Will splintering at Fox give rise to new conservative media networks?

The departure of Shepard Smith from Fox News ten days ago, following his on air-feud with Tucker Carlson over “partisanship,” ironically, indicates just how real tensions are within the network. After 23 years with Fox, and a day after yet another tweet from Trump criticizing Smith, he finally parted ways with the network; the starkly contrasting coverage, especially in relation to Trump, between the news and opinion sides had been boiling within the company for months. With Smith’s departure, it spilled over for all to see.

What is expected when one side of a network supports any and everything Trump says, while the other attempts to maintain its credibility through reality-based reporting? As Aaron Rupar from Vox noted, viewers can be whipsawed in the same day, on the one hand watching Neil Cavuto make a case for Trump’s impeachment followed by Rudy Giuliani pushing conspiracy theories about Democrats colluding with Ukraine to dig up dirt on Trump after the 2016 election.

Trump’s support for the network is as erratic as the coverage itself. A Media Matters survey found that within the week following the emergence of the whistleblower’s complaints, Trump sent 51 tweets or retweets lifting up Fox’s programming or the comments of its employees about the story. Yet in the weeks following, he tweeted that Fox news “doesn’t deliver for US anymore.” As Vox’s Matt Yglesis put it, “If Fox chooses to lie to its audience about what’s happening, that makes it challenging for GOP members to respond to reality rather than to Foxality.”

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If others follow Smith’s steps and leave the network, what will come of a Fox network that continues to act as the mouthpiece for a flailing presidency? Perhaps it will open space for other conservative media to ascend. While Shari Redstone denies rumors that her media company National Amusements would launch a conservative channel to compete with Fox, she has been in contact with current and former Fox employees recently, including Megyn Kelly. Also, following Redstone’s merger of Viacom and CBS in August, Viacom-owned PlutoTV did a soft launch of a conservative news show called The First last week.

Read more on the splintering between Trump and the media:

  • On October 17, marchers gathered at Freedom Plaza in Washington in protest of the ongoing impeachment inquiry tore into Shep Smith and cheered his departure from Fox news. “I’m glad he’s gone… He didn’t like [President] Trump,” says Diane Finer, a 61-year-old Florida resident. Brett Kokkinadis, 39, of New Mexico, said “He doesn’t fit, he’s left-leaning, he’s a socialist, he’s against the president.”
  • But that support could be faltering. While originally viewed as the new driving force of the conservative agenda, Trump has become increasingly difficult to support in the wake of scandal after scandal. “The Constitution’s framers envisioned America’s political leaders as bound by a devotion to country above all else. That’s why all elected officials take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. By protecting Donald Trump at all costs from all consequences, the Republicans risk violating that sacred oath” writes Philip Rucker.

Other notable stories: 

  • The State Department probe of Hillary Clinton emails finds no deliberate mishandling of classified information. This report seems to settle the controversy surrounding the 2016 election that Clinton cited as a key factor in her loss to President Trump.
  • In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Mitch McConnell writes, “Withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria is a grave strategic mistake. It will leave the American people and homeland less safe, embolden our enemies, and weaken important alliances.”
  • After an outpouring of criticism, President Trump agrees to change the location of the G7 meeting. It was originally to be hosted at Trump’s own luxury gold club near Miami.

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Akintunde Ahmad is a CJR Delacorte Fellow. Follow him on Twitter @akintundeahmad.