This reporting is featured in this week’s edition of Confider, the newsletter pulling back the curtain on the media. Subscribe here and send your questions, tips, and complaints here.
With Ron DeSantis’ poll numbers cratering ahead of the first GOP primary debate, Fox News looks to have all but abandoned the Florida governor for another “anti-woke” Donald Trump alternative.
Vivek Ramaswamy, the 37-year-old fame-seeking biotech entrepreneur who honed his populist culture-warrior persona on Fox’s airwaves, has surged in recent polls and is suddenly vying with DeSantis for second place.
It appears the conservative cable giant smells the desperation from DeSantis’ camp—apparent in a leaked debate strategy memo urging the guv to “hammer” Ramaswamy—and has noticeably pivoted to Vivek.
The network had already grown increasingly tough on DeSantis over the summer, but the change has been remarkable: Over the past week, Fox News has mentioned Ramaswamy at least 200 times, according to media monitoring service TVEyes. He’s also appeared for a half-dozen interviews, during which the network has applauded his rising popularity or gushed over his “respectful” handling of an interaction with a pansexual activist at the Iowa State Fair. Fox hosts simply cannot get over Ramaswamy’s ability to rap Eminem lyrics, believing he tapped into “music that really appeals to Gen-Z’ers.”
Fox & Friends has seemingly set the tone for the network’s shift away from DeSantis in its quest for an electable GOP hopeful who isn’t the quadruply indicted Trump (especially as he skips the Fox-hosted debate and rages against Rupert Murdoch for being insufficiently loyal to him).
While repeatedly declaring Ramaswamy “brilliant” and hammering away at DeSantis’ embarrassing debate prep, the Friends crew declared that Vivek has the “perfect message”—e.g., he’s a young guy who likes everything Trump did and wants the twice-impeached ex-president as a mentor. Fox News reporter Griff Jenkins helpfully revealed that his 91-year-old mother is “really impressed” by Ramaswamy, who has played footsie with 9/11 trutherism.
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“The Ramaswamy/Murdoch ‘get-to-know-you session’ is really paying off today lmao,” a Fox News producer texted Confider on Thursday during Ramaswamy’s Fox blitz, referencing a private meeting between the two men this past spring.
Murdoch has sought a GOP savior to allow the party (and his media empire) to move on from Trump, including reportedly encouraging Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin to jump into the race.
And while Ramaswamy enjoys hours of free press on Fox News, the network’s smaller rival Newsmax has reportedly tried to shake him down for its support.
With Newsmax already airing paid programming from little-known gadfly candidate Perry Johnson—who claims he has now qualified for the Fox debate—Semafor reported that network CEO Chris Ruddy told Ramaswamy that he should emulate Johnson if he wanted better coverage on the channel, a claim Newsmax has vehemently denied.