Amid persistent talk of Donald Trump moving into the conservative media sphere once he moves out of the White House, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that allies of the president have discussed buying Newsmax and thereby creating a competitor to Fox News.
Trump has refused to concede defeat in the presidential election, though all major media organizations including Fox News have called the race for Joe Biden.
Citing “people familiar with the matter”, the Journal, which like Fox News is owned by Rupert Murdoch, said Hicks Equity Partners, a private finance concern with links to a co-chair of the Republican National Committee, had discussed buying Newsmax as “part of a larger effort that could also include a streaming-video service”.
Hicks, the Journal reported, has been interested in creating a competitor to Fox News for about two years.
Fox News, which has long had the highest cable news ratings, has largely supported Trump since he entered the Republican presidential primary in summer 2015. The network’s opinion hosts continue to treat Trump more charitably than its news anchors and their counterparts at other organizations but the relationship has soured nonetheless.
The Journal report landed as Trump continued attacks on Fox News which began on election day, when the network was the first news organization to call Arizona, a key state, for Biden. Fox News later joined other networks in calling the whole contest for the Democratic nominee.
The Trump campaign and supporters of the president reportedly flooded the network with calls, seeking a reversal. Protesters outside one ballot counting center in Phoenix, Arizona shouted: “Fox News sucks!”
Newsmax hosts have propped up Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations that the election was rigged, the Journal said – an effort which has coincided with an improvement in the network’s ratings. Nielsen data cited by the Journal said Newsmax average prime-time viewership surged 156% to 223,000 in election week, helping it pass a million viewers between 7pm and 8pm – approximately 50%’s of Fox News’ audience in the same slot.
The Trump campaign, the White House and Fox News did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Guardian. Nor did a press representative for Hicks, or Newsmax.
Newsmax chief executive Chris Ruddy, a friend of Trump, played down the Journal report, telling the paper: “Newsmax never had any deal with the Hicks group, and if it’s true they were using our name for the purposes of capital fundraising, that is wholly inappropriate.”