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Where Does Fox News Stand Politically?

Photo of Sean Hannity with President Donald Trump

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The Political Stance of Fox News

Fox News is one of the most successful cable news networks of all time, featuring a successful cast of political analysts, pundits, and news anchors over many different shows. It has consistently led the cable news industry in ratings for two decades, besting its two main rivals, CNN and MSNBC. Fox News sets itself apart from most mainstream media by presenting a much more conservative viewpoint and philosophy on news coverage and political commentary.

The Fox News channel was founded in 1996 by Rupert Murdoch, a widely successful media mogul, who hired Roger Ailes as CEO of the company. Roger Ailes, a well-traveled media consultant, had previously played a significant role in shaping the political landscape working for several Republican presidents.

Probably his most successful work came under the first presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush, where he helped Bush defeat Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis with a devastating onslaught of negative political ads.

Although it reached only 10 million households at its launch on October 7, 1996, Fox News grew very quickly, far outpacing CNN and MSNBC in audience growth over the next several years. By the end of 2000, the network was available in 56 million households nationwide and quickly became a major force in political news. In January 2002, Fox surpassed both CNN and MSNBC as the highest-rated cable news network, which it has consistently occupied ever since.

September 11 Attacks

Although Fox News grew quickly during the late 90s, the major TV news event that ultimately helped cement its status as an industry-wide leader was its coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City.

Photo of 9/11 attack aftermath
Fox News’ coverage of the 9/11 attacks saw the network cement its status as an industry leader.

The network did an outstanding job covering all aspects of the event, including the attacks themselves, the collapse of the World Trade Center, the city-wide devastation that followed, and the ensuing clean-up and recovery process. Similar to CNN’s coverage of the Challenger disaster and OJ Simpson trial, the coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks was a groundbreaking moment that helped Fox News establish itself as one of the nation’s best news organizations.

Obama Presidency

While Fox News was established as a conservative cable TV news network, it still possessed a more moderate take on many of its views during the first decade of its existence. Many different shows on the network such as Hannity and Colmes, showcased an open dialogue between conservative and liberal viewpoints, providing a balanced view on current political or news issues. However, the network started to shift farther to the right in its views during the presidency of Barack Obama.

Photo of President Obama
Fox News moved further to the right on the political spectrum during Barack Obama’s presidency.

President Barack Obama distinguished himself early on as one of the most liberal presidents in history, garnering much positive press from many major news outlets, including CNN and MSNBC. Fox News established itself as a contrarian counterpoint to President Obama in the media, vigorously opposing most of his actions. It quickly mobilized the conservative base in the country and promoted many anti-Obama movements, including the Tea Party movement, which contributed to GOP victories in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections.

By the end of President Obama’s presidency, Fox News had evolved from a moderately conservative news organization to a heavily right-wing political network. Its shift reflected the overall trend in the news industry of evolving from news coverage to partisan political commentary. No longer would news coverage mirror the unbiased commentary of Walter Cronkite or Tom Brokaw, who excelled at reliably reporting the news without inserting their own political views.

The Trump Saga

Donald Trump’s presidency offered Fox News a unique opportunity for political commentary, presenting the network with the difficult challenge of covering him while at the same time catering to their conservative audience.

Photo of Chris Wallace of Fox News
Chris Wallace (R) was one of the many media personalities that President Trump had a public spat with.

Although Trump espoused many conservative values that Fox News actively championed, his controversial and scandal-laden presidency and confrontational personality clashed sharply with many different anchors at the network. Trump famously feuded with Megyn Kelly’s political views, a conflict that started during an early Republican debate during the GOP primary. Trump also quarreled with Chris Wallace, the Network’s most respected anchor.

By the 2020 election, the network showed signs of Trump fatigue, highlighted by its election night coverage. Many Fox News viewers were outraged at their perceived pessimistic analysis of Trump’s reelection chances. Some predicted that Fox News would use the Donald Trump presidency to return to their more moderate news-reporting roots characteristic of its early days. However, upon the commencement of President Joe Biden’s first term, Fox News quickly returned to their hard-core right-wing political analysis.

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