In radio, your most vital partner in life might be your co-host. You do spend an incredible amount of time in a cramped room, sharing ideas over mediocre coffee and talking about life experiences. It’s a lot like a marriage, without the laundry and dirty dishes.
Justice & Drew on News/Talk AM 1130, Minneapolis, shoot for a 25-54 demographic. “That’s what the company wants from us,” Drew Lee said. “On AM, it’s a little wider, maybe 35-64 as a target audience.”
“Jon Justice was my morning host in Tucson, Arizona,” Lee continued. “I think the best thing about Jon is his attention to detail,” Lee said. “His attention to detail when putting the show together. He’s meticulous with his prep.” Lee said Justice reads every word of every story, finding nuggets in mundane stories to talk about on the air
Off the air, not Mr. Excitement.
“Jon is like a brother, but there is one thing that irritates me. He’s such a homebody,” Lee jokes. “It’s impossible to get him out of the house. I’d like to see us get the show out more often to events, openings.”
Lee said he’s definitely an extrovert, and he has no hesitation having fun with Justice and himself. “It’ll be six years this summer we’ve been together, and we’re still having a good time,” Lee said.
The duo start out topical, addressing the big points of the day in news. “Those are obviously going to get our attention first,” Lee said. “We don’t want to drag something on for three hours; that’s just overwhelming for an audience.”
Lee said he and Justice don’t find they’re delivering their best shows in an angry vein. “It’s best when we have fun,” Lee said. “I try to figure out what’s in Jon’s wheelhouse. I do work hard to sprinkle in any reference to the Marvel cinematic Universe.”
Now we’re starting to see what makes Lee click.
Lee is also a big Star Wars fan. Not as big as Justice, but still big. Lee said he’s always been motivated by Monty Python. Lee referenced a Monty Python documentary on Netflix. Monty Python, Almost the Truth. The Lawyer’s Cut.
“It’s a six-part series,” Lee explained. “I’ve always loved Python. We were just talking about Monty Python on the air today. I remember in drama class; I lifted Python material all the time.”
As a kid, Lee said he knocked heads in football, on defense, and offense. “I was huge into sports,” he said. “I wanted to be a Miami Dolphin. I played football in high school in Ocala, Florida. I wrestled as well.”
He admits he rode the pines a lot in football, but that didn’t deter his love for contact sports. “I’m a big guy. I love physicality. As a lineman, I enjoyed practice. Hitting. In wrestling, it was all about imposing your will on the other guy, tossing him around.”
Perhaps that’s why he enjoys ‘wrestling’ with Justice on the air. Outside of the wrestling match, Lee said he didn’t mix it up much. “I was only in a ‘real’ fight once in my life. There were a couple of punches thrown; then we were pulled apart.”
Other than sports, Lee said he spent a lot of time reading. “Ocala is a very rural area. If I wasn’t wrestling, we were lighting a bonfire, chasing beer and girls.
(See Jesse Kelly story for a similar youth.)
Kelly’s on-air work has resonated with Lee. “He’s fearless,” Lee explained. “He will say some stuff on the air that just blows me away. It’s nice to see talk show hosts that aren’t afraid to talk and sometimes put their foot in their mouths.” Lee said people that are willing to push the envelope are always welcome. Lee said he’s happy Kelly has enjoyed success. “I just wish we’d have grabbed on to his coattails,” he jokes.
Lee was delivering pizza in Florida and attending an audio recording vocational school. “I wanted to be a music producer,” he said. While delivering pizzas, he listened to WTKS 104.1 FM in Cocoa Beach.
Jim Phillips hosted afternoons on WTKS-FM from 1992 to 2018. Phillips worked in the Orlando market since 1972, first as a news reporter
“I also listened to Russ and Bo on WTKS,” Lee said. “They were very similar to Howard Stern. They became the “Monsters in the Morning,” and still have a podcast on IHeartRadio.”
Rus and Bo were looking for an intern, and Lee answered the call. “I drove to Orlando and applied, got it,” Lee said. “Apparently, I was the only person who applied.”
His duties on the show were a bit of everything. Cleaning up, booking guests, whatever was necessary. That morphed into a weekend gig for about a year.
He welcomed his first daughter, and radio wasn’t paying the bills, so Lee took some time off. The lure of radio called him back at WSKY FM in Gainesville.
“The Sky was a conservative news and talk station,” Lee said. “It still is. I was hired as a board-op, then morning show producer. Six months later, I was PD.”
His new job demanded about 80 hours a week, Lee said. “A good PD must have the ability to listen. Get the best out of the people you have, then put them in situations where you maximize their strengths.”
