Speed Reads

The Trump Factor

As Fox News downplays Trump scandals, CNN and MSNBC pull ahead in the ratings

President Trump's terrible week has apparently infected his favorite TV network, too. Fox News almost always beats rivals CNN and MSBNC in total viewers and among the key demographic, people age 25 to 42 (the "demo"), but it was No. 3 on Monday and Tuesday nights, and MSNBC got the most total viewers on Tuesday. CNN won the "demo" during prime time Tuesday night, and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow continued her 9 p.m. winning streak with the most demo viewers for any show.

The last time Fox News "placed third in the demo for two consecutive days was during the 2016 Democratic National Convention, when some of its conservative base naturally tuned out," The Hollywood Reporter notes. And with Trump mired in controversies about his firing of FBI Director James Comey, sharing classified intelligence with top Russian officials, and allegedly telling Comey to stop investigating top aide Michael Flynn, Fox News' conservative-leaning audience has likely been dispirited by the news — nobody wants to see their guy beat up on TV.

But Fox News has also decided to downplay the scandals or focus on other things entirely. "As someone who turns on Fox to watch breaking news coverage, I found myself switching over to CNN, because my hunger for any analysis was going unmet at Fox," Nicole Hemmer, who studies conservative media at the University of Virginia, tells CNNMoney. "And this represents a real problem going forward for the network: What happens when a network chooses not to cover the story everyone is talking about?"