Politico reports that the lone holdout in the media for wall to wall coverage of President Trump’s rallies bailed on Wednesday evening. Instead of covering the sixth rally this month, Fox News opted to stick with covering Hurricane Michael. With viewership of his rallies dropping below regular prime-time scheduling ratings, Fox has stopped airing the president’s evening events in full.
During three Trump rallies last week, Fox News showed clips and highlights from his speeches but stuck largely with its normal weekday prime-time programming. On Saturday, when “Fox Report Weekend” and “Justice with Judge Jeanine” would ordinarily air, the network showed Trump’s speech from Topeka, Kan., in full. But on Tuesday, a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was particularly hard to find — it was not aired live on any major network, and even C-SPAN cut away for other news.Politico
The number of rallies Trump is holding makes airing them difficult for Fox, as is the sheer repetition and length of his rally speeches. His dropping ratings take away from Fox’s solid prime time line up and the president is no longer sure to beat Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, or Laura Ingraham in ratings. In 2017, Trump’s less frequent rallies could bring in a viewership of 4 million. Politico states that Neilson ratings show viewership of 2.5 to 3.5 million in 2018.
In addition, Fox does not cut away for commericial breaks when airing a rally speech live. They lose valuable advertising slots every time they air one of the president’s 90 minute speeches. A person close to the decision making process of Fox News told Politico that the network would go with the route that brings them the best ratings.
With the campaign rallies designed to generate interest in the weeks before the November midterms, Fox’s backing away from coverage worries both White House officials and the candidates who Trump is rallying on behalf of. The candidates are relying on the buzz generated by the coverage to generate donations from Fox’s audience, say Republican campaign staffers.
A senior White House official, concerned about the loss of coverage, told Politico that they would be “looking into” Fox’s decision to not carry prime time rallies. The official added that Bill Shine, White House communications director and former Fox News executive, might already be talking to Fox about the decision.
Indeed, shortly after the Politico piece about Trump’s rally being bumped from Fox coverage dropped, the president was on Fox News with Shannon Bream in the 11 o’clock hour for an interview, the Washington Post reports. This morning Donald Trump was on Fox & Friends for a call in interview. Between the two appearances, Donald Trump had an hour to give a somewhat abbreviated version of his rally speech.
President Trump often speaks highly of Fox and its personalities during his rallies. In September, he even was interviewed during a rally by Pete Hegseth, one of the Fox and Friends hosts who was under consideration for a White House position at the time, the Washington Post reported in September.
On Fox and Friends this morning, Trump bemoaned the fake news media but praised Fox and Friends specifically and Fox News in general.
Trump has not publicly taken issue with Fox’s selective coverage, even mentioning his “great friends” at Fox during his Tuesday evening rally in Iowa. However, sources close to the president say it will be a problem and he will be disappointed if Fox stops carrying his rallies altogether, Politico reports.
A GOP strategist notes that if Fox were to carry every rally live, it would open itself up to even more criticism and scrutiny for being a propaganda network for the administration.
Why It Matters
The next few weeks leading up to the midterms are crucial for not only the Republicans running, but for Donald Trump as well. The midterms are a referendum on him and his rallies are a vital platform for him to reach the base and generate fundraising, not just for the current crop of candidates but for his own prospects looking forward to 2020 as well.
The media gave Trump a platform in 2015 and 2016 because it helped their ratings, but when his performances hurt their ratings, they will move to what helps them.