the field in candidate airtime (a figure encapsulating interviews, live campaign event coverage, and paid programming) on right-wing cable news networks Fox News, Newsmax TV, and One America News during the months of June and July. 

Fox gave Trump a sizable edge over his challengers, providing roughly 40% more candidate airtime than it gave entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, the candidate who received the second-most. But Newsmax and OAN, which are trying to pull away Fox’s viewers by presenting themselves as more fervent in their support for the former president, showered him with levels of coverage more appropriate to North Korean state television: Newsmax gave Trump nearly 3 times as much candidate airtime as any other challenger, while OAN gave him a whopping 17 times as much.

Media Matters has produced extensive research during past election cycles documenting what we termed the “Fox Primary” — how GOP presidential candidates used appearances on the network to battle for the support of its influential hosts and the Republican base voters who make up its devoted viewership.

The Fox Primary played a crucial role in shaping recent Republican primary races. In 2012, several candidates operating on shoestring budgets were able to catapult themselves to prominence through regular Fox appearances. Four years later, Trump’s dominance of the network’s airwaves helped him secure the nomination without the trappings of a traditional campaign. During the 2022 midterms cycle, we also chronicled how the network’s hosts tried to boost favored Senate candidates in both their primaries and general elections, and turned Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis into a presidential contender.

This cycle, we’re expanding our data collection to provide a broader picture of how the GOP presidential primary is playing out in a more fractured right-wing media landscape. We are counting candidate interviews not just on Fox, but on its conservative cable news rivals Newsmax and OAN. We are also assessing the live coverage of candidate events like speeches and town halls provided by each of those networks, as well as paid programming like businessman Perry Johnson’s weekly Newsmax show.

Media Matters identified and analyzed 63 hours and 18 minutes of candidate interviews, live campaign event coverage, and paid programming — described in this report as “candidate airtime” — for 16 Republican presidential candidates across all three right-wing cable news networks between June 1 and July 31 of this year. 

Trump dominated the three networks’ candidate airtime. More than half of the total — 32 hours and 28 minutes — went to the former president. That figure was 6 1/2 times greater than the candidate airtime for DeSantis, who garnered a comparatively paltry 4 hours and 57 minutes in the No. 2 spot. 

Each of the three right-wing cable news networks gave Trump more candidate airtime than any of his challengers.

Fox’s data shows yet another way its commentators have provided crucial support to the former president’s candidacy. Trump’s 4 hours and 18 minutes of interview and live event coverage led Fox, greatly exceeding Ramaswamy’s second-place total of 3 hours and 1 minute. Trump effectively tied with DeSantis for the most live event coverage, with 48 minutes, and his 3 hours and 30 minutes of interview airtime beat out Ramaswamy’s coverage, which hovered just under 3 hours.

But while Fox is wildly pro-Trump, the data shows its rivals have granted him an even larger advantage. While neither Newsmax nor OAN matches Fox in airing Trump interviews, they more than make up the gap by airing his events live far more frequently.

On Newsmax, the former president’s 11 hours and 8 minutes of candidate airtime is greater than that of all the other candidates combined; Johnson’s paid programming bought him second place, with 3 hours 48 minutes in total, while former Vice President Mike Pence is third, with just over 2 hours. Of Trump’s total, 10 hours and 34 minutes stems from Newsmax taking all or part of 12 of his events live.

OAN’s split is even more glaring. Trump garnered just over 17 hours of candidate airtime on the network and accounted for 87% of its total candidate airtime — no other candidate garnered even 1 full hour. OAN aired all or part of 18 Trump events live, totalling 16 hours and 41 minutes. 

The data shows the depth of Fox’s conundrum. The network helped Trump win the 2016 primary, then the general election. Its former employees staffed his presidential administration while its biggest stars functioned as his kitchen cabinet. It did everything it could to ensure his reelection, and, after he lost, to keep him in power based on voter fraud lies its executives knew were false — a charade that eventually resulted in a gargantuan $787.5 million defamation payout. It has spent the years since expelling his critics, stocking its lineup with his cronies and allies, rehabilitating his insurrectionary followers, defending him from mounting criminal allegations, and eliminating the avenues that his rivals might have used to snatch the GOP from his grip. 

And it’s still not enough. For all Fox’s efforts, Trump remains unsatisfied, regularly griping that its coverage is insufficiently hagiographic. He has Newsmax and OAN as examples he can point to and use as a cudgel to keep the network in line. And that means that as the 2024 elections heat up, Fox will have a strong incentive to produce the type of coverage that results in more defamation lawsuits.

