Last week Newsmax announced that White House Correspondent Emerald Robinson's contract, which ends in January 2022, would not be renewed. Robinson is still with the network until that time, though she hasn't been on the air for over six weeks and isn't expected to return to the air before her contract ends. Given that the announcement came not long after Robinson was suspended (then permanently banned) from Twitter over a controversial coronavirus vaccine tweet, it's been assumed that the parting-of-the-ways came about because of that tweet. Network insiders, though, tell RedState that wasn't the reason at all – that Robinson was out because she refused to obey Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy's June 2021 directive to “go easy on the Biden administration, particularly Jen Psaki.”
Robinson's skirmishes with Psaki have made news throughout the year, and while both lefty and mainstream news sites have reported on them ad nauseam, insiders say that Newsmax often didn't air them and that Ruddy and other executives became increasingly frustrated at Robinson's insolence.
The network's ratings skyrocketed in the immediate aftermath of the November 2020 presidential election as conservatives unhappy with Fox News's coverage of the fortified election‘s irregularities and their early call of Arizona for Joe Biden flocked to alternative sites. Since then, likely due to actions like Ruddy's gushing editorial on Biden's vaccine rollout and the revelation that the network was going to implement a vaccine mandate, their ratings have tanked – down 56% from January through the end of June.
Robinson's November 1 tweet wasn't markedly different from other tweets she'd made about the coronavirus or its origins, lockdowns, mask mandates, the coronavirus vaccine(s), or vaccine mandates, and she was often under fire from places like Media Matters, Right Wing Watch, Mediaite, The Daily Beast, and the like. Robinson had also been temporarily suspended from Twitter multiple times over what Jack deemed “covid misinformation.” Yet, Newsmax took no disciplinary action against Robinson on any tweet until Twitter suspended her late in the evening of November 3 for the November 1 tweet (which is quite a delayed reaction for the notoriously trigger-happy company).
Newsmax's sudden attention to Robinson's tweets was curious, but sources say that Newsmax executives had been negotiating with James Rosen to replace Robinson for months and that Robinson's “controversial tweets” and subsequent suspension by Twitter were a welcome distraction and cover for her dismissal. In addition, Robinson is an outspoken opponent of vaccine mandates, and given that the network was about to impose a vaccine mandate on its employees, it was the perfect time to announce they were suspending her so they could review her Twitter posts.
Coincidentally, just hours after the network announced Robinson's suspension, Mediaite reported on an email Newsmax sent its employees that same day, November 4:
The conservative news network informed staffers of the move on Thursday, in a staff-wide email obtained by Mediaite. Newsmax cited the implementation of Covid rules by Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) as its reason for instituting the mandate.
The company decree requires all employees be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022, or else they will be forced to undergo a weekly Covid test and wear a mask in the office.
“To ensure that we are in compliance, we require that all vaccinated employees submit a copy of their vaccination card,” the email informed staff.
News that the network was going to comply with the OSHA mandate (which allows employers to offer a weekly testing/mandatory masking option to unvaccinated employees), the implementation of which has now been blocked by appellate courts, didn't go over well with Newsmax's viewer base, and execs moved into crisis management mode. On Sunday, November 7, the network posted an editorial saying there was no mandate because, duh, they oppose mandates, and that they'd simply issued a memo informing “staff of the upcoming federal rule.” The next day Newsmax hosts took to the airwaves to blast Mediaite's report as “fake news,” but Mediaite stood by their story.
News anchor Rob Finnerty started the morning by telling viewers that Newsmax employees will not be compelled to get vaccinated and will not be terminated for declining to do so, praising his employer for not requiring vaccination like “so many other companies are doing across this great country.”
Former Fox News host Eric Bolling, who hosts the 4 p.m. hour on Newsmax, said the vaccine mandate story was an example of “fake news”…
Host Chris Salcedo [said]….”We refuse to let folks with an agenda define us,” he said. “Anyone who has been paying attention knows that Newsmax did not implement a mandate. … Why would left-wing and right-wing information sources be so committed to getting it so wrong about Newsmax?”
On his Monday night show, Grant Stinchfield … told viewers that Newsmax executives assured him that he and his team would not face termination for declining the vaccine. He claimed, without evidence, that rival news organizations had tried to “turn” Newsmax viewers against the channel.
Robinson and now-former Newsmax host Steve Cortes had both stated publicly that they wouldn't comply with any vaccine mandate.
Given the network's sharp ratings decline, it's no surprise that executives rushed to assure its audience, which is vehemently against vaccine mandates, that they weren't actually implementing a vaccine mandate. Newsmax spokespeople continue to double down on that claim (for example, after it was revealed that one of their top hosts, Grant Stinchfield, was unable to attend the network's Christmas party because they chose to hold it at a venue where vaccine cards were required).
A similar uproar ensued after Robinson, who's an audience favorite, was suspended, yet executives seemed to ignore the audience. A source in the company's Boca Raton, FL headquarters said:
“The social media team compiled a report showing the hits the network took on the various social media platforms to Emerald's suspension, but Ruddy and the other executives didn't care. They wanted her gone.”
It turns out that Ruddy is known for opportunism, and since Biden was sworn in he believed that his path to profitability was through accepting Biden as president and doing the administration's bidding. This isn't a new thing for Ruddy; in a November 2020 New York Times article, Ben Smith detailed how Ruddy attempted to make up with Hillary Clinton after being the reporter “known as the ‘inspector Clouseau' of the Vince Foster case”:
In 2004, Hillary Clinton was in the Senate and Christopher Ruddy had some making up to do. He was, back then, best known as “the Inspector Clouseau” of the Vince Foster case — a New York Post reporter who had popularized the baseless theory that Mrs. Clinton's friend, who committed suicide in 1993, had been murdered.
But it now seemed possible that Mrs. Clinton might run for president, and Mr. Ruddy laid it on pretty thick. Mrs. Clinton was doing “a remarkably and surprising good job for NY as Senator,” he wrote to a mutual friend, former Mayor Ed Koch of New York. “I might not like Hillary's liberalism, but I don't dislike her on a personal level — as I do Rudy. Rudy Giuliani is a bad person.”
Obviously, Ruddy isn't the “true conservative” many of his viewers believe he is.
In Smith's estimation at that time, Ruddy has a low opinion of his audience and will change his own opinion depending upon where he thinks he will find the most monetary gain:
But Mr. Ruddy, as those Clinton messages show, is not the sort of true-believing ideologue his viewers may imagine in the foxhole alongside them. He is, rather, perhaps the purest embodiment of another classic television type, the revenue-minded cynic for whom the substance of programming is just a path to money and power.
All successful TV programmers have some mercenary in them, of course, but even by those standards, Mr. Ruddy is extreme. He has turned Newsmax into a pure vehicle for Trumpism….And when Trumpism turned this month from an electoral strategy into a hallucinatory attempt to overturn the election, Mr. Ruddy saw opportunity.
[N]obody I've ever covered treats an audience with the blithe disdain of Mr. Ruddy. He has them watching a great story — a thriller, a whodunit — about a stolen election. He thinks they're stupid enough to fall for it, dumb enough to keep watching even after the fantasy inevitably dissolves, buying the supplements and the books and, crucially, tuning in to channel 1115 in large enough numbers that, eventually, the cable companies will pay him.
Is Ruddy still overestimating the trust of his audience? Stay tuned for part two.