Dear Mainstream Media,
Unlike some of my peers in conservative media, I don’t live for exposure on Fox News, nor do I view it as the infallible mouthpiece for my beliefs. I don’t even watch it all that often, and I happen to think both Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly received the defrocking they earned and deserve. When your outlets call me for a quote or insight, I haven’t shunned you; I have typically been happy to oblige, provided I’m cited accurately. I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, let alone clown myself shilling for him.
All of which makes me, perhaps, an ideal conservative to write you this letter; for it doesn’t come from a place of posturing or even concern trolling. It comes from a place of sincere disappointment.
Mainstream Media, I invite you to think back to yesteryear: to a mere six months ago and the immediate aftermath to Donald Trump’s shocking win in the 2016 presidential election. Back when several of you called and asked me: “How did we miss this?”
Recall my invitation to appear on PBS’s "News Hour" for a post-election panel. At the time it appeared to be a conscientious exchange of ideas, and an earnest attempt to re-assess after such a public whiff.
Unfortunately, as Trump approaches his first 100 days in office, it’s become painfully obvious that old habits die hard. Much of the conciliatory post-election rhetoric seems to have evaporated with the Mainstream Media and the American people returning to their default settings. As a result, only six percent of Americans have “a great deal of confidence in the press.”
The big winner here is Fox News.
Just look at the numbers. Fox News is at an all-time ratings high. Despite the fact that even many conservatives I know are uncomfortable with the way in which “fair and balanced” has been traded in for “in Trump we trust.” Despite the fact that its architect, Roger Ailes, was brought down by a tawdry sex scandal. Despite the fact that Bill O’Reilly, its top-ranked personality for decades, just lost his gig under similar circumstances. Furthermore, with the departures of Greta Van Susteren and Megyn Kelly, nearly all of Fox News’ prime-time lineup has turned over in the last eight months.
Name for me another network that could survive that kind of talent drain, minus the scandal, let alone thrive in spite of it. And rest assured, Mainstream Media, Fox News is thriving like never before. Fox News owns 14 of the top 15 timeslots in cable news, and is now the most watched basic cable channel in the country.
If you’re wondering why exposing Ailes and O’Reilly hasn’t even dented Fox News’ momentum, look no further than the time when O.J. needed to find the ‘real killers.’ That would be the mirror, Mainstream Media, because you have as much to do with Fox News’ continued and unprecedented success as anyone.
Your progressive elitism is what created the market for Fox News in the first place. And now, because you are doubling down on what discredited you in the minds of most Americans out here in “flyover country,” you have participated in making Fox News more dominant than the New England Patriots.
Speaking of the New England Patriots, didn’t they just expose you for peddling fake news a few days ago? You know it’s bad when a pro football team most sports fans believe to be cheaters is fact-checking you.
See, it doesn’t matter how many more Fox News personalities you expose as creeps or frauds. Frankly, Mainstream Media, it won’t matter if you expose all of them as such, unless you cause the American people to see you in a different light.
Most of Fox News’ viewers are people who tune in because they have no other alternative in their minds. Everywhere else they might go will treat their beliefs, traditions, and institutions with preemptive suspicion and are guilty until proven innocent. Until that changes nothing else in the media landscape will, regardless of how many more of the faces of Fox News fall from grace.
Which brings me to my closing challenge to you, Mainstream Media:
There are several eloquent and popular conservatives outside of the Fox News sphere who have proven themselves on other platforms, are not Trump proxies, and have built hefty followings whom you could use to boost your product.
Give just one of them one of your slots in prime-time cable news opposite Fox. Within a year, if they’re not your highest-rated prime-time show, I will volunteer at my local Democratic Party headquarters for the 2020 election doing the most demeaning task possible.
While there are millions of Americans who watch Fox News instead of you, Mainstream Media, there are millions more who don’t. And they would love a true conservative voice that represented something other than nightly arguments about whether Trump can do no wrong or Trump can do no right, with both sides now defending what they once criticized, and vice versa.
Take the challenge—just one show for one hour for one year. What have you got to lose? You’re already losing as it is.
Someone who’s hoping you really meant the things you said to people like me after the last election.