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Newsmax's Victimhood Blitz: Endgame

Newsmax continued to loudly complain that DirecTV dropped it -- until it started seriously negotiating to return there. It was then apparently forced, as a condition of its return, to walk back all those partisan attacks that it was the victim of "censorship."

By Terry Krepel
Posted 4/21/2023

One of Newsmax's arguments against being dropped by DirecTV -- about which it had loudly whining about since it happened on Jan. 25 -- is that, as stated in a Feb. 4 article, "DirecTV continues to carry 22 liberal news channels, many with low ratings and all get paid hefty license fees." But it rarely released the list of those "22 liberal news channels." But it would show them on the TV screen every once in a while (screenshots here) -- which included strange selections like the Weather Channel and Comedy Central. As the Daily Beast summarized:
While channels like Vice, PBS, Spanish-language networks, and the major broadcasters air nightly news programs, they would hardly be described as “news channels.” Furthermore, describing specialty offerings like Justice Central (which just airs blocks of first-run courtroom shows in the same vein as The People’s Court) as a news network is downright insulting.

In terms of 24-hour cable news channels that could be seen as similar to Newsmax, the following apply from the network’s list: CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Bloomberg, Newsnation, Cheddar, CNN International, CNBC World, BBC World News and CNN en Espanol.

Now, are all of these channels considered liberal? While that is purely subjective, Newsmax has backed its claim by pointing to a 2019 poll that found a majority of Americans believed that all network news channels leaned to the left. Therefore, per the network, that means that The Weather Channel and a channel that airs stand-up comic performances must be part of the liberal news establishment.

The Daily Beast also pointed out that including all of those "22 liberal news channels," as Newsmax insists on describing them, Newsmax would rank 12th in ratings -- not the "fourth highest-rated cable network" it frequently claims to be as justification for DirecTV keeping it.

The Daily Beast further blew up Newsmax's argument that DirecTV pays for each individual "liberal news channel" it offers, noting that some come as part of packages; for instance, Vice is part of A&E Networks, and it's included in a package of other A&E-owned channels.

When the right-leaning Wall Street Journal published an editorial accurately pointing out that the Newsmax-DirecTV was a licensing dispute and not a "censorship" debate, going on to note that it's "bewildering why many Republicans are getting involved" by threatening government interference in a private business decision -- adding that "Political coercion of business is as distasteful from the right as it is from the left" -- Newsmax devoted an unsigned Feb. 20 editorial to complaining about it, claiming that the Journal "failed to mention some important facts":

First, the dispute is not over a fee price. AT&T, the 70% owner of DirecTV, is claiming Newsmax should get zero fees while all other U.S. cable news channels get them. Newsmax, the fourth highest-rated cable news channel, according to Nielsen, believes it is being discriminated against.

Importantly, the Journal editorial failed to disclose that one shareholder, Rupert Murdoch, controls both it and Fox News, its sister company.

As recent disclosures in the Dominion lawsuit revealed, Newsmax is a competitor to Fox. In 2020, Murdoch sent an email to Fox's CEO expressing serious concern about the rise of Newsmax and said the network needed to be "watched."

We understand Fox wants to be the only news source for right-of-center cable viewers, but that is not good for the GOP, democracy, or good competition.

Still, with such a serious conflict of interest, we thought the WSJ would disclose it. But they did not.

If Newsmax is demanding a fee and DirecTV dropped it instead of paying it, that means this is, in fact, a fee dispute. Also, it's ironic that Newsmax would complain about the Journal's conflict of interest here when Newsmax routinely refuses to disclose its conflicts of interest when it promotes books by Dick Morris and David Horowitz that were published by Newsmax's book division.

The editorial then went on a lengthy tangent about Fox News' own fee dispute with a DirecTV competitor, Dish Network, while not mentioning that 1) Fox News has much higher ratings than Newsmax and can therefore justify the carriage fees it wants, and 2) Newsmax has more streaming and OTT options than Fox News does, which would seem to obviate the need for Newsmax to actually be on DirecTV.

Of course, the editorial repeated its own debunked talking point:

Newsmax counts at least 22 liberal-leaning news channels still on DirecTV. All of them get cable license fees, and most have lower ratings than Newsmax.

And none have been deplatformed by AT&T.

Finally, the editorial failed to disclose to readers the fact that DirecTV replaced Newsmax with another right-wing channel. The First, meaning that its argument of viewpoint "censorship" is inoperative.

