NEW YORK — Fox News Channel has recently pulled back from airing President Donald Trump’s campaign-style rallies during prime time, a move that could put a crimp in Republican efforts to reach voters in the weeks before midterm elections.
During much of the late summer, Fox would pre-empt its lucrative nightly lineup of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham in order to air the rallies. None of its rivals did so. It was an important platform for the president and his supporters, since Fox’s opinionated hosts are generally their first choice for political coverage.
On Tuesday of last week, Carlson told viewers that Fox would be monitoring the president’s rally from Mississippi and would break in for any news. He did interrupt his show later to tell viewers of Trump’s comments about Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who had accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual harassment.
During Martha MacCallum’s show two nights later, Fox showed a portion of Trump speaking in Minnesota with the battle over Kavanaugh’s mission coming to a climax. With Hurricane Michael in the news Wednesday, Fox didn’t air Trump’s rally from Pennsylvania.
Finding Other Ways to Reach Fox’s Audience
Without live coverage of his rally on Wednesday, the president found other ways to reach Fox’s audience. He had a phone interview with Fox’s Shannon Bream on Wednesday night and called into the morning “Fox & Friends” show on Thursday.
Trump has rallies scheduled for Ohio on Friday night and Kentucky on Saturday. With the knowledge that his presidency is a key issue despite not being on the ballot, the White House is planning an aggressive schedule of appearances for the next three weeks at rallies designed to boost GOP candidates.
As with most things on television, ratings are likely behind it. During the Kavanaugh saga, viewership for cable news networks has been high in general. Fox this past weekend had its best prime-time ratings since 2003.
The calculus may change again with less urgent news days and the election getting closer. A Fox News spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the change.