Trump is Firing the “Mainstream” Conservative Media.
President Trump is no stranger to turning on a loyal ally (e.g. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, etc.). But no one expected Trump to turn on his most loyal media network: Fox News. Many are wondering what this flip means for the future of conservative media. Throughout his presidency, Trump has been displeased with certain Fox News interviews or hosts, but never launched a full-blown assault on the Murdoch family jewel. The tipping point came on election night when Fox News called Arizona, a battleground state, for Joe Biden. According to the New York Times, this shifted the entire mood inside of the White House and among the President’s on-air defenders. As far as Trump’s orbit is concerned, Fox News is out and Newsmax TV is in—all it takes is a quick scan of the President’s Twitter to see his view on both outlets. However, Newsmax isn’t the only alternative. Trump and his press secretary have championed One America News Network (OANN)—which is even further to the right of NewsMax and regularly propagates extreme conspiracy theories. But even the two outlets combined don’t have anywhere near the same audience size or resources as Fox News. Since President Trump lost his bid for reelection, there has been widespread speculation surrounding his next steps and how he, one of the most media-savvy presidents in recent memory, will continue to influence the national discourse. Trump TV? In all likelihood, Trump won’t go through the astronomically expensive process of setting up a syndicated network and fighting for airwaves. Instead, speculation is that his operation will start a subscription-based digital outlet that will be marketed directly to his supporters using the trove of contact information his campaign has amassed. Meanwhile, Fox News viewers, and most importantly advertisers, aren’t looking for an alternative. Whether some version of Trump TV can change that remains to be seen. In the meantime, watch for how Fox News evolves its coverage once Trump leaves the White House. Trump Twitter? Over the last four years, the Trump administration has actively attacked social media giants Twitter and Facebook, all while campaigning on their very platforms. Leading up to Election Day, the companies announced various measures aimed at combating misinformation and encouraging violence. After multiple posts were flagged and censored and accounts in the Trump orbit were banned, conservatives—from Senator Ted Cruz to radio personality Mark Levin—told their followers to leave the platforms entirely. Where to next? Some have turned to Twitter and Facebook-esque apps like Parler, MeWe, and Ruqqus, all of which claim to “protect freedom of speech” while consciously allowing the promotion of violence, disinformation, and illegal activities to occur on their platforms. Parler, which launched in 2018, is no stranger to the President’s inner circle. The President’s own family—Eric, Lara, and Ivanka Trump—have all urged their followers to leave traditional social media networks (by posting messages on those very networks) and join them on Parler where they’ve amassed hundreds of thousands of followers. Between November 6 and 10, 4.5 million people joined Parler, but this number pales in comparison to Twitter which has roughly 187 million daily active users, and Facebook with 2.7 billion monthly users. There is no shortage of traditional and digital outlets for Trump supporters to venture to in lieu of the “mainstream” Republican media. There are three unpredictable variables that could accelerate or reverse audience migration. First, Trump could announce his own network (in whatever shape or form), fueled by MAGA talking heads and a 2024 presidential run. Second, Fox News, Drudge, Breitbart, and the like can choose to deprive President Trump of coverage when he returns to private life. Finally, if mainstream conservative outlets cover the administration in a way viewers don’t like, they could push those viewers away to other outlets that better cater to far-right viewers’ beliefs. If that happens, it will take time for these mainstream conservative outlets to reestablish trust with those audiences. While any of these outcomes are possible, one thing remains certain: President Trump’s base isn’t ready to abandon him. Wherever he goes next—in the media or elsewhere—they’re likely to follow.