Week 3

Newsmax began its third week of campaign of victimhood over getting dropped by DirecTV by forwarding the usual complaints and rooting for government interference into private business decisions. It published 59 articles that week (compiled here and here), bringing the total to at least 170 since it was kicked off DirecTV on Jan. 25 -- and out of all of these articles, only one (and one opinion column) referenced the fact that DirecTV replaced Newsmax with another right-wing channel, The First, which negates its frequent claims that conservative views are being "censored" by Newsmax.

Newsmax also republished "an urgent email to Republican members" by Republican national Committee chair Ronna McDaniel "just days ago urging them to oppose AT&T DirecTV's censorship of Newsmax." The article is headlined "See Ronna McDaniel's Email That Shocked AT&T," but no evidence of "shock" on AT&T's part is provided.

Newsmax columnists were again advancing the narrative as well. A Feb. 6 column by Michael Abramson demanded that the Republican National Committee offer preferential treatment for businesses who adhere to its partisan narratives:

The Republican National Committee (RNC), the voice of the nation's Republicans, should lead Republicans in condemning those who take actions against companies which support Republican causes.

The RNC should make public statements denouncing the behavior, conduct a public relations campaign, and, if the situation warrants, call for a boycott. The RNC must support and defend other Republicans when they are attacked. If the RNC does not do so, Republicans will continue to be targeted.

On Wednesday, January 25, 2023, DirecTV cut off Newsmax's signal from DirecTV, DirecTV Stream, and U-Verse. One year earlier, in January 2022, DirecTV chose to not renew its contract with another Republican-leaning news station, One America News Network (OANN).

DirecTV is a company and can decide, free from government interference, the stations that it wishes to carry. It is clear that the absence of Newsmax from DirecTV, DirecTV Stream, and U-Verse decreases the amount of people who can view Newsmax's Republican-leaning news coverage and opinion.

DirecTV's action, therefore, while constitutional, is a silencing of Republican views. Republicans are free to respond by cancelling their subscriptions to DirecTV and/or its parent company, AT&T.

Abramson failed to tell his readers that DirecTV replaced Newsmax with another right-wing channel, The First, which means there is no "silencing of Republican views" happening. Robert Zapesochny similarly failed to disclose that narrative-busting fact in his Feb. 8 column wailing about a purported "blacklist" against right-wing media:

In 1996, Fox News was founded. In 1998, Christopher Ruddy founded Newsmax.

In February 2021, two Democrats in Congress, Jerry McNerney and Anna Eshoo, sent a letter to the CEO of AT&T John T. Stankey to cancel Newsmax, Fox News, and OANN.

At the time, McNerney and Eshoo were both members of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, which has oversight over the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). This subcommittee also has jurisdiction over interstate communication.

Because AT&T owns 70% of DirectTV, these two members of Congress thought they could pressure this company to cancel Newsmax. In January 2022, DirectTV dropped OANN and it recently dropped Newsmax.

McNerney retired from Congress last month, but Eshoo is still there. Conservatives must fight for the First Amendment as hard as they have fought for the Second Amendment.

This will not just stop with Newsmax.

Zapesochny also refused to tell his readers why Eschoo and McNerney sent that letter: it was in response to the fact that Newsmax, Fox News, and OAN spread falsehoods and misinformation about the 2020 presidential election that helped incite the Capitol riot. But Zapesochny has no interest in holding his fellow right-wingers accountable for their falsehoods and misinformation -- he has a narrative to push.

Newsmax also put out a Feb. 11 "news" article by Lee Barney:

Since DirecTV dropped Newsmax on Jan. 24, AT&T's stock has fallen by almost 7%, wiping nearly $10 billion from its market value.

AT&T, the 70% owner of DirecTV, has come under fierce criticism after deplatforming Newsmax from its satellite TV systems — the second conservative channel it has removed in the past year, with OAN going last April.

Days after the Newsmax drop, former President Donald Trump called on Americans to cancel not only DirecTV but all AT&T services, including cellular and wireless services.


Since the removal of Newsmax, AT&T stock appears to be significantly underperforming the market while major stock indices have held steady during the past 12 trading days.

