The Newsmax Personnel Merry-Go-Round
Between anti-vaxxers, deadbeat dads and credibly accused sexual harassers, Newsmax has hired a rogue's gallery of on-air talent and commentators.
By Terry Krepel
Newsmax has had a fairly long streak of volatile personnel changes on its TV operation. It arguably started in 2020, when longtime columnist and host Wayne Allyn Root got unceremoniously dumped by Newsmax as a columnist and TV host for downplaying the coronavirus pandemic while also pushing a scammy coronavirus treatment so questionable that a state attorney general sent him a cease-and-desist order. He's now writing at WorldNetDaily, a place that's a little more tolerant of his COVID-fearmongering shenanigans.
It turns out that was just the beginning of Newsmax's COVID-related personnel issues. In April 2020, ConWebWatch caught Newsmax TV White House correspondent Emerald Robinson -- whose scant resume before joining Newsmax as dominated by work at the even-further-right One America News Network -- spouting coronavirus conspiracy theories on Twitter, for which she apparently faced no discipline. In November, she got busted again for pushing a conspiracy about COVID vaccines. Washington Post media writer Erik Wemple reported:
Right-wing media outlet Newsmax had no choice on Tuesday but to issue two statements. One came from Elliot Jacobson, Newsmax’s executive vice president and chief content officer:Newsmax is a strong proponent that Covid 19 vaccines are overarchingly safe and effective. while at the same time raising concerns that mandates infringe on personal liberty and privacy. We have seen no evidence to suggest LUCIFERASE or LUCIFERIN are present in any vaccines or that they are used as any sort bioluminescent marker.And here’s the other, from parent company Newsmax Media:Newsmax strongly believes and has reported that the Covid 19 vaccines are safe and effective. We do not believe the vaccines contain any toxic materials or tracking markers, and such false claims have never been reported on Newsmax. The many medical experts appearing on Newsmax have supported the use of the vaccine.What on earth could have prompted these bizarre statements? A tweet from Emerald Robinson, Newsmax’s White House correspondent:
In fact, the vaccines do not contain luciferase (though it was used in some vaccine trials because it is an enzyme that can produce light and helped to analyze how the vaccines work, working in a similar way to what make fireflies glow). Wemple added: "Which is to say, the two-thirds of Americans who’ve taken at least one vaccine dose needn’t worry about acquiring a subcutaneous glow."
Wemple added that Robinson had initially been placed on a tepid kind of quasi-suspension, according to a Newsmax statement: “Newsmax is currently reviewing the posts and during that period Ms. Robinson will not be on air but continue with duties for the network.”
Having a vocal anti-vaxxer as your White House correspondent is not the way a "news" organization builds credibility -- and neither does having to make public statements distancing yourself from those anti-vaxxer sentiments.
At the same time it was dealing with Robinson, Mediaite reported that Newsmax would institute a vaccine mandate for its employees -- either get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. That apparently didn't go over well there, where rage against vaccine mandates -- as mandated by right-wing narratives -- is a staple of Newsmax programming and content. Host Steve Cortes declared he would never comply with such "medical apartheid," while host Eric Bolling denied any such mandate was taking place.
In an effort to tamp down the controversy, Newsmax published an unsigned editorial on Nov. 7, a Sunday morning, in which it insisted that "Newsmax has no vaccine mandate nor do we require it for employment," but noted that it would follow federal law, which includes opt-outs for weekly testing, though they are "not good and probably illegal" as well as "a dangerous overreach of federal power." The editorial tried to find a place to stand on both sides of the issue, straddling a line between being reasonable while not abandoning the anti-vaxxers who make up a notable portion of its audience:
Even with no business mandate in effect today, both COVID cases and deaths are falling dramatically.
That might sound reasonable if Newsmax hadn't given a platform to various and sundry COVID conspiracy theorists spouting misinformation. Newsmax knew it was playing with fire by publishing them by labeling the writer as a "non-clinician," but that doesn't fully absolve them from responsibility.
The editorial remained on Newsmax's front page for several days afterward, and according to the Washington Post, its TV hosts repeated the same party line on its shows, ultimately morphing the story into a "fake news" attack in which outside forces were going after the channel.
Meanwhile, Newsmax was trying to solve its Emerald Robinson issue. Newsmax had at least temporarily taken her off the air after her COVID misinformation blew up; meanwhile, she continued to push misinformation on Twitter, which earned her a permanent ban from the platform. Mediaite has since reported that Newsmax is not returning Robinson to her job but may retain her as an independent contractor; ultimately, she officially departed. (Robinson is now working for MyPillow guy Mike Lindell.) Meanwhile, Cortes left Newsmax, though it's unclear whether he quit or was fired. Numerous other issues appear to have played a part, including Cortes' allegedly terrible ratings.
