The years that Tudor Dixon spent hosting a daily show on the conservative TV network Real America’s Voice, she has said herself, prepared her for the job she is seeking now: governor of the state of Michigan.
“I’ve been in the media, and I’ve been in the weeds on politics,” Dixon said recently, “getting to know exactly what’s happening with all of our federal issues, but also state issues.”
Indeed, Dixon was frequently in the weeds during her media career—but in a very different way than she might have meant. And the show she described during her campaign as a “pretty standard news program” was usually anything but.
For two years, Dixon’s daily afternoon show served as a platform for a parade of fringe characters, who amplified a range of conspiracy theories on everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to the 2020 election to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
One of Dixon’s regular co-hosts, conservative personality Matt Locke, often filled airtime alongside her with conspiratorial and violent rhetoric.
During one segment in July 2020, Locke talked about Democrats engineering a “perfect storm” to defeat former President Donald Trump, suggesting that COVID-19 and the 2020 George Floyd protests and riots were part of the plot.
In another segment, from June 2020, Locke and Dixon defended the McCloskeys, the St. Louis couple who famously brandished guns at a throng of protesters who marched past their home.
“These people are lucky they didn’t show up at my house, because there’ll be a lot of them laying on the ground,” Locke said. “I would be shooting first and asking questions later.”
After Locke’s stemwinder, Dixon simply responded, “This is why so many people are saying we are going toward a true civil war in this country.”
In the weeks after Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, Dixon hosted Angela Stanton King—a former GOP congressional candidate in Georgia who has promoted elements of QAnon. She spoke to Dixon about “praying” that “this election gets overturned” because Joe Biden had “shown his true colors” on criminal justice reform. After that, Dixon moved onto the next question.
In June 2020, Dixon hosted anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson, who unspooled on the show a complex theory that Planned Parenthood is scheming to profit by providing women with birth control so that they have to go to Planned Parenthood for abortions.
“The answer to the abortion problem isn’t actually birth control, it’s self control,” Johnson told Dixon. “But self control doesn’t make money for Planned Parenthood.” Dixon did not push back, and gave Johnson an opportunity to explain the theory further.
Also that summer, Dixon hosted the New York Republican activist Gavin Wax, who gained attention in 2018 for writing an essay defending the far-right Proud Boys gang titled, “We Are All Proud Boys.” At one point in the interview, Dixon asked Wax if “what needs to happen is folks like you… have to get involved in government and start turning this around so that we can get back the country that we’re losing so quickly?”
Such commentary is inescapable on Real America’s Voice, the bare-bones network that, despite its often shoddy production value, has gained popularity among a hardline MAGA audience increasingly dissatisfied with Fox News.
But unlike the network’s typical cast of characters, Dixon isn’t just seeking an audience: she is seeking to be the governor of Michigan, one of the nation’s most populous states and key political battlegrounds. Even in an election year where a bumper crop of figures from the GOP fringe are running for key offices nationwide, few have the kind of background that Dixon does.
In the context of her campaign to unseat Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Dixon’s past as a right-wing media personality has largely gone unexplored. Her stint on Real America’s Voice—and the fact that she has pointed to it as proof of her preparation to govern—is significant, said Jared Holt, a researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, an anti-extremism think tank.
“What that signals to me is that Tudor Dixon views the job of a governor to be something that it fundamentally should not be—as a place to pursue bizarre conspiracy theories and send state resources down these rabbit holes,” Holt said.
“It’s not even a Democrat-Republican thing. It’s like, if you’re going from a very rickety type of podcasting operation and thinking that’s going to prepare you to be a governor, immediately, there’s red flags that go up all over my brain.”
In response to questions from The Daily Beast, Dixon spokesperson Sara Broadwater said that “Tudor believes in freedom of speech and hosted a program that featured a variety of opinions—both Democrats and Republicans.”
Democrats who appeared on Dixon’s show include Robert Patillo, an Atlanta civil rights activist, according to Broadwater.
