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Shenanigans at Newsmax

From pay-to-play allegations to running a legal defense fund for Rudy Giuliani to hiring more disgraced ex-Fox News hosts, Newsmax has been busy with odd behind-the-scenes machinations.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 12/7/2023

There have been a lot of shenanigans going on behind the scenes (and in front of the camera) at Newsmax in recent months.

In August, Semafor reported that Newsmax told the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy that if it wanted better coverage of the candidate, it should buy more ads on the channel. (Newsmax has denied this.) Semafor, and later Media Matters, cited the case of Perry Johnson, who is running well behind Ramaswamy in polls (he didn't even qualify for the first Republican debate) yet gets loads of favorable coverage on Newsmax. It presumably helps that Johnson pays Newsmax to run a reality-style show about his campaign.

While Newsmax has not addressed the Ramaswamy allegations on its website, it has ramped up its negative coverage of him. Around the time Semafor's story was posted, Newsmax posted a column by Dick Morris attacking Ramaswamy over his stance of cutting U.S. aid to Israel:

Whenever an inexperienced neophyte runs for president and ventures into foreign policy, he almost always puts his foot in his mouth due to ignorance and lack of preparation.

Now Vivek Ramaswamy, an interesting candidate, has made a big blunder by calling for a cut in U.S. aid to Israel.

He even wants its hostile Arab neighbors to get U.S. aid equal to what Israel gets.


He dangerously argues that Israel should not get any more U.S. aid than neighboring Muslim countries.

On what basis is that fair? Israel's aid package should be determined by what we give terrorist state Syria?

This being Morris, he then turned his attack into yet another endorsement of Donald Trump: "there is no reason to bet on an amateur when we have a seasoned 'pro' like Donald Trump."

That was followed by an Aug. 21 article by the apparently unironically named Charlie McCarthy claiming that Ramaswamy "is doubling down on his criticism of U.S. aid to Israel, now arguing that all military support should be cut off by 2028," adding that "Ramaswamy’s stance regarding Israel has drawn criticism" and citing Morris' column. That was followed by more attacks over his Israel stance:

An Aug. 22 article credited only to "Newsmax Wires" launched a different attack on Ramaswamy:

Vivek Ramaswamy didn't tell the truth about the real reason he took money from the family of George Soros.

After criticism for receiving a $90,000 grant from the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship to attend Yale Law School, Ramaswamy claimed that he did so only because he "didn't have the money" pay for it.

But in 2011, the same year he started Yale, Ramaswamy reported he made $2.2 million in income, according to his tax returns reviewed by Fox News.

His returns also show for the the three years before 2011 he made over $1.1 million income working as a hedge fund analyst.

Ramaswamy's connection with Paul Soros, the brother of the controversial George Soros, has raised eyebrows in Republican circles.

An Aug. 23 article by Charles Kim noted that Ramaswamy "called CNN host Kaitlan Collins a 'petulant teenager' in a social media post Tuesday following a contentious interview on the network" over his apparent conspiracy theories about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but pointed out that "Collins, however, kept her question narrow to the point that he said federal agents were on the planes on 9/11."

Following the Aug. 23 Republican presidential debate, Newsmax published an article on an exchange between Ramaswamy and Ron DeSantis, followed by two articles featuring attacks on Ramaswamy by other candidates:

Newsmax is not exactly making the the case that it treats all Republican presidential candidates fairly.

By contrast, Newsmax has given much more positive coverage to Johnson, who's doing worse in polling than Ramaswamy. John Gizzi hyped Johnson in a May 23 article:

With Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis presently sucking the wind out of the Republican presidential sweepstakes, it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to distinguish others further back in the GOP field.

There's South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who drew swatches of publicity with his announcement for president on Monday. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has been on the hustings for months. And entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has been a fixture on Sunday talk shows of late.

Then there's another entrepreneur, who may break out of the pack. Widely known in Michigan as the "quality guru," Perry Johnson has blitzed Iowa and New Hampshire in recent weeks, and he has signed on a campaign team that includes operatives in both of those states that are so crucial to nomination.

Todd Cheewing, former political director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, is Johnson's top agent in the Granite State. And, in what is almost a nod to Trump and his decade-plus hosting "The Celebrity Apprentice," Johnson has begun the filming of his own reality show for cable TV as he commences on the campaign trail.

Gizzi didn't mention that Johnson is paying Newsmax for airtime to broadcast his reality show.

After Johnson finished a distant second behind Trump in a straw poll at a conference of the far right Turning Point USA, Eric Mack wrote a July 17 resume-hyping article under the headline "Perry Johnson Is 2nd to Trump, but Who Is He?":

Johnson, 75, is a Michigan multimillionaire who self-styles himself a "quality guru."

The Republican presidential candidate boasts he helped save the auto manufacturing industry in the U.S. by "writing the book on the quality controls."

