President Donald Trump’s White House is reportedly facing a quandary: dwindling television ratings for the president’s rallies.
Even Fox News, the network that bragged just months ago that it was the only network still showing the rallies live, has shifted to other programming as the ratings for Trump’s rallies in 2018 fall.
According to Politico’s Jason Schwartz and Gabby Orr, Trump’s rallies aren’t drawing the same views they did in 2015 and 2016, when multiple cable networks would carry them during primetime viewing hours:
During three Trump rallies last week, Fox News showed clips and highlights from his speeches but stuck largely with its normal weekday prime-time programming. On Saturday, when “Fox Report Weekend” and “Justice with Judge Jeanine” would ordinarily air, the network showed Trump’s speech from Topeka, Kan., in full. But on Tuesday, a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was particularly hard to find — it was not aired live on any major network, and even C-SPAN cut away for other news. And on Wednesday night, as Trump took the stage in Erie, Pa., at 7 p.m., Fox News stuck with its coverage of Hurricane Michael.
As the Associated Press reported in July, since Trump won the White House, Fox News has aired six Trump rallies in their entirety — an estimated six hours and 33 minutes of programming that boosted the ratings of Fox’s primetime television shows. And during the presidential campaign, cable news networks all aired Trump’s rallies, with CNN chief executive Jeff Zucker saying that CNN did so because “you never knew what he would say.”
But Trump is holding the events more often as the midterm elections heat up, and the ratings are dropping, losing out to the ratings for the Fox News shows that a Trump rally would replace:
But from Fox’s perspective, Trump is no longer a sure bet to beat Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham. For instance, on Aug. 30, Fox News’ 8 p.m. hour was mostly consumed by Trump’s rally in Evansville, Ind., earning 2.536 million viewers, according to Nielsen, compared to the 2.8 million viewers Carlson averaged at that time during 2018’s third quarter.
The ratings drop could be a test of Fox News’s editorial independence, as the network most closely associated with Trump (and most watched by Trump) faces the challenge of either appealing to ratings or doing what Trump and his most loyal supporters might want. According to Politico, at least one White House official thinks that Bill Shine, White House deputy chief of staff and the former co-president of Fox News, might get “in touch with former colleagues” to address the issue.