Alternet, January 29, 2019
Fox News needs to be careful what it wishes for.
Late last year, the right-leaning news network and friends made a stand and demanded Trump shut down the federal government because he wasn’t getting congressional funding for a border wall that he promised Mexico would pay for. Trump gave in to pressure from those right-wing media voices and stunned Republicans in Congress by scuttling the bipartisan spending deal they had in place.
But not only was the shutdown a rolling disaster for the GOP as voters overwhelmingly blamed Republicans for the standstill, but it turns out unpopular, Republican-run government shutdowns aren’t good for ratings at Fox News, as Sean Hannity discovered this year.
Coming off a robust 2018 where he logged the top spot on cable news, Hannity averaged 3.3 million viewers last year. So far this year though, he’s averaging 2.7 million, which means he lost nearly one-quarter of his audience during the government shutdown. At the same time, Hannity’s competition on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow, has been surging in the ratings. She’s drawing 3.2 million viewers on a nightly basis in 2019, and has relegated Hannity to permanent second place in the 9 PM time slot.
And on some recent nights the margin of victory has been much larger than 500,000 viewers. For instance, on Jan. 3, 4, and 7 of this year, Maddow defeated Hannity by 1 million viewers each night.
Truth is, the air began going out of Hannity’s balloon right after the November midterms last year, when Republicans got shellacked and lost 40 seats in the House. That news cycle was quickly followed by blockbuster headlines on the Russia scandal front (i.e. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen striking a plea deal with prosecutors), followed by the poorly thought-out GOP shutdown, which Fox News virtually demanded Trump make happen.
Combined, the past two months have been a disaster for Trump, whose approval rating has fallen to new lows, and problematic for Fox News, which is forced to make excuses for a sputtering, incoherent administration. ...
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