Fox News was created in October of 1996. It didn’t take long for the network to become a powerhouse. The Conservative news source really caught fire during the Clinton impeachment scandal. The network again saw a huge bump during the US Invasion of Iraq. And over a course of 20 years, Fox was a rating giant regularly dominating CNN and MSNBC.
The emergence of Donald Trump certainly helped the network prosper. But by the November election, Fox had begun to fade. Over the last two months, CNN and MSNBC have begun to defeat Fox in the ratings. And those wins for the more Liberal networks have come during the prime time slots where Fox usually makes hay. There are a number of factors for Fox’s continued fall from grace.
Straight new reporters are often punished by the network
The Fox network certainly has its share of opinionated personalities. From 8-11 each night, viewers are subjected to the opinions of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. That does not mean, however, that more moderated voices aren’t heard throughout the day.
The morning show, Fox & Friends, is as opinionated as the night time shows. But during the afternoon, anchors like Bret Baier, Chris Wallace and Sandra Smith will deliver a portion of straight news.
To deliver straight news, though, can draw the ire of Donald Trump. The ex-President frequently attacked personalities like Wallace, Leland Vittert, and Shepherd Smith. Smith, who was with the network from the beginning, left Fox in October of 2019.
Smith recently told PBS’ Christiane Amanpour, “I stuck with it as long as I could. I don’t know how some people sleep at night… There are a lot of people… who are smart enough and educated enough to know better.”
The George Floyd killing changed the narrative
There have been a number of police brutality cases over the last decade. For the most part, Fox News has sided with police officers and blamed the victims. But the killing of George Floyd in May of 2020 was so egregious that it became difficult to defend the Minneapolis police force.
That doesn’t mean they didn’t try. Tucker Carlson said this summer, “Floyd’s death has been used to justify a nationwide convulsion of violence, destruction, looting, in some cases killing. In addition to unprecedented levels of political upheaval, the wholesale reordering of our most basic institutions, Floyd’s death changed everything. It was a pivot point in American history. No matter what your side you’re on, that’s very clear at this point. So with all of that in mind … it’s striking how little we really know months later about how exactly George Floyd died.”
The killing, though changed the minds of many Americans about the Black Lives Matter movement. And many of those Americans decided to change the channel from Fox News to CNN or MSNBC.
OAN and Newsmax emerge as competition.
One of the main reasons Fox was able to defeat the more liberal networks was that CNN and MSNBC had to compete with each other. More conservative viewers were more than likely going to tune into Fox News. CNN and MSNBC had to compete with one another.
But over the last few years, OAN and Newsmax have emerged as alternatives. And while the two small scale networks might take a while to truly compete with Fox, they have certainly taken a chunk of viewers from the powerhouse.
And these networks have gotten a big push from Donald Trump. During his presidency, Trump expected nothing but fawning coverage. While Fox almost always gushes over Trump, there are some anchors willing to take him to task. The final straw seemed to be when Fox called the state of Arizona for Joe Biden. After that, Trump sent multiple tweets encouraging supporters to turn to the competing networks.
Fox’s early Arizona call didn’t just anger Trump
Donald Trump, win or lose, had a plan on election night. The former president was aware that many Democrats had chose to vote by mail. The vote by mail phenomenon meant that it would look like Trump was dominating the race on election night.
Fox News put a real kink in that plan when they called Arizona for Joe Biden. The conservative network was the first to call the state and did so before any other news outlet. Trump still tried to claim victory on election night, but his claims seemed much more hollow thanks to the call from Fox.
Eventually, it was confirmed that Biden had won Arizona, though the match-up was close. Of course, Trump refused to concede that he had lost the state. The former president continually complained about the call and supporters listened.
The network also chose to punish the man who made the brave call. Chris Stirewalt, Fox’s former politics editor, was recently fired. At the same time, Maria Bartiromo, who relentlessly pushed election fraud theories, has been given the shot to audition for Fox News 7 PM time slot.
A suburban female revolt
One of the first things Donald Trump did after becoming president was lie about his inauguration crowd being bigger than Barack Obama’s. A much bigger crowd, though did take to the streets that weekend to protest Trump’s presidency. And this crowd was mostly made up of women.
Republicans have long relied on the votes of suburban women to win elections. But these voters left the party in droves following Trump’s election. Women who had previously voted Republican helped Democrats to big wins in the 2018 midterms and the 2020 election.
And when these women switched their party affiliations, they also changed their television preferences. Many are now driving the newfound success of CNN and MSNBC.
The insurrection was the final straw
In the months after the election, many Fox personalities helped push Trump’s big election lie. Much of the heavy lifting was done by true Trump sycophants like Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs, and Maria Bartiromo. But stars like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham also pushed the narrative as well.
And that push was one of the contributing factors of the insurrection. Rather than condemn the rioters, many Fox personalities provided them with cover. Tucker Carson called the mob “kind of solid Americans.”
And for many Fox viewers, this was the end. Viewership for the network had been dropping since the election, but another dip happened after January 6th. Mediate reports, “Over the first two weeks of 2021, Fox averaged nearly 800,000 fewer total day viewers than MSNBC, and around 1 million fewer than CNN, and every day since Jan. 4, Fox has trailed both MSNBC and CNN in the crucial age 25-54 demographic.”
For years, Fox has divided Americans and pushed racial animus as a means to increase ratings. And for nearly two decades they essentially got away with it. But at this time in the country’s history, many Americans have become fed up.
Fox has lost viewers for a variety of reasons. And that will make it much more difficult for the network to win them back. Fox, at the least, made a move towards correcting some of its mistakes by firing long-time business network host Lou Dobbs. But as long as Fox continues to employ people like Carlson, Hannity, Pirro, and Ingraham, the problems are likely to continue.