Understanding the people that work for him was his primary goal. “I might chew one guy out and be gentle with another,” Lee said. “It’s especially that way with talent. You have to find those ‘buttons’ to press. Some people like a combative relationship. They like to shake hands and move on.”
Still others, Lee said you have to coax things out of them. “Everyone has insecurities, flaws, strengths. Part of being a good manager is understanding that.”
Lee said his personality as a PD and on-air host includes trying to see the other person’s side. “I don’t like people trying to convince me of something I don’t believe,” he said. “At the same time, I respect what they believe. I’m going to assume a person has put some thought into their beliefs. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have a relationship with anybody.”
Covid did a lot of nasty things, including kill a pretty cool podcast Lee had going. It was called Minnesota Beercast.
“I started that show because I witnessed all the beer taprooms popping up just about everywhere,” Lee said. “We’d do remotes from the brewery. We’d talk almost exclusively about beer. Sometimes the brewing process. Other times we talked about food, wine, and spirits.”
What’s the future hold for Justice & Drew?
“We don’t talk about the future a lot,” Lee said. “I’d say five years ago; my big dream would have been syndication, to be distributed more widely.”
He said that goal has dwindled a bit over the past couple of years. However, with today’s technology, he can be heard almost anywhere. “We’ve got listeners all over the country, from New York to California,” Lee said. “I find that amazing. Here we are, this little Minnesota-centric show growing an audience at the national level. I’m excited about where we’re going organically. People seem to be gravitating to our content, telling friends about it. I want to see how far we can take this fun little morning show.”
Cable News Networks See Boost After Roe v. Wade Is Overturned
News of the Supreme Court’s official decision noticeably boosted all three networks — Fox News, MSNBC and CNN — from recent prior Friday daytimes.
The Supreme Court’s decision, by a 6-3 vote aligned by party lines, to overturn Roe v. Wade — the near-five decades long-ruling that had declared the U.S. Constitution generally protected the liberty to choose to have an abortion — was made official on Friday, June 24.
When Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion that first indicated the overturning was leaked to the public back on the evening of May 2, the overall ratings for the three major cable news outlets surprisingly remained relatively steady.
However, news of the Supreme Court’s official decision noticeably boosted all three networks — Fox News, MSNBC and CNN — from recent prior Friday daytimes. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern, the total viewer averages of each and their respective percent gains were, as follows:
- Fox News Channel: 2.16 million viewers (+64% from 6/17/22; +40% from 6/10/22); 332,000 adults 25-54 (+83% from 6/17/22; +44% from 6/10/22)
- MSNBC (10 a.m.-6 p.m.): 1.17 million viewers.(+56% from 6/17/22; +21% from 6/10/22); 161,000 adults 25-54 (+120% from 6/17/22; +56% from 6/10/22)
- CNN: 0.901 million viewers (+127% from 6/17/22; +56% from 6/10/22); 251,000 adults 25-54 (+218% from 6/17/22; +92% from 6/10/22)
As seen in the aforementioned percentage increases, the growth was more profound from just one week prior. Compared to June 17, there was more viewership on June 10, the day following the opening night of the Jan. 6 committee hearings.
Newsmax averaged 205,000 total viewers from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET on June 24, approximately 50 percent larger than each of its prior two Fridays within the same time window.
HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” was TV’s first late-night comedy talk show to broadcast an original edition following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Its hour drew 817,000 total viewers in its original 10 p.m. ET telecast, matching what it drew one week prior.
Fox News Channel’s “Gutfeld!” at 11 p.m. delivered 2.22 million total viewers and 429,000 within the key 25-54 demographic — from June 17, up 13 percent in viewership and up 38 percent in the demo. As noted in the rankings below, the late-night talker was among the four FNC telecasts from June 24 to place in the Top-9 of all cable news programs for the week (ending June 26) based on adults 25-54.