Dixon’s own views have been a focal point of the Michigan race, as Whitmer argues that the former TV host is too extreme for the state. Dixon has repeatedly said the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. She has stuck to her position that abortion should be banned in all cases, including rape or incest, with an exception only for saving the life of the mother. And she has made culture war issues like transgender rights a foundational part of her campaign.
If public polling and fundraising are any reflection, Dixon’s message is not resonating far beyond a conservative constituency. A recent poll from the Detroit News found the Republican with 32 percent support—18 points behind Whitmer. The governor has badly outraised Dixon. On Thursday, Bridge Michigan, a local news outlet, reported that big GOP donors were “shunning” Dixon’s campaign.
But Dixon’s hard-right political vibe was perfectly at home on the airwaves of Real America’s Voice.
Founded in 2018 by a would-be media mogul from Colorado with a felony record, the budding network began as a minor player even compared to ramshackle outfits like One America News.
But RAV got its big break in 2019, when it began distributing ex-Trump strategist Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast, which ended up becoming one of the most influential platforms in right-wing media. The network has maintained a close relationship with Bannon, and ensures his daily program reaches some eight million viewers via satellite television, according to The Washington Post, which also reported that the network employs no more than 20 people.
Dixon’s show ran from June 2019 to May 2021, the month she launched her campaign for Michigan governor. Those years, she later said, “gave me access to congressmen and senators and all those political insiders that you need to do something” like running for governor.
Regardless, Dixon’s time on the network did allow her to rub elbows with all manner of figures on the MAGA right. “A majority of the guests,” said Holt, “are a rotating array of people who are just as off the wall as them.”
She once interviewed James O’Keefe, who runs the conservative sting operation Project Veritas, and appeared on a panel segment alongside Ben Bergquam, who famously live-vlogged his stay in the hospital for COVID-19 after he declined to take the vaccine.
During her stint on the network, Dixon won fans—including Bannon, who said she does “a fabulous job” and called her a “fantastic piece of talent.” In her campaign for governor, she has continued to be a regular guest on Bannon’s War Room podcast, appearing as recently as Sept. 30.
The network’s current roster of personalities includes Charlie Kirk, the founder of MAGA activism organization Turning Point USA, has a daily time slot on the network, as does Jack Posobiec, the promoter of the baseless Pizzagate conspiracy theory. Ted Nugent, the rocker who called for the executions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, also has a nightly show.
Although Dixon’s time on the network is a key resume line for her, it has not been much of a topic of discussion in the campaign, and Democrats have not engaged too much with her record there.
In response to questions for this story, Whitmer campaign spokesperson Maeve Coyle said the governor has worked with Republicans on her agenda while Dixon “spent her career promoting conspiracy theorists, anti-abortion extremists and election deniers because she shares their dangerous agenda.”
It’s likely the GOP will produce more candidates like Dixon, not fewer, given the evolution of right-wing media. One other prominent GOP candidate who ran in 2022 also had RAV on their resume: Eric Greitens, the scandal-plagued former Missouri governor who attempted a comeback bid for U.S. Senate this year but lost in a GOP primary.
“Cultivating an online following and trying to translate it into electoral success is sort of a well-worn pattern at this point,” Holt said. “But the success rate varies wildly.”
It’s these echo chambers that have incubated among many Trump-loving Republicans a belief that any election that they do not win is a rigged one.
Indeed, well before the stop the steal movement came about, Dixon’s show was a platform for the kind of rhetoric that laid the groundwork for Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.
“We are watching a cabal, a group of people, who are working overtime to make sure that President Trump is not reelected,” said her co-host Matt Locke in a May 2020 segment.
“Why do you think they want mail-in ballots? Where do you think the coronavirus came from? Why do you think that they tanked our economy?” he asked. “You start looking at all of this, Tudor, and I don’t want to go down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole, but I’ve been there. I’ve done it several times.”