  • Trump dominates candidate airtime across the three right-wing cables

  • Graph
    • In total, right-wing cable news networks Fox News Channel, One America News Network, and Newsmax TV provided more than 63 hours of candidate airtime in June and July for the 16 Republican presidential primary candidates: Donald Trump, Steve Laffey, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Perry Johnson, Asa Hutchinson, Larry Elder, Ryan Binkley, Tim Scott, Ron DeSantis, Chris Christie, Mike Pence, Doug Burgum, Francis Suarez, Will Hurd, and Hirsh Vardhan Singh.
    • Roughly half of the total candidate airtime went to Trump: approximately 32 1/2 hours.
      • Rounding out the top five in total candidate airtime were DeSantis with almost 5 hours, Ramaswamy with 4 hours and 24 minutes, Pence with 3 hours and 56 minutes, and Johnson with 3 hours and 48 minutes (largely due to his paid Newsmax programming). No other candidate received more than 3 hours. 
    • Trump received the most interview time, with 4 hours and 25 minutes of interviews out of 26 hours and 10 minutes for all candidates across all three networks.
      • Rounding out the top five in interview time were Ramaswamy (just under 4 hours), Haley (2 hours and 47 minutes), and Scott and DeSantis (2 hours and 26 minutes each).
    • Trump also received the most live event time by far — of the 33 hours and 48 minutes of live event time across the three networks, 28 hours and 2 minutes were devoted to the former president.
      • DeSantis was second with 2 hours and 31 minutes, Pence was third with 1 hour and 41 minutes, and no other candidate exceeded 30 minutes of live event time.
    • Ramaswamy’s 34 total appearances across the three networks were the most of any presidential candidate. 
      • Rounding out the top five was Scott with 21; Haley with 19; Elder with 17; and DeSantis, Pence, and Christie with 15 each. Trump made only 11 appearances in total, but his interviews were generally longer than those of other candidates.
  • Fox slants pro-Trump — but Newsmax and OAN are on a different level

  • Graph showing candidate airtime by network and candidate
    • Trump held Fox’s top spot, with the network providing 4 hours and 18 minutes of its total 22 hours and 15 minutes of candidate airtime to the former president.
      • Next were Ramaswamy (3 hours and 1 minute), DeSantis (2 hours and 44 minutes), Haley (2 hours and 18 minutes), and Chris Christie (2 hours and 17 minutes).
    • OAN devoted 17 hours of its roughly 19 1/2 hours of total coverage to Trump. 
      • No other candidate totalled even a single hour (Ramaswamy was second with 56 minutes).
    • Newsmax gave the former president approximately 11 of its 21 1/2 hours of coverage.
      • Rounding out the top five were Johnson (3 hours and 48 minutes, the bulk of it paid programming), Pence (2 hours and 8 minutes), DeSantis (1 hour and 40 minutes), and Haley (33 minutes).
  • Fox conducts more candidate interviews, while Newsmax and OAN take more events live

  • Chart
    • The GOP presidential primary candidates have appeared for interviews on Fox 141 times for almost 20 hours of coverage. By contrast, Newsmax and OAN have conducted far fewer interviews: 39 over 5 hours and 9 over 1 hour and 19 minutes, respectively.
    • Fox aired most of Trump’s cable interviews on these networks. Out of 11 appearances, Fox aired 8 of them, totalling 3 1/2 hours. Newsmax aired just 2 interviews for 35 minutes while OAN aired a single interview for 21 minutes.
    • The majority of candidate interviews aired on Fox rather than OAN or Newsmax: 27 of Ramaswamy’s 34, 17 of Scott’s 21, 16 of Haley’s 19, 13 of Elder’s 17, 12 of DeSantis’ 15, 9 of Pence’s 15, and 13 of Christie’s 15 were on Fox.
    • By contrast, Fox aired just 2 hours and 27 minutes of live candidate events while Newsmax aired 13 hours and 10 minutes and OAN aired 18 hours and 12 minutes.
      • Fox aired 49 minutes of DeSantis events and 48 minutes of Trump events; no other candidate received more than 20 minutes.
      • OAN aired 16 hours and 41 minutes of Trump live events; DeSantis received the second-most with 33 minutes.
      • Newsmax aired 10 hours and 34 minutes of Trump live events; Pence was next with 1 hour and 12 minutes.
  • 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,” “Hutchinson,” “Scott,” “DeSantis,” “Elder,” “Johnson,” “Binkley,” “Christie,” “Pence,” “Laffey,” “Suarez,” “Hurd,” “Singh,” or “Burgum” (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 July 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 declared GOP presidential primary candidates as guests or live coverage of any campaign-related event for any of the declared GOP presidential primary candidates from June 1, 2023, through July 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,” “Hutchinson,” “Scott,” “DeSantis,” “Elder,” “Johnson,” “Binkley,” “Christie,” “Pence,” “Laffey,” “Suarez,” “Singh,” “Hurd,” or “Burgum” 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 July 31, 2023. We then reviewed the text to determine whether any declared GOP presidential primary candidate 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 declared GOP presidential primary candidate 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 a GOP presidential primary candidate. We only included coverage after each individual contender officially announced their candidacy: 

    Donald Trump (announced 11/15/22)

    Steve Laffey (2/2/23)

    Nikki Haley (2/14/23)

    Vivek Ramaswamy (2/21/23)

    Perry Johnson (3/3/23)

    Asa Hutchinson (4/2/23)

    Larry Elder (4/20/23)

    Ryan Binkley (5/9/23)

    Tim Scott (5/22/23)

    Ron DeSantis (5/24/23)

    Chris Christie (6/6/23)

    Mike Pence (6/7/23)

    Doug Burgum (6/7/23)

    Francis Suarez (6/15/23)

    Will Hurd (6/22/23)

    Hirsh Vardhan Singh (7/27/23)

    We rounded all times to the nearest minute.