Here and there there were a few votes left to be counted. But the result was clear to most media. The election was over. And President Trump had lost.
But nearly two weeks later, as courts close the long-running legal challenges to the Trump campaign and states move forward with voting certifications, Trump himself is not letting go. And the struggles next to him are big – if they falter – shards of the conservative media landscape.
The result is an alternative information universe that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, tries to portray the outcome of the election as still uncertain and a Biden presidency as very dubious, if not illegal. “President Trump was right to call this what it really is ̵
It is a thread of coverage and comments that is rooted in conspiratorial thinking – but also in a thriving business model. While many Trump voters accept the inevitability of a Biden presidency, “the energy of conservative media is around the 20 million people in Trump’s base who believe the election was stolen,” said Chris Balfe, CEO of Red Seat Ventures. which helps conservative personalities. such as Megyn Kelly and Nancy Grace build their own websites, podcasts and other digital platforms.
Small cable channels like One America News and Newsmax have reversed their refusal to convene the election for a new branding strategy, while prime-time opinion pollsters on Fox News have played anecdotal and often unfounded allegations of voter fraud. This, even as the Federal Agency for Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security said last week that “the November 3 election was the safest in American history.”
These conservative outlets have also provided ample coverage of the long-running legal maneuvers of the Trump campaign, though it has abandoned some of its challenges and endured a series of legal defeats.
One America News, which has been trumpeted by the president as an alternative to Fox News, went so far as to routinely remove an actual actual thread service story from its website, quoting Biden, who claimed his victory was certain.
Instead of covering legal developments and voting revisions as impartial journalistic observers, outlets like Newsmax have anything but heralded the result they hope for: a Trump victory. “We think he has been a great president and we would like to see him have another term,” Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy said on Tuesday during a segment of his network – adding, “We also encourage the president to begin the possibility of a transition. ”
Ruddy boasted that Newsmax is “one of the only major networks not calling for elections,” telling viewers that the network is waiting for states to certify the election results and “see what the end result is.”
His feelings repeated them about his on-talent. “Elected President Joe Biden?” said host Greg Kelly. “I do not think. I just do not think so. It does not look right. That does not sound right. It does not feel right. And that’s not true. “This week, Kelly told viewers, ‘I really think Donald Trump has a chance to turn this around.’
Much of Newsmax’s programming strategy has been self-interested attacks on Fox News, from which they hope to eliminate viewers. Its personalities have attacked Fox News’ non-partisan decision-making speech to urge Arizona to bid early – the first election-night battle for Trump – and to show a “reluctance” and “lack of curiosity to get to the bottom of” claims about election fraud.
This claim would fall flat for recent viewers of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham. The day after Election Day, when it began to seem likely that Biden would defeat Trump, all three Fox punditry stars had strong doubts about the election. “Here’s a question that every American will have to answer for themselves,” Hannity told viewers. Do you trust what happened in this election? Do you think these election results are correct? I have many questions. “Carlson last week seized unconfirmed allegations that a dead person had voted in Georgia – a story he had to apologize for later when it turned out that it was actually the man’s widow who correctly cast his own vote. Ingraham last week interviewed a silhouette polling worker in Nevada who claimed – without proof or verification – to have seen people in a “Biden van” tear open envelopes containing ballot papers and marking them.
And yet the New York Post – like Fox News, owned by conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch – spent almost two days bolstering the president’s hopes (“No matter who wins, the polls, the experts, the press were all wrong, wrong, wrong.” front page editorial Thursday after the election) before the weekend turned into a smiling Biden sprayed over the front page with the headline “It’s Joe Time. ”
More broadly, there seems to have been something of a shift in Murdoch’s media empire in recent days. His properties, which are considered reliably pro-Trump over the past four years, have drawn lines when it comes to his false election demands.
On Tuesday, the editorial staff of Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal asked: “Where is the evidence? Strong claims need strong evidence, not rumors and insinuations on Twitter. . . . So far, there is no good evidence of voting problems that would come close to Mr. Biden leads 73,000 votes in Pennsylvania or 145,000 in Michigan. That same evening, Fox News Carlson unfortunately told viewers, “the election is over.” It seemed that Ingraham also admitted and struck an elegiac tone: “You may not like Trump’s tweets or sometimes his tone, but you’re sure you’ll go to hell for his America’s first ethos and results. ”
When a Fox News spokesman, Pete Hegseth, maintained “there is no president-elect yet”, anchor Harris Faulkner pointed out Wednesday that it was actually the right title to use for Biden because “that’s what we’ve always done.” And that morning, Brian Fox, “Fox & Friends,” Brian Kilmeade suggested that Trump – a regular guest on the morning show, which he is known to watch regularly – should at least acknowledge the reality of his situation by coordinating with a Biden- transition team: “It’s in the best interest of the country.”
And with a striking departure, Carlson on Thursday night raised doubts about the wild allegations of election fraud by one of the president’s lawyers, Sidney Powell. “She never sent us any proof despite many requests, polite requests and not a page,” he said. “As we continued to press, she became angry and asked us to stop contacting her.”
And yet, this week, Hannity continued to make unsubstantiated allegations of “election irregularities,” even though the president’s chances appear to have diminished. “What the hell is going on in Georgia and in our country?” he asked. “Why do we still find thousands of ballots weeks after the election? Does it inspire confidence in the outcome for you? Does anyone trust this, should anyone ever trust it? On Tuesday, he trumpeted the news that two Republican members of Wayne County, Mich., A board member, had resigned by certifying election results – and became suspicious when they eventually voted to certify. Hannity, deflated, promised to find out “why the heart changed.”
And on Thursday afternoon, Fox News broke into regular programming to broadcast a 90-minute press conference by Trump lawyer and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, spitting a wild array of conspiracy theories and unsupported allegations of election fraud. Although some Fox News reporters later actually verified his allegations, no other major news network would broadcast the Giuliani event live.
And while Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo asked Powell, her Friday morning guest, if she had any evidence to back up with florid allegations of Venezuelan-run conspiracies for manipulating voice devices, the segment mostly became an option for Powell to float false claims about public spending.
Still, some observers see signs that conservative media are quietly beginning to prepare for an impending future under a president other than Trump.
“History has in many cases moved to talk about how awful the upcoming Biden presidency will be,” said Howard Polskin, who has tracked conservative media headlines through the Trump era on his site Righting.
Ingraham started his show this week with a segment that evoked old pre-Trump conservative grips on liberals who allegedly neglected Christmas (by, for example, saying “Happy Holidays” or making inadequately seasonal coffee cups). “Thanksgiving police,” she warned, were here to ruin your vacation with their little worries about coronavirus. “If you had Thanksgiving plans, they would be ashamed to cancel them,” she said.
Conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh was even deeper into withdrawal and raked back to Barack Obama’s Thanksgiving speech in 2010, in which Indians gave generosity to newly arrived pilgrims – an attempt, Limbaugh warned, to get people to “attack conservative family members with the Obama agenda” . “