US Election 2020

Trump tweet threatens Fox News and criticises their election coverage

The Rupert Murdoch-owned news network helped put Donald Trump in the White House but the President was enraged when they called Arizona for Joe Biden.

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Trump tweet threatens Fox News and criticises their election coverage
SAUL LOEB AFP

 On Thursday Donald Trump launched a scathing Twitter tirade against Fox News in which he accused them of forgetting “the Golden Goose” and sharing a series of tweets from his supporters who were switching their allegiance to other right wing news sources.

The President’s tweet claimed that the Rupert Murdoch-owned news channel’s ratings had “completely collapsed” as they begin to divorce themselves from his floundering re-election campaign. Fox News had been one of Trump’s most important allies both before and during his time in office, backing the President on a number of contentious issues and giving him airtime in the run-up to the 2020 election.

However after the network was the first to make the bold Election Night call of Arizona for Joe Biden, Trump has publically criticised Fox News’ coverage and is calling on his supporters to switch to other right wing networks. All of the tweets shared by the President yesterday said they were switching to fringe channels Newsmax or One America News Network for election updates.

Trump’s relationship with Fox News unravels

The President’s reference to the ‘Golden Goose’ is a pretty clear explanation of the role that he believes he has played in boosting the network’s popularity. While Trump has benefitted from their previously cosy relationship, Fox News had seen their audience grow as they became the main news source for the President’s most vehement supporters.

Lachlan Murdoch, CEO of Fox Corp., said that their election coverage had “been an incredible cycle” for the network with total revenue up 36% in the last quarter.

However the emergence of the likes of Newsmax and OANN could threaten their position in future with the right-leaning audience now likely to be split between multiple news sources. Michael Nathanson of research firm Moffett, spoke about the prospect of a new channel emerging to rival Fox News:

“We speculate that perhaps, over time, the new network could lop off around 20% of the Fox News audience and reach 10% share of the entire news market.”

Fringe right wing networks in line to benefit

Trump’s relationship with Fox News first soured with the Arizona call and his long-standing loyalty to Fox News has evaporated in ten short days. Back in mid-September the President gave a 47-minute interview to the network’s breakfast show, Fox & Friends, to give his re-election campaign a boost. Live on air he told the show’s bemused host Steve Doocy that he intended to appear on the programme every week until the election.

Flash forward two months and he struck a different tone on his most recent appearance.

“Fox has changed a lot,” he said, on Tuesday morning’s edition of Fox & Friends. “Somebody said, ‘What’s the biggest difference between this and four years ago?’ I say, ‘Fox.’”

Trump is making no effort to hide the value of Fox News to his 2016 election win and he is just as explicit in his mistrust of them now. The President has spent the last week attempting to steer his supporters away from Fox News and toward more fringe networks.

The biggest benefactors have been Newsmax and OANN who have been rewarded for their pro-Trump stance with an enormous boost in viewing figures. Newsmax, who are still refusing to call the election in Biden’s favour, have seen their average prime-time audience soar from 65,000 to 800,000. One of their flagship shows is hosted by Trump’s former press secretary Shaun Spicer and a recent interview with Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller included the line: "We gotta stop Joe Biden from becoming the next president."

Trump TV on the horizon?

There is clearly a huge commercial incentive for these smaller networks to pander to the views of the President’s fans, of which there are 72,309,110 at the last count, and they will likely continue to ride the crest of their surge in audience. But sources close to Trump have suggested that he has expressed a desire to simply miss out the middle man and create his own news source.

Axios are reporting that Trump has told his friends that he intends to start his own digital media company to rival Fox News. In fact, one source claims that Trump wants revenge for the early Arizona call, telling Axios: "He plans to wreck Fox. No doubt about it.”

As well as an enormous number of die-hard supporters the President could also call upon his vast database of email and telephone information to help entice new supporters to his platform. With this in mind, could Trump’s hammering of Fox News and trumpeting of some previously pretty irrelevant fringe channels be part of this plan? Time will only tell, but in the short term the loss of a near decade-long political ally can only hurt Trump as he continues to fight the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.