President Donald Trump is increasingly watching Fox News’ far-right competitors, One America News Network and Newsmax, according to a Media Matters review of his live tweets.
On November 15, amid Trump’s seditious attempt to steal the election that he lost to his opponent, President-elect Joe Biden, the president lashed out at Fox News and urged his social media followers to switch to its competitors. A Fox weekend anchor’s combative interview with a Trump campaign aide about the president’s legal strategy triggered the outburst. “Many great alternatives are forming & exist,” Trump tweeted. “Try @OANN & @newsmax, among others!”
Trump has obsessed over Fox’s coverage throughout his presidency, watching its programs religiously, lauding its pro-Trump sycophants, and pummeling the network whenever it fails to live up to his expectation that it serve as his personal propaganda outlet. At times in the past, he’s tried to put pressure on Fox by encouraging his supporters to watch OAN or Newsmax instead.
But this time, the president appears to be taking his own advice.
Trump has subsequently tweeted in response to Fox’s competitors at a much higher rate than he ever has before. He has sent at least 11 tweets in response to OAN programming and three in response to Newsmax coverage over the past 18 days. By contrast, he sent only 12 OAN live tweets -- and none for Newsmax -- over the entire two-year period from September 2018 through August 2020.
That two-year study found that of Trump’s 1,206 live tweets, 95% were of Fox News or Fox Business segments, compared to 1% from OAN and 4% from other networks. But from November 15 through December 2, the percentage of Trump live tweets in response to the Fox networks fell to 53%, while OAN rose to 37%, and Newsmax garnered the remaining 10%.
During that period, the president also frequently tweeted raw video from OAN and Newsmax coverage promoting bogus claims of voter fraud and his effort to use them to delegitimize the election results.
Trump's reported fury at Fox’s (subsequently vindicated) election night decision to call Arizona for Biden and his unhappiness with its occasional lapses in propagandistic support for election conspiracy theories have driven the recent escalation of his criticism of the network. OAN and Newsmax responded by opportunistically leaning in to the contrast, lashing out at Fox for losing its way and promoting the lie that Trump actually won the election. Fox’s competitors have experienced a ratings spike at its expense, and the network’s support among Republicans has fallen.
The president’s live tweets show that he is part of the fraction of hardcore right-wingers who are increasingly turning to Fox’s rivals.
Others highlight particular segments promoting conspiracy theories and lies about widespread fraud during the 2020 election.
In the short term, this OAN-and-Newsmax feedback loop is likely reinforcing Trump’s increasingly deranged claims that he actually won the election and that the certified election results showing otherwise should be thrown out.
In the longer term, it’s unclear whether or how long Trump will continue this new pattern of media consumption. Already, Fox has aggressively sought to limit the ratings damage by injecting programming from its high-profile opinion hosts into its “news-side” coverage. Over time, Trump -- and his supporters -- could return the network to its traditional dominance in the right-wing media ecosystem.
But if he doesn’t, Trump’s post-presidency could find him increasingly sucked into OAN’s unhinged fever dreams of shadowy international cabals forever conspiring against him.