Cable news averages for June 20-26, 2022:
Total Day (June 20-26 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 1.421 million viewers; 214,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 0.899 million viewers; 106,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.570 million viewers; 116,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.165 million viewers; 49,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.121 million viewers; 32,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.121 million viewers; 13,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.118 million viewers; 15,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.103 million viewers; 18,000 adults 25-54
Prime Time (June 20-25 @ 8-11 p.m.; June 26 @ 7-11 p.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 2.201 million viewers; 310,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 1.459 million viewers; 163,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.657 million viewers; 133,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.208 million viewers; 64,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.193 million viewers; 25,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.192 million viewers; 63,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.137 million viewers; 19,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.069 million viewers; 10,000 adults 25-54
- NewsNation: 0.041 million viewers; 9,000 adults 25-54
Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:
1. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 6/20/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.528 million viewers
2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 6/24/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.255 million viewers
3. January 6th Hearings “Hearing Day Five” (MSNBC, Thu. 6/23/2022 3:02 PM, 148 min.) 3.220 million viewers
4. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 6/24/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.213 million viewers
5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 6/23/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.185 million viewers
6. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 6/22/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.159 million viewers
7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 6/20/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.111 million viewers
8. January 6th Hearings “Hearing Day Four” (MSNBC, Tue. 6/21/2022 1:02 PM, 158 min.) 3.019 million viewers
9. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 6/21/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.976 million viewers
10. Hannity (FOXNC, Fri. 6/24/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.856 million viewers
27. Attack On Democracy “Jan 6th Hearings 6/23/22” (CNN, Thu. 6/23/2022 3:02 PM, 147 min.) 2.428 million viewers
202. Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 605” (HBO, Fri. 6/24/2022 10:01 PM, 59 min.) 0.817 million viewers
333. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 6/26/2022 11:00 PM, 35 min.) 0.469 million viewers
334. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee “Episode 7218” (TBS, Thu. 6/23/2022 10:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.463 million viewers
369. The Daily Show (CMDY, Tue. 6/21/2022 11:00 PM, 31 min.) 0.399 million viewers
383. Kudlow (FBN, Thu. 6/23/2022 4:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.368 million viewers
401. Forensic Files “In The Bag” (HLN, Tue. 6/21/2022 11:30 PM, 30 min.) 0.322 million viewers
462. Squawk On The Street (CNBC, Wed. 6/22/2022 9:00 AM, 120 min.) 0.260 million viewers
480. The Earth Unlocked “(102) Deserts” (TWC, Sun. 6/26/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.247 million viewers
811. Newsnation: Rush Hour (NWSN, Thu. 6/23/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.129 million viewers
Top 10 cable news programs (and the top programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54
1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 6/24/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.529 million adults 25-54
2. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 6/20/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.498 million adults 25-54
3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 6/23/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.493 million adults 25-54
4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 6/21/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.465 million adults 25-54
5. Hannity (FOXNC, Fri. 6/24/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.450 million adults 25-54
6. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 6/22/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.448 million adults 25-54
7. Attack On Democracy “Jan 6th Hearings 6/23/22” (CNN, Thu. 6/23/2022 3:02 PM, 147 min.) 0.441 million adults 25-54
8. Outnumbered (FOXNC, Fri. 6/24/2022 12:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.429 million adults 25-54
9. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Fri. 6/24/2022 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.429 million adults 25-54
10. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Thu. 6/23/2022 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.414 million adults 25-54
19. January 6th Hearings “Hearing Day Five” (MSNBC, Thu. 6/23/2022 3:02 PM, 148 min.) 0.367 million adults 25-54
110. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee “Episode 7218” (TBS, Thu. 6/23/2022 10:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.205 million adults 25-54
160. The Daily Show (CMDY, Tue. 6/21/2022 11:00 PM, 31 min.) 0.165 million adults 25-54
183. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 6/26/2022 11:00 PM, 35 min.) 0.150 million adults 25-54
198. Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 605” (HBO, Fri. 6/24/2022 10:01 PM, 59 min.) 0.136 million adults 25-54
215. Very Scary People “Sammy ?The Bull? Gravano Pt 1” (HLN, Tue. 6/21/2022 12:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.130 million adults 25-54
302. Shark Tank (CNBC, Sun. 6/26/2022 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.099 million adults 25-54
549. Weather Gone Viral “(408) Challenging The Weather” (TWC, Wed. 6/22/2022 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.053 million adults 25-54
656. Varney & Company (FBN, Mon. 6/20/2022 9:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.042 million adults 25-54
725. Newsnation: Rush Hour (NWSN, Tue. 6/21/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.032 million adults 25-54
Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research
Media Fed Up With Joe Biden and The Democratic Party
BNM’s Rick Schultz writes in his latest column that frustration, toward the President and his fellow Democrats, is running hotter than ever.
Frustration, toward the President and his fellow Democrats, is running hotter than ever.
Gas prices remain historically high. The stock market is tanking. American families are having a tougher time affording groceries and other necessities. This year’s Independence Day cookout will cost considerably more than last years.
All at a time when the President and his party insist this is part of the plan to return the country to prosperity. Some even say these are necessary steps toward a new “liberal world order.”
And now, added to this list are the Left’s vitriolic reactions to the spate of recent Supreme Court decisions. Democrats are raging, angry that coaches can pray. Angry that babies can live. Angry with the notion that elected representatives of the people must create policy, rather than unelected bureaucrats.