Non-COVID-related personnel issues
Newsmax has also made questionable hiring decisions that aren't related to COVID policies or conspiracy theories. In March 2021, Newsmax hired not only Rudy Giuliani's son Andrew as a contributor but also former Trump senior adviser Jason Miller, who's best known for being locked in a battle with his former mistress, former Trump staffer A.J. Delgado, over financial support for the child they had as a result of their affair. Shortly after Miller's hiring was announced, it was reported that Miller allegedly hid income in order to reduced court-ordered child support payments. A couple months later, Miller was ordered to pay $42,000 in legal expenses to an online media company after losing a defamation lawsuit against it because it published legal filings alleging that he had drugged another woman with whom he had an affair with an abortion pill, causing her to lose the unborn baby. Miller now runs the right-wing social media site GETTR.
Shortly after letting Robinson go, Newsmax announced Robinson's replacement -- while remaining completely silent about the fact that he was a replacement -- in a Dec. 7 article by Brian Truesdell:
Newsmax announced today that veteran Washington reporter James Rosen will join the network as Chief White House Correspondent.
Not only did Truesdell fail to mention that Rosen was replacing Robinson, he forgot to note that Rosen left Fox News under a cloud of sexual misconduct allegations. NPR reported that Rosen "had an established pattern of flirting aggressively with many peers and had made sexual advances toward three female Fox News journalists, including two reporters and a producer." Adding that Rosen is "married with young children." NPR continued:
In the winter following the September 2001 terrorist attacks, a female Fox News reporter joined the bureau from New York. In a shared cab ride back from a meal, Rosen groped her, grabbing her breast. After she rebuffed his advance, Rosen sought to steal away her sources and stories related to his interests in diplomacy and national security. That's according to four colleagues who say she relayed the episode as a warning about Rosen's behavior. The reporter declined to comment for this story. (NPR has decided not to name the women in this article as they have not granted permission to do so.)
Rosen joins Eric Bolling as another former Fox News host who is also an accused sexual harasser and who landed at Newsmax; Bolling was fired from Fox News in 2017 after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced in the form of sending lewd photos to colleagues, part of a wave of allegations against Fox News hosts and executives. (Indeed, there's a long list of accused sexual harassers working for Newsmax.) He was fired from Sinclair Broadcast Group in 2021 after repeatedly getting busted for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.
Also of note: Nancy Pelosi famously dismissed Rosen as "Mr. Republican Talking Points." Of course, being Mr. Republican Talking Points is a key reason that Newsmax hired him.
Meanwhile, Newsmax is pulling new hires out of much more obscure places. A Dec. 13 article announced the hiring of Kilmeny Duchart as a congressional correspondent; her previous job was as host of a U.S.-based show for the Turkish TV channel TRT World, a network that is actually a propaganda outlet for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But, hey, being a skilled propagandist is not an impediment to getting hired at Newsmax.
Newsmax has continued to make questionable hires. One of them was announced in a Jan. 26 article:
Newsmax Media Inc. announced Wednesday that 21-time Emmy Award-winner Wendy Bell on Saturday will premiere her new show, "Wendy Bell Common Sense," which will examine the news of the day with a lively approach to national issues.
While the article noted Bell's previous radio gigs, it didn't tell the whole story about her. As the Daily Beast detailed, she has a history of making inflammatory statements on radio in Pittsburgh -- and losing her job over them:
Bell was fired by WTAE in March 2016, after nearly 20 years at the station, over comments she made on Facebook that sparked accusations of racism. Following a deadly mass shooting at a Pittsburgh-area cookout, she wrote: “You needn’t be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts two weeks ago... they are young black men, likely in their teens or early 20s.”
Newsmax has also hired Bianca de la Garza as a co-host of a midday show. Prior to that, she had worked on TV in Boston, then moved on to TV production and other various business ventures. But as the Daily Beast also detailed, "de la Garza’s lifestyle and production company were financed by millions worth of embezzled funds": A close friend, Richard Hajjar, embezzled $30 million from the shoe company where he was chief financial officer, and more than half of that went to de la Garza in the form of money transferred to her and gifts and vacations lavished on her. She was never charged, and she denied knowledge of where all the money came from. Pretty much all the money was spent, and she "reached a confidential settlement" with the shoe company to return what little was left.
The Daily Beast also noted that de la Garza's job status at Newsmax is a bit under the radar: "The network never publicly acknowledged de la Garza’s hiring. Despite anchoring the midday broadcast, she is not currently under contract with Newsmax, suggesting she’s trying out with the network in a freelance capacity."
Newsmax sure knows how to pick 'em, doesn't it?