Johnson seems to click with grassroots conservatives, having placed third in a CPAC straw poll earlier this year.

Johnson is running on his "Two Cents to Save America" plan, which he outlined in a book that has become his campaign mantle.

"Two Cents" also bears a foreword from Art Laffer, the famed Reagan-era economist who is the father of supply-side tax cuts.

Unlike Gizzi, Mack did disclose the financial link between Johnson and Newsmax (though he turned it into a promotion):

In the presidential campaign, Johnson has been reaching out to younger voters in a Ross Perot-like campaign — albeit this one in the Republican Party. That strategy appears to be paying off with the strong support at the youth-oriented Turning Point.

Johnson positions himself as a businessman with a reality TV show following his campaign bus tours in early primary states Iowa and New Hampshire.

The reality show airs on social media and he has purchased air time for it on Newsmax, typically broadcasting on Sundays at 9 p.m. EST.

Over the following month or so, Newsmax has published numerous positive articles promoting Johnson, largely focused on his claims of being eligible for the first Republican candidate debate:

When -- despite all this hype -- Johnson ended up not making the cut for the debate after all, Newsmax gave him space to complain:

While two of these articles referenced Johnson's reality show and that it appears on Newsmax, neither disclosed that Johnson pays Newsmax to air it.

Giuliani defense fund

Back in 2021, Newsmax touted a legal defense fund created by Rudy Giuliani, framed as the "Rudy Giuliani Freedom Fund." One article stated the fund was started by "allies of Rudy Giuliani" after "New York suspended his law license in the state" for spreading lies about the 2020 election; Eric Mack went on to report that Giuliani went on Newsmax after the suspension to assert that "the suspension is a Democrat attempt to silence his political dissent." A second article, by apparently unironically named writer Charlie McCarthy, stated that the fund's creation "came after New York and Washington, D.C., suspended his law licenses in what the former mayor says is an effort to silence him in his efforts to defend Trump and talk about 2020 presidential election fraud." It's unclear how well the fund was in raising money, though it is apparently still live at the right-wing fundraising site WinRed, which states that it is run by the "Rudy Giuliani Freedom Fund Legal Defense Trust."

Now, Giuliani has a new legal defense fund to promote, and Newsmax gave him space to do so (and play victim) in a TV appearance:

Rudy Giuliani has formed a legal defense fund to finance his legal battles and he tells Newsmax that it's important to help fight back in the left’s war on conservatives.

"I think as President Trump pointed out some time ago, you're going to be next, and I was next, and now there are about 80 other people after me," Giuliani told Newsmax's "Eric Bolling The Balance" Thursday night.

Giuliani is one of the 19 co-defendants, including former President Donald Trump, facing charges in Georgia as part of the sweeping racketeering indictment unveiled last month by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

The former New York City mayor and President Trump’s personal attorney has denied all charges and says he has been the victim of a political prosecution for exercising his constitutional rights.

"If you are of a conservative mindset, the chances of your being prosecuted in [President Joe] Biden's America are enormously high," Giuliani told Bolling.

Giuliani and his defense fund got promoted in other Newsmax articles in the following few days:

But Newsmax didn't tell its readers and viewers that it's running the legal defense fund. Media Matters reported that the "" domain redirects to a Newsmax-hosted page indicating that it will be processing the donations, and a mailing address for the fund was listed for the fund in West Palm Beach, Fla., where Newsmax is headquartered. Newsmax has also promoted the fund numerous other times on the air. It's unclear, however, what the difference is, if any, between this fund and the defense fund Giuliani started in 2021 -- or if there is a difference, why he chose to create a new fund and apparently abandon the old one.

When Donald Trump hosted a fundraiser for the legal defense fund, Newsmax hyped that too:

Newsmax gave space to Giuliani to plug the fund again (and play victim again) in a Sept. 9 TV appearance:

While Democrats and prosecutors have put former President Donald Trump and his backers on defense, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani told Newsmax on Saturday his legal defense fund will be put to work to go on offense against weaponized justice.

"There are one or two cases that we could bring, offensive cases, that maybe could cut these off and we don't have the resources for that," Giuliani told "Saturday Report," pitching his

"I've had to do things here in these cases, and sometimes I wouldn't do, because we didn't have the money to do it."

Prosecutors have the unlimited resources of taxpayer dollars and even Wall Street millions seeking to defeat Trump and keep him from returning to the White House, Giuliani warned to host Rita Cosby, saying the offense and defense can stop the election interference "if we had the proper amount of money like they have."

"You know where the money's coming from," Giuliani said. "It's coming from the people who want to destroy our country. This is not a battle just about — as Donald Trump has said — Donald Trump or Rudy Giuliani or Peter Navarro.

"This is probably the worst political witch hunt — I don't think we've ever had anything like this in history."

