Trump Escalates War With Fox News as Competitors Claim Viewer Gains

Donald Trump - FOX News CEO Suzanne Scott - Getty - Split - H 2019
LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images; Courtesy of FOX News

Executives for Newsmax and One America News Network say they already have picked up disaffected Fox viewers as the president urges his fans to turn the channel.

President Donald Trump turned up the pressure on Fox News Channel on Wednesday, telling his 63 million followers on Twitter that "we have to start looking for a new News Outlet" because "Fox isn’t working for us anymore!"

The president's grievance is with the network's news side, which includes anchors like Shepard Smith and Bret Baier, and with the channel's stable of Democratic contributors, including his top two targets, Donna Brazile and Juan Williams.

"I think whats he's doing is: he's basically threatening the executives and saying, 'I'll beat you up and it will hurt you with your audience if you lose some of my base and it'll create disunity and discord within Fox," said Carl Cameron, who spent more than 20 years reporting for the company. "Whether these are idle threats or real ones, what he's trying to do is express his dismay to the executives and see if they can make a difference for him."

Trump has long sniped at the network on Twitter, but Wednesday's broadside contained an unusual call to action, and one welcomed by the two television news companies that have been trying to nip at Fox's heels: Newsmax and One America News Network.

"We’re appreciative to have an avid consumer of One America News in the White House," said network president Charles Herring. "From direct viewer engagement, we’re aware of some Fox News viewers moving over to One America News. Fox News has made several decisions in the last several months that some historic viewers see as a clear fundamental direction change."

Newsmax boss Chris Ruddy also played ball, touting his network's reach and taking a dig at the Goliath of the conservative news world. "There is a growing disenchantment with Fox News and we are definitely seeing a rise in viewership with Newsmax," he said.

To be sure, Fox is still the top-rated channel in cable news. What's unclear, as always, is whether the president actually wants his fans to stop watching Fox and switch to something else. Trump is still enamored with the network's opinion hosts, including Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro. (A company spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.)

"He's essentially asking for a boycott," said Cameron, who was part of the news side and recently launched a digital news site called Front Page Live. "Anybody who predicts whether Trump's gonna stick to what he says — that's a losing gambit."

Another Fox News veteran, Democratic strategist and former contributor Julie Roginsky, isn't exactly buying the president's animus. "Trump will never abandon Fox News, because no other network has the ability to reach Republican base voters the way Fox does," she said. "It is an idle threat to keep Fox in line, and it is a threat that may work, although Fox suddenly has other tools at its disposal to keep him in line as well."

As usual, the president's attack was spurred on by something he saw on Fox News — in this case, a news-side interview with Democratic National Committee communications chief Xochitl Hinojosa. "While it’s laughable that Trump is now in a fight with Fox News, the troubling part is that the president of the United States chooses to watch TV and tweet over doing his job," she said.

Roginsky said that Trump's entanglement with Fox News would be different under the late Roger Ailes. "Trump might have watched Fox suddenly provide significant air time to Joe Walsh as a warning that the network is not to be trifled with," she said.