The S&P 500 actually rose 0.37% between Jan. 25 and Feb. 10, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined just 1.84% between those dates.
Unsurprisingly -- since the Newsmax agenda comes before facts -- Barney offered no evidence that deplatforming Newsmax had anything whatsoever to do with AT&T's stock drop, apparently unaware of the idea that correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Also note that Barney did not mention the actual stock price of AT&T, presumably because that would undermine his case. The stock price was $20.42 on Jan. 25, which then plunged to ... $19.07 on Feb. 10. The price on Jan. 25 was actually a six-month high, and it had been much lower -- under $15 -- last October, when Newsmax wasn't an issue.

Still, Newsmax found a way to invoke it as part of its victimhood ploy:

Meanwhile, a Feb. 14 column by Bernard Kerik complained that Fox News isn't supporting Newsmax in its victimhood:

Fox News, the network that claims to be "fair, balanced and unafraid," seems eerily silent as of late. This deafening silence seems to coincide with DirecTV's drop of Newsmax from the airwaves. DirecTV, it should be noted, is owned by AT&T.

The satellite provider, DirecTV, pulled the plug on Newsmax on Jan. 24 after refusing to go on paying a licensing fee to carry its programming.

DirecTV wouldn’t pay a penny — despite Newsmax being the fourth largest cable news channel in the nation, and having more viewers than most of the 22 liberal-leaning channels that it continues to air — and pay fees to.

You would think that censoring a fellow conservative outlet would stir outrage in Fox News, who — given the present political environment — could always be next.

However, you would be wrong.

According to The Daily Beast, Fox News "has only devoted 35 seconds of airtime to Newsmax getting the boot — via a brief mention from Howard Kurtz" on his Sunday morning media show.

"Where are you, Fox? How about you, Fox . . . We did it for OAN," said Newsmax host Eric Bolling, referring to One America News, another conservative outlet that was dropped by DirecTV last year.

Quite a difference from four years ago when Fox News offered a strong defense of a CNN reporter who was kicked out of a White House event for shouting questions at President Donald J. Trump.

The difference, of course, is that Newsmax is a direct competitor to Fox News, while it needs CNN around as a foil and a "liberal" punching bag. Kerik does eventually understand the former point, though he bizarrely invokes Martin Luther King Jr. in doing so:

Fox’s disgustingly transparent silence while AT&T’s DirecTV attempts to sabotage and destroy Newsmax, a major fellow conservative network, is painfully abhorrent, and raises serious questions of motive and intent.

Why are they now cowardly? Why are they afraid to speak out?

Is this an opportunity to remain silent while DirecTV attacks and attempts to destroy their principal conservative competitor?

We can only speculate, but as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

For now, one thing is clear, Fox News is no longer a friend and supporter of conservatives, and more so, is no longer a staunch defender of our nation's First Amendment.

Kerik is deluded if he thinks Fox News ever cared about the First Amendment if it wasn't in its financial and political interest to do so.

Weeks 4, 5 and 6

The victimization narrative continued into its fourth week, publishing 35 articles (compiled here and here) for a total of 205 since Jan. 25. Newsmax also unironically ran a wire service story on Feb. 15 stating how that "For the first time ever, U.S .adults will spend more time this year watching digital video on platforms such as Netflix, TikTok, and YouTube than viewing traditional television, Insider Intelligence forecast Wednesday." Newsmax has pointed out that "it offers its feed for free on its website, on YouTube and on multiple streaming platforms such as Roku, so viewers with DirecTV service will still be able to watch it" -- which would seem to show that Newsmax doesn't actually need to be on DirecTV and that everyone who really wants to watch it has found a way to doing so.

Newsmax also continues to have columnists complain on its behalf. Kenny Cody ranted in a Feb. 14 column:

Nearly one year after removing the conservative leaning One America News Network (OANN), from their channel lineup, DirecTV decided to drop Newsmax, a conservative-leaning outlet.

While DirecTV is arguing that both decisions were based upon non-negotiable contractual terms, the sense from Newsmax is that the provider wanted conservative voices, reporting, and voices silenced across their medium and perhaps thinks that both the Biden administration and other Democratic politicians had a significant influence regarding its decision to remove the network from its channel lineup.

Cody censored the fact that DirecTV replaced Newsmax with another right-wing channel, so no "conservative voices" are being "silenced." But the victimization narrative is a hard one to break, so Cody just kept ranting, with an added bit of pretending it's not government interference into private business matters if the government looked into this particular private business matter:

While it can be argued that Big Tech is working against conservative voices, a proper investigation should be launched to ensure if there was actual interference or influence by federal government officials, over companies like DirecTV.

