Newsmax DirecTV GOP logots
Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Timeline: GOP threatens DirecTV in defense of Newsmax

Republicans are accelerating their campaign to force private cable news carriers to not only carry right-wing propaganda networks but pay them for the privilege. The effort demonstrates how the party has institutionalized former President Donald Trump’s corrupt and authoritarian practice of retaliating against companies that refuse to prioritize the GOP’s partisan interests.

NewsmaxTV is a right-wing cable news channel founded by Christopher Ruddy, a conservative media veteran. Its stars include former Trump White House press secretary Sean Spicer and former Fox News host Eric Bolling, and it drew notoriety for its relentless lies about fraud in the 2020 presidential election. 

NewsmaxTV is available for free on Newsmax’s website and through venues like YouTube and Roku, and it has at times paid cable providers to carry it. The channel loses money but helps burnish the company’s brand and drives new subscribers to the company’s various email lists. Those lists are the company’s profit center: Newsmax uses them to scare credulous seniors into buying scammy financial and health products.

DirecTV dropped NewsmaxTV last Tuesday after their carriage deal collapsed. According to DirecTV, the company had previously provided NewsmaxTV “at no cost to the programmer” but that Newsmax was “seeking significant fees” in a new deal, and it subsequently replaced it with another right-wing channel in a deal that did not include “extra fees.” But Ruddy declared Newsmax the victim of “political discrimination and censorship.” 

Republican officials have rallied to Newsmax’s defense – often securing network airtime to do so. They are threatening federal retribution against DirecTV and its parent, AT&T, in apparent hopes of forcing the companies to accept particular customers at their preferred price. Party chair Ronna McDaniel, presidential frontrunners Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and dozens of House Republicans, and several of their Senate colleagues have gotten involved in the private business matter.

The GOP’s Newsmax campaign is the latest in a series of Republican efforts to use the power of the state to target corporations for failing to support its partisan interests.

  • January 20

    Amid carriage negotiation, House Republicans lean on DirecTV and its owners. Forty-two House Republicans, including third-ranking member Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Oversight Committee chair Rep. James Comer (R-KY), signed a letter from Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-TX) to the CEOs of DirecTV, majority owner AT&T, and minority owner TPG Capital stating that DirecTV was “moving to de-platform NEWSMAX by denying it cable fees on a fair and equitable basis.” The signatories claimed that this would mean that DirecTV “is actively working to limit conservative viewpoints on its system” and suggested that they might respond with congressional “oversight.” 

  • January 23

    DirecTV says sticking point in negotiations is that Newsmax is “now seeking significant fees.” In a statement to the Washington Examiner for an article about the House GOP’s letter, a DirecTV spokesperson said: “We deliver Newsmax to our national base of satellite and IPTV customers today at no cost to the programmer or our customers, ultimately offering Newsmax the ability to generate considerable advertising revenue at no cost. … We’ve discussed with Newsmax on several occasions that we’d like to offer their programming, however, the network is now seeking significant fees that we cannot pass on to our broad customer base.”

  • January 24

    DirecTV drops NewsmaxTV. At 11:59 p.m., DirecTV’s deal with NewsmaxTV expired and it stopped broadcasting the channel. In a statement, a spokesperson said, “On multiple occasions, we made it clear to Newsmax that we wanted to continue to offer the network, but ultimately Newsmax’s demands for rate increases would have led to significantly higher costs that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base.” Ruddy responded by calling the move “a blatant act of political discrimination and censorship against Newsmax," adding, “The most extreme liberal channels, even with tiny ratings, get fees from AT&T's DirecTV, but Newsmax and OAN need to be deplatformed.”

  • January 25

    Newsmax tells viewers to demand congressional action. Using identical language, several Newsmax hosts implored their viewers to contact members of Congress and tell them to take action in response to DirecTV dropping Newsmax. “We are urging you to call your congressman and senator today and demand they investigate AT&T and DirecTV for their discrimination against conservative media,” host Rob Finnerty said after accusing the companies of “blatant political discrimination.” The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona reported that by the afternoon, “Newsmax anchors John Bachman, Bianca de la Garza, Shaun Kraisman, and Bob Sellers had also read the prepared monologue on air.”

    Trump threatens AT&T and DirecTV over dropping Newsmax. On his Truth Social platform, former President Donald Trump commented: “The Radical Left seems to have taken over the mind and soul of AT&T. This is a big blow to the Republican Party, and to America itself. For DIRECTV to drop very popular NEWSMAX, without explanation, will not be accepted. I, for one, will be dropping all association with AT&T and DIRECTV, and I have plenty.”

    Donald Trump, Jr. calls for a right-wing boycott of AT&T. Trump Jr. tweeted, “OUTRAGEOUS: ATT just dropped Newsmax! It’s time for Americans to return the favor and drop ATT. @PatriotMobile is the ONLY conservative mobile provider — use code “DONJR” for FREE activation!” According to its website, Patriot Mobile is “America’s ONLY Christian conservative wireless provider” and the company “is proud to partner with Donald Trump, Jr. in the fight to defend our freedom of speech.”