None of these articles disclosed that Newsmax is running the fund. Media Matters has since reported that Newsmax promoted the fund more than 50 times on its TV channel, only occasionally disclosing that it's running the fund.

On Sept. 28, Newsmax sent out an email to subscribers containing "A Letter from Rudy Giuliani to You" thanking readers for their support -- and of course, begging for more money (boldface in original):

But the far left was not finished with President Trump or me.

Since President Trump left office, they have launched wide-ranging legal attacks against him with four indictments in four jurisdictions, including 91 counts!

At the same time he has faced multiple criminal and civil charges in New York State.

I have been indicted – along with President Trump and others -- in Georgia after simply exercising my constitutional right to challenge an election result.

I am facing other legal cases across the United States. The left uses this “lawfare” to stop conservatives like me from speaking out.

Well, I can assure you, they will never stop me from speaking out.

America is too important to give up.

I want to thank you for your support – it means so much to me and my family.

President Trump has also thanked Americans for supporting my Legal Defense Fund.

Just this past week, I was sued again.

This time by Hunter Biden!

He is actually claiming I misused his laptop. The very same laptop he denied owning.

Yes, the same laptop his father said was not his son’s, but a product of Russian disinformation.

As I said, I will continue to fight against the forces of darkness in this country.

But I need your help.

Consider again a donation to my Legal Defense Fund.

There was no disclosure of the fact that Newsmax is running the legal fund.

Newsmax did a basic article on Hunter Biden's lawsuit against Giuliani. It devoted more attention, however, to Giuliani suing President Biden over being called a "Russian pawn" during the 2020 campaign. First up was an Oct. 4 article by Nicole Wells:

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani sued President Joe Biden for defamation on Wednesday, taking aim at two comments from 2020 that branded Giuliani a "Russian pawn."

Filed in New Hampshire state court, the 16-page lawsuit names Biden, his campaign, and four fundraising committees as defendants. According to the complaint, Biden made the statements on Oct. 22, 2020, during the final presidential debate against former President Donald Trump.

Biden initially linked Giuliani to Russia while answering a question about foreign election interference, the lawsuit claims.

Then, of course, came the inevitable Newsmax TV hit, summarized in an Oct. 5 article by Sandy Fitzgerald:

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, calling President Joe Biden the "biggest liar we've ever had in the White House" insisted on Newsmax that he must pay damages for referring to him as a "Russian pawn" during remarks made in the final 2020 presidential debate against then-President Donald Trump.

"I can calculate, honestly, millions of dollars in damage," Giuliani told Newsmax's Greg Kelly on Wednesday night about the lawsuit he filed against the president earlier in the day.


"What he just said was that I was a Russian spy, a Russian operative, a dishonest person supplying dishonest information ... many, many things," Giuliani told Kelly. "You could go as far as to say a traitor, right? A Russian pawn."

And that, Giuliani claimed, "Did great damage to my law practice and my consulting business. My podcast was canceled in certain places. I can calculate millions of dollars in damage as a result of that."

Giuliani added that "roughly half the people" believed Biden, and "those half of the people turned out to be a lot of the corporate captains and leaders in the country. I was doing security work for many of them, and I had a beginning podcast that was up to a million people on YouTube. So it was not insubstantial, and I lost a lot of that."

Newsmax didn't question why Giuliani filed his defamation lawsuit in New Hampshire though Biden's comments were made in Tennessee. (New Hampshire has a longer statute of limitations on defamation, it turns out.)

Surprisingly, Newsmax published an article on another of Giuliani's legal woes. An Aug. 30 wire article noted that Giuliani "is liable for defaming two Georgia election workers who were the target of vote-rigging conspiracy accusations following the 2020 U.S. presidential election," adding that the federal judge overseeing the trial "found Giuliani refused to comply with a process for producing records, known as discovery, and rejected the former New York mayor's argument that the election workers used the lawsuit to harass him. Giuliani will have to pay legal fees and interest of $89,172.50 and $43,684 for a total of $132,856.50." A few days later, Giuliani appeared on Newsmax to reframe the judgment as a desire to "to move on to the legal aspects of the case. I'm not stupid enough to think I'm going to get a fair trial in front of her in the District of Columbia."

In between all this, Newsmax continued to repeatedly host Giuliani and promote his other legal efforts:

Newsmax did publish a wire article on Giuliani pleading not guilty to the Georgia charges he faces, but it also published an article featuring sleazy Republican operative Roger Stone denouncing the charges -- not exactly the kind of character witness the guy needs. But it was silent about Giuliani's other legal foibles, among them a New York Times piece detailing his apparent drinking problem and a former lawyer suing him for $1.4 million in unpaid legal bills. It has also been silent about the judge in the defamation suit by the Georgia election workers ruling that jurors can be told that Giuliani intentionally hid his financial records (after lying about the two workers again).