It's not pro-big government to investigate the connection between government and private companies if it means they have a political bias, a bias demonstrated by impinging upon speech platforms.

It would be a giant step forward for the GOP if this connection were probed and proven by both U.S. Senate and U.S. House Republicans.

Dennis Kneale cheered Newsmax's strategy of screaming loudly over being on the bad end of a business decision in his Feb. 15 column:

By now, AT&T must be regretting the decision by executives at its DirecTV service to oust the Newsmax network from the 13-million-subscriber platform. The Newsmax response has been vociferous and effective, enlisting a platoon of conservative allies to side with the cable network.

Newsmax has fought back against its much larger foe by running a non-stop barrage of on-air stories about the clash, and online coverage on its website, and referrals to a new fight website. It also has used Twitter as a megaphone and a rallying point for supporters.

What AT&T and DirecTV brass may have viewed as a negotiation over new fees has blown up into a fight against Big Tech censorship. And with good reason.

DirecTV canceled a smaller conservative network, OAN, last April, after a few Democrats called on media platforms to pull the plug on conservative networks for spreading "misinformation." Now this?

Steve Levy hyperventilated in a Feb. 17 column:

But the best way the left believes it can defeat evil in the world is to shut down the few remaining safe spaces for open thought — one being Newsmax. So they pressured the corporate board rooms they now control to do their dirty work.

And spare me the nuance that this isn’t a First Amendment issue because DirecTV’s owner AT&T is a private company. While this isn’t a constitutional issue, the company’s actions are without question anathema to free expression as espoused by the aforementioned founders of western civilization.

Today's liberals supporting Newsmax’s canceling would be well served to look back at one of the most significant Supreme Court cases in America's history: National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie (1977).

Younger progressives may be surprised to learn that it was the ultra-liberal ACLU which led the fight to allow a group of neo-Nazis to obtain a permit to march down Main Street.

They were wise enough to know that acquiescing to the banning of a group, even as vile as the neo-Nazis, could one day lead to the quelching of their own speech.

So today's liberals shouldn’t support Newsmax because they agree with its programming. They should support Newsmax because to do otherwise may one day make their own freedom of expression less viable.

You know, maybe portraying Newsmax as akin to persecuted neo-Nazis isn't the best analogy he could have used.

Jerry Newcombe similarly complained in a column the same day: "But today the left seems to have free speech in America by the throat. We see this in the recent example of corporate giant AT&T cutting off the conservative network Newsmax from satellite distribution through DirecTV, about which I commented recently. This appears to the tip of the iceberg."

Kneale, Newcombe and Levy all failed to mention the fact that DirecTV replaced Newsmax with a different right-wing channel, The First, meaning that no viewpoint discrimination is going on here, or that Newsmax is readily available on streaming, meaning that its speech has not been meaningfully abridged.

The pace of attack articles started to slow after that. In week 5, with 23 articles published (compiled here and here), and in week 6 just 15 articles were published (compiled here and here).

Again, Newsmax columnists attempted to help make Newsmax's case. James Hirsen dramatically complained in a Feb. 24 column:

To truly amass power, a would-be autocrat or totalitarian regime will typically suppress any criticism or dissent that might emanate from those who may wish to challenge such authority.

How is the sinister goal of silencing vast numbers of individuals or organizations reached? By controlling and/or eliminating the free flow of news and information within a society.

Examining Newsmax’s removal from DirecTV’s platform is critical in understanding what has happened to the Fourth Estate, what stage in the totalitarian process we are presently in, and what are the means by which we can make our way back to freedom.


How much ideological discrimination of speech should a free people tolerate?

Here’s the simple answer.


Hirsen didn't tell his readers that DirecTV replaced Newsmax with another right-wing channel, because that would have blown up his entire column.

Meanwhile, the head of Newsmax went to CPAC to mislead about his victimhood. Luca Cacciatore wrote in a March 2 article:

Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy sat down with Mercedes Schlapp on Thursday to discuss the network, its recent troubles with satellite provider DirecTV, and the ominous trend of media silencing alternate viewpoints.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Prince George's County, Maryland, Ruddy cited Nielsen ratings showing that Newsmax, a popular conservative news organization, is the fourth highest-rated news channel, a top 20 channel overall, watched by 25 million Americans on cable alone.

"It's really not our brilliance. It's the fact the American people want more choices in news," the network's founder declared, later noting that "the liberals and the left basically own everything in the media world."

