Following the downpour of information coming out of the White House this past week, cable news outlets have covered the fallout tirelessly. From the the firing of FBI director James Comey to the Michael Flynn investigation, MSNBC and CNN have broadcast the unfolding calamity without prejudice. However, one news service has yet to report the full ramifications and severity of the disclosures – you guessed it, Fox News.
Viewers watching the conservative news organization last week would not have guessed much was going on in the nation’s capital. Instead of hearing analysts, pundits, and commentators assessing the possiblity of impeaching President Trump, Fox posed alternative narratives to what Sean Hannity calls “fake news” reports.
5 groups trying to destroy the @POTUS 1-Media 2-Democrats. 3-Deep State/intelligence 4-weak establishment Republicans 5-Never Trumpers
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 17, 2017
Other Fox anchors downplayed the stories as insignificant and negative reports, portraying them as part of an unfair liberal media conspiracy to take down Trump.
Tucker Carlson dismissed the stories as unimportant compared the opioid crisis and “Russia Hysteria.” Jesse Watters referred to one of the scandals miring Trump’s White House as a “boring controversy,” and the hosts of Fox & Friends discussed Comey’s procedural missteps.
To minimize the damage resulting from the latest story regarding Comey’s alleged memos, Fox ran conspiracy stories regarding the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich. Carlson could be found shouting at a New York City council member about the state of Penn Station’s bathrooms. Comey did not come up.
Tucker Carlson screaming about Penn Station bathrooms to avoid talking about Trump’s Russia ties. I know this sounds fake. It’s not. Enjoy. pic.twitter.com/Nlj1SPHen7
— Carlos Maza (@gaywonk) May 17, 2017
As a result of this non-news, both CNN and MSNBC have received healthy surges in viewership, leaving Fox in third place in prime-time. According to Mediaite, the network’s prime-time ratings haven’t fallen behind MSNBC and CNN in over a decade.
Fox has dominated its rivals in the ratings for years, traditionally leading far ahead of MSNBC and CNN both overall and in the key 25-54 demographic. But this week, MSNBC bested Fox in primetime, taking the number one slot overall and in the demo. Rachel Maddow, who has been riding a wave of anti-Trump furor to the top of the primetime ratings pile, came in first overall this week, beating out The Five.
While the success the network had in helping Trump surge to the presidency is undeniable, Fox has seemingly lost its edge since it no longer finds itself in a position of opposition. To viewers who seek more entertaining news reports, it is far less exciting to watch the talking heads gush over the president than to see them on the attack.
Unfortunately for Fox, painting Trump in the best light possible and reassuring viewers that he’s doing well is bad for business. With their core viewership stagnating due to the high median age of their key demographic, it is unlikely the right-wing media will rebound anytime soon.