More troubled hosts

Newsmax just loves to hire personalities with troubled pasts --especially if they used to work for Fox News -- resulting in a rogue's gallery that has been occupied by anti-vaxxers, deadbeat dads and credibly accused sexual harassers. It appears to be interested in yet another troubled ex-Fox Newser.

Ed Henry was fired by Fox News in 2020 over allegations of sexual harassment; he later tried to sue anyone who reported on it (but ultimately dropped the litigation). Henry ended up landing at the far-right channel Real America's Voice, where he co-hosted their morning show. In August, Henry and co-host Karyn Turk were pulled from the show, allegedly because he was entertaining a job offer from another channel. It probably didn't help that a month or so earlier, Henry was pulled over on suspicion of DUI, and he had reached a plea agreement to avoid jail time the day before his RAV dismissal. (Henry's passenger during the DUI arrest was none other than Karyn Turk; Henry is married, but not to her). It turns out that the job offer that allegedly got Henry yanked from RAV came from Newsmax -- and even other Newsmax staffers were outraged that their employer would consider hiring him, as Mediaite reported:

While a contract has yet to be signed, the potential hire has already sparked consternation among staffers who expressed to Mediaite their apprehensions about bringing the scandal-prone host on board during a precarious time for the conservative cable news network.

“They are really freaked out about anything legal. Anything to do with litigation,” said one current Newsmax employee. “This guy is a walking lawsuit.”

“I can’t imagine why anyone would want to hire him,” they added. “He’s a legal risk. It’s not even a question of it, it’s a guarantee. He can’t help himself. Besides, who thinks he’s good on TV? He’s not some polished broadcaster.”

A Newsmax spokesperson declined to comment on the move: “As a matter of policy, Newsmax does not comment on individuals that it may be or not be hiring.”

Concerns over the potential drafting come at a time of great uncertainty for a network that has grown its audience in recent years by offering viewers an alternative to Fox News that more enthusiastically embraces Donald Trump.

Imagine how terrible a person you have to be when employees of a channel that also employs ex-Fox Newsers Eric Bolling and James Rosen -- who also left the channel under the cloud of sexual misconduct allegations -- object.

The former Fox News producer who accused Henry of sexual misconduct, Jennifer Eckhart, also had things to say:

Eckhart condemned Newsmax for courting Henry in a statement to Mediaite.

“The decision by Newsmax to hire Ed Henry, a known sexual predator, says that they are willing to put the safety of every single one of their employees at risk while placing him in that same position of power that he has, time and again, used to groom, coerce and forcibly prey upon vulnerable individuals,” she said. “I will pray for every woman working at that network. We, as survivors, hear it over and over again, ‘But why didn’t you come forward sooner?’ This is why.”

But as its hiring of Bolling and Rosen show, Newsmax does have a soft spot for ex-Fox Newsers as a quick way to build right-wing credibility as it competes against their former employer. And Newsmax did hire Henry -- but not for its main channel. Newsmax announced a new streaming service in an Oct. 31 article:

Newsmax's continued growth will include Wednesday's launch of a new subscription service for its streaming content.

Newsmax+ is a paid subscription service that will provide access to the full Newsmax channel on your phone or TV app.

Subscribers will get all the breaking news, expert analysis, and commentary from Newsmax's renowned contributors and pundits that you can't find anywhere else.

"Millions of Americans are tuning into Newsmax and we want to give them even more content they can stream at home or on their phones," Chris Ruddy, Newsmax CEO, said of the new launch.

As of Nov. 1, the popular Newsmax channel will go behind a paywall due to cable agreements — and will no longer be streaming for free on services like Samsung, Roku, Vizio, LG — or on smartphones.

Newsmax is also launching Wednesday N2, or Newsmax2, its free streaming channel with top news headlines and informative shows.

Newsmax+ will make it easy for viewers to download our new app on their home TV store or on their smartphone.

Basically, Newsmax has to start a paid streaming option because it can't stream the channel for free anymore because cable companies don't like it when a service they're making people pay for is offered for free, and it now apparently has enough cable carriage that it can do so.

But what is Newsmax2, the new free channel? As Mediaite explained, it's largely simulcasts of right-wing radio hosts, which is almost as exciting as it sounds. But there will also be original programming from people too disgraced to appear on the main channel -- Henry being chief among them.

Also getting a new show is Rudy Giuliani -- yes, the disgraced and indicted former New York City mayor for whom Newsmax is running a legal defense fund. That seems a bit like another payment of sorts to the legal defense fund.

Another former Fox News talking head getting a show on N2, according to Mediate, is Andrew Napolitano, who has the same issue as Henry and other ex-Fox News folks now working for Newsmax -- he too was fired over a sexual harassment complaint.

Newsmax has since been touting that Newsmax+ has reached 150,000 subscribers. It didn't talk much about N2.

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