While cable outlets Fox News and Newsmax engage in a war over rabidly pro-Trump viewers, it appears as though one right-wing TV star is playing both sides: Mike Huckabee.
Over the past several months, and most especially following the election, Newsmax has been making a concerted, at times shameless play for Trump loyalists disenchanted with Fox News having called the election for President-elect Joe Biden and largely dismissed President Donald Trump’s baseless allegations of a “stolen” election.
And now the fledgling cable channel is featuring Huckabee—a Fox News contributor who also hosts a show that re-airs on Newsmax as part of a partnership with a Christian TV network—in a promo directly appealing to disillusioned MAGA fans, including a not-so-subtle jab at the “fake news” networks, which presumably now includes Fox.
The Newsmax ad leans heavily on imagery of President Donald Trump railing against the media and praising Newsmax before focusing on a number of former Fox News hosts that have appeared on the upstart channel’s airwaves.
“Fake news is a real problem,” a voiceover blares. “That’s why millions turn to Newsmax.”
Besides showing Huckabee as an example of “honest analysis,” the ad features images of Eric Bolling and Greta Van Susteren, misleadingly suggesting they both host shows on Newsmax. (Bolling, who was canned by Fox in 2017 over allegations of sexual misconduct, currently works for Sinclair; Van Susteren left Fox in 2016 and is now a Voice of America and Gray TV host.)
Huckabee, meanwhile, regularly appears on Fox News as a paid contributor and also hosts a Saturday night program for Trinity Broadcasting Channel, which is rebroadcast Sunday afternoons on Newsmax.
Fox News, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, and Huckabee did not respond to requests for comment.
Following the election, Newsmax has witnessed an exponential growth in viewership as it has sought to mine the anger of Trump supporters’ anger with Fox News for its decision desk’s early projection for Biden to win Arizona—a move that reportedly angered the president to the point where top aides frantically called Fox allies to demand a retraction—and for its news-side personalities’ repeated debunking of the president’s lies about widespread voter fraud.
Newsmax’s growth strategy appears to be a steroidal version of Fox News’ pro-Trump, occasionally conspiratorial opinion content, minus any of Fox’s pesky, more traditional hard-news reporting operations.
With a lineup featuring a mix of ex-Fox News personalities, right-wing media misfits, and Trumpworld castoffs, the MAGA-boosting outlet has refused to call the election for Biden—an odd boast considering Newsmax does not have a news desk normally tasked with making such projections. The network has also repeatedly boosted the president’s baseless and unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen from him via widespread voter fraud.
And Huckabee himself has praised Newsmax for its refusal to treat Biden as the president-elect, all while seemingly taking a potshot at the network that has long employed him as a host and then later as an on-air contributor.
“Refreshing! @newsmax actually waiting until votes are properly tabulated & uncontested by legal action,” he tweeted on Nov. 8. “They must have read the Constitution & found that media doesn't determine an election by their ‘projections.’ It’s decided by VOTERS.”
Since then, Newsmax has gone from averaging below 100,000 viewers per day on its flagship show—hosted by former Fox News host Greg Kelly—to pulling in an audience of more than a million in a recent night. At the same time, the fringe channel still only attracts a fraction of the viewership on Fox News, whose primetime programs have drawn an average of nearly 5 million viewers in recent weeks.
But as Newsmax seemingly becomes more desperate to peel off viewers from Fox, it seems to be attempting to directly ape the network’s content. For instance, Benny Johnson—a serial plagiarist recently given a Newsmax weekend show despite having been fired by multiple outlets for various ethical problems—was roundly mocked this past weekend for cartoonishly impersonating Tucker Carlson’s speech patterns and body language while delivering a blustery monologue.
The president, meanwhile, has continued to urge his supporters to flock to Newsmax and fellow pro-Trump outlet One America News. And Newsmax CEO Ruddy, for his part, has trumpeted the president’s approval for his network, dedicating on-air segments to his personal chat with Trump, in which he claimed the president was upset with Fox News while happy about Newsmax’s increased ratings.
The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that Trump allies have explored possibly buying Newsmax as a potential alternative to Fox News. Ruddy told the Journal that he’s had “many discussions with interested parties over the years looking to buy or invest” but never had any deal with Hicks Equity Partners, a private equity firm with ties to the Republican National Committee.