"Why should the left have so many news choices, but conservatives only have one?" he continued. "Fox, let's admit it, is changing. It's good to have more voices, and I think Newsmax plays a very critical role in offering those."

Ruddy is lying. DirecTV replaced Newsmax with another right-wing channel, The First.

In part of the video Cacciatore didn't transcribe, Ruddy repeated the talking point that there are as many as "two dozen" news and information channels he calls "liberal."

Week 7 and the end (and the walkback)

Newsmax published 15 articles in the seventh week of victimization over getting dropped by DirecTV (compiled here) -- but then suddenly stopped. With the last one published on March 10, the total came to at least 258 attack articles published since Jan. 25.

The apparent reason why later became clear: Newsmax was in serious negotiations to get back on DirecTV. When that return was announced on March 22, Newsmax published not a biased news article crowing about it defeated the evil DirecTV and its "censorship" but, rather, a press release apparently written by DirecTV (if its insistence of putting DirecTV in all caps is any indication) in which Newsmax was made to walk back its incendiary anti-DirecTV rhetoric and emphasize that it was, in fact, a business dispute over carriage fees:

DIRECTV and Newsmax Media, Inc. announced today that they reached a business agreement for a multi-year distribution deal that will return the Newsmax channel to DIRECTV, DIRECTV STREAM and U-verse on March 23, 2023.

When the two companies were initially unable to agree on financial terms to extend their carriage agreement, DIRECTV lost the rights to distribute the programming on Jan 25, 2023. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in the pay TV industry, and often consumers are caught in the middle.

“Newsmax recognizes and appreciates that DIRECTV clearly supports diverse voices, including conservative ones,” said Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax. “As a standalone company, DIRECTV gave Newsmax its start nearly a decade ago as it continues to do with upcoming news networks, which is why we are pleased to reach a mutually beneficial agreement that will deliver our network to DIRECTV, DIRECTV STREAM and U-verse customers over the next several years.”

“This resolution with Newsmax, resolving an all-too-common carriage dispute, underscores our dedication to delivering a wide array of programming and perspectives to all our customers,” said Bill Morrow, Chief Executive Officer for DIRECTV. “Through our persistent negotiations, we reached a resolution under mutually-agreeable business terms allowing us to deliver the conservative news network at the right value – a reflection of the free market at work.”


This agreement marks DIRECTV’s latest successful resolution of a carriage dispute, an unfortunate but increasingly frequent occurrence involving nearly every pay TV and streaming provider attempting to keep rising consumer costs in check. Over the past five years alone, the industry has endured no less than 140 distinct disputes pitting programmers or station groups against their primary distributors. While some resolve in as little as a few hours to days or weeks, others last several months to more than a year. During that same timeframe, DIRECTV has resolved public disputes with approximately 50 programmers or station groups, typically lasting a few days or weeks, but routinely extending to several months in some instances.

It appears that one of the conditions for Newsmax to return to DirecTV was that it had to walk back its weeks of attacks over purported "censorship," combined with added censorship of the fact that DirecTV replaced Newsmax with another right-wing channel.

Newsmax published a minimum of crowing about the restoration from the same folks it called out to attack DirecTV -- but even then, it counteracted the rhetoric to stick within the terms of that apparent agreement. An article touting how Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said that Newsmax's return means a “victory for free speech over powerful corporations that want to put their thumbs on the scale of the national conversation” also includes the Ruddy quote about how DirecTV "supports diverse voices, including conservative ones." Other articles did the same thing:

Another piece of evidence suggesting that the walkback was mandatory: For a few days after its return, Newsmax ran a message in its top-of-page breaking-news banner space stating: "Newsmax returns to DIRECTV, a leader in conservative news. DIRECTV never sought to limit conservative voices."

The banner also linked to the press release announcing Newsmax's return. After that, Newsmax began running a box on the right side of its home page stating an almost identical message.

In the end, it's not sure what was gained was worth the cost. Newsmax got its place back on Newsmax, but it's unclear whether it got an licensing fee -- the press release stated that it's returning "at no additional cost to customers," suggesting it's not getting one -- but it's clearly being forced to tone down its rhetoric and previous malicious attacks on DirecTV in doing so. Of course, given the legal trouble Newsmax has found itself in over the past couple years regarding its false and incendiary rhetoric, that's not exactly a bad thing.

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