In the media business, it’s a lot easier to succeed as a critic than a fan.
Yet Christopher Ruddy’s conservative news empire, Newsmax Media, has thrived during both Democratic and Republican administrations. Ruddy has quadrupled the company’s revenues over the past nine years, from $24 million in 2008 to an expected $100 million in 2017.
The growth has come from its flagship web portal, Newsmax.com, a magazine, television networks, an expanding footprint of 17 online and print publications, and an email subscriber base of 6 million customers who pay for content across verticals like breaking news, health, travel and finance. Contributing writers include former CIA Director Michael Hayden and Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. (Earlier this year, Miguel Forbes spoke to Ruddy about Newsmax and its entrepreneurial roots.)
These days, Ruddy is playing another role: that of unofficial advisor and frequent confidante to President Trump. The two have known each other for 20 years and confer regularly. In the edited excerpts below, Ruddy criticizes Trump’s decision to end the DACA program and explains why his brand of conservative news is succeeding.
Dirk Smillie: President Trump’s decision to end DACA provoked a firestorm of criticism last week, followed by what seemed to be second thoughts from the President. What’s your view on how this decision was handled?
Christopher Ruddy: I think the President missed a huge opportunity to counter the narrative that he’s heartless and hard-right, and that he’s not willing to move to the center. I think the base would have supported him if he said, ‘I’m going to keep DACA until Congress figures out what it’s going to do, and if they can’t, I’ll revisit the program.’ By saying that we’re going to rescind it, but we’ll wait for Congress to deal with it, still sends a very negative message. Unfortunately, the President listens to some of the darker angels around him who are telling him the decision is good for him politically and good for the country. Actually, it’s bad for him politically and bad for the country. The Donald Trump I know is a sensible centrist. I knew him back when he was a Democrat. He’s a guy who can bring people together, but when you do these types of things you’re not bringing people together.
Smillie: Conservative news site Breitbart has reportedly lost 90% of its advertisers since Trump took office. Glenn Beck’s The Blaze announced its second round of layoffs last month. Yet some key conservative news sites — Newsmax among them — are thriving. Why?
Ruddy: I’ve always seen ourselves as a Big Tent for conservatives. We don’t exclude ideas just because we disagree with them. What we try to do is inform people of the good, the bad and the ugly. If that happens to mean that the New York Times is reporting something negative about Donald Trump, we cover it and discuss it. Other conservative sites will say the story is negative and therefore not cover it. There are times when you can go to Fox News and not find one negative article on the Trump administration. At Newsmax, I’m supportive of the President, he’s a friend, but I run a news organization and at the end of the day we have to be true to what our mission is. A free press pre-supposes a rational society that wants information from all perspectives so it can make informed decisions, and correct decisions. The problem we’re seeing in the country today is that the media has become so polarized — and frankly we’re a bit guilty of that too, though not as much as others — that people are getting jaundiced information, and their decision making is falling into ruts.
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