  • January 26

    DirecTV announces it is replacing Newsmax with another right-wing network. DirecTV said that it would replace Newsmax with The First, another right-wing channel that features Fox and OAN castoffs Bill O’Reilly, Dana Loesch, and Liz Wheeler. A DirecTV spokesperson told the Daily Beast that the deal did not include any “extra fees” for The First, which like Newsmax is also available for free online.

    On Newsmax, Reps. Waltz, Van Drew call for hearings into DirecTV. On Newsmax’s Wake Up America, Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) said that House Republicans could convene “public hearings” in which executives from DirecTV and AT&T “come to talk to us and explain this to us” about dropping the channel. Later that day, Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) told the network that DirecTV dropping Newsmax “is what happens in authoritarian regimes” and said he is “going to push for hearings” in order to preserve “the future of our nation.”

    Sen. Paul calls for boycott of DirecTV over dropping Newsmax. Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) tweeted, “I would cancel @DIRECTV for censoring @NEWSMAX but I already cancelled them for cancelling @OANN. I guess @DIRECTV doesn’t want conservative viewers so maybe we should all just quit their services and go elsewhere.”

  • January 27

    House oversight chair promises DirecTV-Newsmax probe. Asked by Finnerty whether he would hold hearings, Comer replied, “Yes. There's gonna be a committee that's gonna hold hearings. We're sitting, we're gonna meet later today and try to discuss which committee's gonna do what. That's certainly on the agenda. I'm very concerned by this.”

    Sen. Cruz on DirecTV dropping NewsmaxTV: “Conservative voices must not be silenced!” On Twitter, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) shared a Washington Times editorial that described the Newsmax drop as the “censorship of conservative media.” He commented, “Conservative voices must not be silenced!” and included the handles of Newsmax, AT&T, DirecTV, and TPG. 

    West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey sends letter of concern to DirecTV. Morrisey, a Republican who is considering a race for governor or U.S. Senate, sent a letter to the CEO of DirecTV stating, “Neither DirecTV nor the channels it carries should face an ongoing concern over whether programming is acceptable to powerful political elites.”

    Newsmax’s Bolling condemns Fox for not covering the story. Bolling lashed out at his former employer for not covering DirecTV dropping Newsmax, saying, “By the way. Where are you, Fox? How about you, Fox? I mean, you stand up for us.”

  • January 30

    Speaker McCarthy promises congressional “action,” says he spoke to AT&T directly. In a Newsmax appearance, McCarthy said he found DirecTV dropping the channel “very concerning” and told the hosts, “You're going to see action taken, because we believe it's responsible to allow everybody to have a choice of what news they want to listen to." He also said that he had told AT&T that “Newsmax should not be treated any differently based upon them being a conservative news outlet.”

    RNC chair condemns DirecTV for “censoring” conservatives. McDaniel shared a clip of Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) on Newsmax castigating DirecTV and commented, “The woke agenda of many corporations is bent on censoring voices they disagree with. @MarkwayneMullin is right – by silencing @NEWSMAX, @DIRECTV is censoring voices who pay their bills.”

  • January 31

    House Republicans give floor speeches condemning DirecTV. Eighteen House Republicans, including Reps. Van Drew, Lauren Boebert (CO), Eric Burlison (MO), and Matt Gaetz (FL), gave demagogic Special Order speeches denouncing DirecTV for dropping Newsmax. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) wrapped up the event by noting, “many of the speakers today, many of the members of Congress who spoke, made it absolutely clear that they’re going to dedicate time and energy and staff resources to make sure that we look into this further.”

    Gov. DeSantis supports congressional probe of DirecTV. Asked at a press conference about the debate, DeSantis said of DirecTV, “They will give different rationales for why they don’t want to do it, but the reality is they have so much other content that is very lightly viewed, and they keep that on, and it seems it is the One America News and the Newsmax that are being targeted. So I think it does warrant an investigation.” He added that Congress should “ensure that there’s not intellectual discrimination when it comes to what people are able to view.”

    Rep. Gaetz calls for Department of Justice, Federal Communications Commission to investigate AT&T. Gaetz tweeted: “AT&T's DirecTV has REMOVED @Newsmax from its lineup. This is blatant content-based censorship. Congress, the Antitrust Division of the DOJ, and the FCC need to investigate @ATT's decision immediately. Americans should not be denied their right to access diverse viewpoints.”

  • February 1

    Senate Republicans send a letter asking DirecTV to explain the decision. Cruz and other GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC), Mike Lee (UT) and Tom Cotton (AR) sent a letter to DirecTV’s leadership stating that they are “deeply disturbed” by its decision and alleging that the company may be “suppressing politically disfavored speech at the behest of liberal Democrats.” 

    RNC chair praises House Republicans for demanding an investigation. McDaniel said in a statement that “DirecTV’s decision to censor Newsmax – the fourth-highest rated program on cable TV [sic] – is a slap in the face to the voters who pay the network’s bills.” She added, “I applaud House Republicans for taking important steps to hold DirecTV accountable for their censorship of Republican voices.”

  • February 2

    McCarthy reiterates interest in congressional hearings. At a press conference, McCarthy said that “we should look at” DirecTV’s decision to drop Newsmax in order to ensure that the network hasn’t been “jeopardized from being on television simply because of their philosophical beliefs.”