Newsmax seems to be in a similar scenario to Fox News in recent years, with many billion-dollar lawsuits over its 2020 election-fraud hoaxes and a prominent White House correspondent going all-in on satanic vaccine conspiracy theories. How can we deviate from the lunacy?
The answer seems to be a recruiting binge of former Fox News producers and reporters by the new MAGA channel.
While Newsmax has never shied away from over-the-top, often deranged right-wing commentary, the MAGA-centric channel’s ludicrousness has come under scrutiny in the last two weeks after its star White House reporter Emerald Robinson began pushing a patently absurd claim on Twitter that the COVID-19 vaccines contain a “bioluminescent” tracking device with satanic powers.
Newsmax chastised Robinson publically, underlining that the network “never published” her “false claims” on its airways. Then, on November 4, Newsmax revealed that the journalist who had previously worked for rival far-right channel OAN had been demoted. “Newsmax is currently reviewing the posts and during that period Ms. Robinson will not be on the air but continue with duties for the network,” a network representative stated at the time.
After completing a seven-day suspension, the right-wing celebrity returned to Twitter last Tuesday and was almost immediately banned for promoting her satanic vaccinations conspiracy theory on the site.
And now, according to various sources, Robinson’s days as a Newsmax host are numbered. Newsmax may already be lined up a much more experienced reporter to take over: former Fox News senior D.C. correspondent James Rosen, who is now a political reporter for Sinclair Broadcasting Group.
Furthermore, Newsmax has recruited two long-time Fox News “straight news” executive producers to be the network’s news director and vice president of talent in the last month. This apparent attempt to mimic the Fox News model shows that, despite recent embarrassments, Newsmax is attempting to grow its threadbare newsroom and provide it some legitimacy.
“If we are going to be recognized as a journalistic company, we have to behave like one,” a Newsmax employee stated earlier this month.
Newsmax seemed to hint this week that changes were afoot after Twitter permanently banned Robinson.
“Emerald Robinson remains off-air as Newsmax reviews matters relating to her posts made outside of the channel on her own social media,” a Newsmax spokesperson said Wednesday morning. “As of yet we have not determined when she will return to the air.”
However, according to various sources, the decision has already been taken inside the network.
According to one current employee, the general perception among network workers is that “she’s just going to be gone.” However, the newsroom has received “nothing definitive.” According to another source, Robinson is almost probably done with Newsmax.
According to sources, Robinson, who joined Newsmax barely a year ago after leaving OAN, may be an independent contractor rather than a full-time employee—a not-so-unusual arrangement for Newsmax on-air personalities, since at least one other major reporter and a weekday anchor are contractors.
Now, a former Fox journalist looks to be in position to take her place. According to two people familiar with the situation, James Rosen has been in talks with Newsmax about becoming the network’s next top Washington reporter. According to the sources, the experienced reporter has visited the network’s New York headquarters, and negotiations have been underway for many months, even before the Robinson scandal.
Rosen, on the other hand, would bring his own baggage. After departing Fox News in late 2017, after almost two decades on the network, it was reported that his departure was due to a number of sexual misconduct charges made against him, including groping and retaliating against female coworkers.
When contacted, Rosen refused to comment. In reaction to this news, a Newsmax representative said, “Unfortunately, we cannot comment on personnel issues.”
After staffing much of its on-air programming with ex-Fox Newsers such as Eric Bolling, Rob Schmitt, and Greg Kelly, network CEO Chris Ruddy recently hired two veteran Fox News producers to shape Newsmax’s news desk in the mold of the channel it has been quixotically challenging for more than a year.
Christopher Wallace, who worked at Fox News for over 15 years until May, was appointed as Newsmax’s news director in October. Wallace, who has no connection to the similarly titled Fox News Sunday anchor, worked as the executive producer of Fox News @ Night with Shannon Bream for over four years. Prior to that, he worked as a senior producer for Fox Business and Fox News. Between his stints at Fox and Newsmax, he worked for five months as an executive vice president at the Washington, D.C.-based political news site The Hill.
Valeria Riccioli worked as a Fox News producer for 14 years before leaving in February and being appointed Newsmax’s vice president of talent only last month. Riccioli spent her last two years at Fox as executive producer of America’s Newsroom, the cable giant’s midday “straight news” presentation. Prior to then, she had worked her way through the show’s ranks, from segment producer to line producer to senior producer before landing the top job.
Both Wallace and Riccioli’s departures coincided with changes in Fox News’ programming. Following the 2020 election, the network changed portions of its weekday programming, including relocating Bream’s straight-laced newsy talk show to midnight in April to make place for right-wing “comedy” show Gutfeld! in the 11 p.m. slot.
According to Newsmax insiders, their hirings were a “quite a shift,” demonstrating the network’s apparent determined attempt to replicate Fox News’ formula of providing both ostensibly “straight” news programs and obviously right-wing opinion material.
Insiders said that humiliations like the Robinson incident, as well as several billion-dollar lawsuits from voting technology firms Smartmatic and Dominion as a result of Newsmax’s insane on-air election conspiracy theory, had surely generated a need for adjustments, no matter how little.
According to a network source, the hirings may indicate that Newsmax wants to go past its start-up mentality and be regarded more seriously as a purported news company.
“We had a news director but not as solid a news desk as we needed,” another current employee said of Wallace’s arrival.
This would not be the first time Newsmax has sought to imitate Fox News in order to grow its audience and appeal to conservative cable consumers.
Ruddy hired former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly’s longtime executive producer as a consultant in 2019, after briefly hiring former Fox News executive Michael Clemente as Newsmax’s CEO, and by summer 2020, Newsmax had ramped up its efforts to compete with Fox by hiring a slew of Fox rejects to bolster its lineup.
Following the presidential election, Newsmax brought on even more ex-Fox Newsers while simultaneously accepting Fox’s Trump apologia and setting the dial to 11, all while slamming its much bigger competitor for being insufficiently committed to the disgraced ex-president and, therefore, no longer being Fox News.
On election night earlier this month, one such strange assault occurred. That evening, Newsmax enlisted the services of reputed election forecasting agency Decision Desk HQ and declared that Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin had won the disputed Virginia governor race much before Fox News—which has its own in-house decision desk—did.
Newsmax spent most of the next day bragging about being the first station to call the race for Youngkin, ridiculing Fox News for being the last. Never mind that Newsmax’s election-night prediction was based on an independent firm’s forecast; just being the first to declare Youngkin’s triumph provided an easy opportunity for the network to (questionably, of course) trumpet its journalistic prowess over Fox News.
Other subtle attempts have been taken by Newsmax to back away from the fringe-right cliff it found itself on after the 2020 election, despite the fact that it was that obsequiously pro-Trump tilt that helped put the network on the map in the first place.
The network has also informed its staff that it will follow the Biden administration’s immunization guidelines for major corporations. While the network’s right-wing hosts have railed against the vaccine mandates and stated that they will not comply, the network has attempted to publicly thread the needle by stating that it has “no vaccine mandate nor do we require it for employment,” and that they are “exploring our own legal options” in response to the federal policy.
At the same time, the internal document said that “all employees should be fully vaccinated,” implying that the corporation, like Fox News, is attempting to walk a tight line between publicly opposing all vaccine regulations but supporting vaccination standards for its own staff.