But conservative, traditional media is where these waters have been boiling over for almost two years. And no talk radio host has been more outspoken than “The Great One,” Mark Levin.
Levin began Friday’s program, as he often has done over the last 18 months, by listing off a checklist of what he feels are the President’s failures.
“Joe Biden has gone a long way in destroying our economy. Destroying our immigration system. Destroying women’s sports. Destroying our currency. And destroying our national security,” Levin began, pulling no punches. “And now he’s trying to destroy the United States Supreme Court from the Office of the President.”
One of Levin’s most widely-acclaimed books is the 2005 title Men in Black, How the Supreme Court is Destroying America, which “dissects the judicial tyranny that is robbing us of our freedoms and stuffing the ballot box in favor of liberal policies.”
A new court, thanks largely to the nominations of President Donald Trump, has led to a new outlook from Levin.
“The Democrat Party, in all of its manifestations, whether it’s the Oval Office, Congress and the media, are now trying to destroy the Supreme Court of the United States. It had its way with the Supreme Court of the United States for 80 years. But it lost three decisions, and now it wants to burn it down.”
Levin went on to point out how, in his opinion, the Left will do absolutely whatever is necessary to maintain power. He relied on recent news developments that, for whatever reason, the mainstream media has mostly avoided reporting.
“And let me be very blunt about this, they don’t even care if a Justice is assassinated. Because even to this day, the seven Democrats on the January 6th committee, the Speaker of the House, and the Democrat Leader in the Senate, have said all but nothing about the plot to assassinate Kavanaugh,” Levin noted. “And instead they continue to use rhetoric that incites violence. They didn’t say peacefully and patriotically protest. They’re calling the court illegitimate. Extremist. Rogue. Stealing rights from women. And the like.”
The host then played a cut of President Joe Biden, divisively fanning the flames.
“I’m joined by a group of Democratic Governors. We work closely to protect women’s rights, after this tragic reversal of Roe v Wade,” Biden said. “The terrible, extreme decision, in my view, upending lives and impacting the health and safety of millions of women.”
“No it doesn’t,” Levin interjected. “How does it do that? You’re there with Democrat Governors. Democrat Governors. Do they not run their states?”
The clip of Biden continued, with the President saying, “Outrage that this extremist court has committed to moving America backward.”
“Ok so his writers have said extremist court. Extreme decision. Go ahead,” Levin mocked, as he proceeded to the next part of the President’s comments.
“Fewer rights, less autonomy. And politicians invading the most personal decisions that, not only women, but you’ll find if they expend, expand on….”
“Alright, you’re rambling on like the moron that you are,” Levin said, ending the clip of Biden. “But you were a moron before you couldn’t put three words together. Notice how they keep talking about women now. Women. Women. What’s a woman? Women. Women. They hate women. And they hate their children. They hate the children of women. Trying to brainwash them in our schools, if they ever get there. They’re not for women, and they’re not for babies and they’re not for children. Let’s be blunt. And let’s be even more blunt – what this party supports is infanticide! Hello! Infanticide! That’s what the Democrat Party supports.”
The host then said 49 Democrats in the Senate voted for infanticide in February, and that all but one of two Democrats voted for infanticide in the House.
“The media supports infanticide,” Levin, the author of the 2021 bestselling book, American Marxism, said. “Chuck Todd. Fake Tapper. Jeffrey “Keep Your Pants On” Toobin. I guess we should call him Rocket Man now Mr. Producer. But you understand my point ladies and gentlemen.”
If the past two years are any indication, Levin and other talk radio hosts will continue to find ample material to exemplify what they perceive as failures of the current president and his political party.
Chris Ruddy Turned Small Investments into Newsmax
From journalist to starting Newsmax was one big jump. Chris Ruddy said he had a wide array of people who helped him.
I’ve received calls at the house from William Shatner, Don Sutton, Don McLean, and many others. This was the first call I’ve gotten from the owner of a leading cable news channel and influential website. This was also the first call I received from a man who has a speed dial that includes former presidents, senators, congressmen, billionaires, Oscar-winning actors, and an assorted group of world leaders. Yesterday, I got one from Chris Ruddy.
Ruddy just recently returned from Ukraine. He was invited to sit down with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the two spent over an hour meeting in Kyiv.
Was Ruddy ever in danger?
There’s always risk in a trip like this, he said.
“I have our journalists there in far riskier locations in Ukraine, so I believe I should share the risk,” he said.
As for Zelensky, Ruddy won’t overly detail what was said privately when they met.
“He has the gifts of being extremely savvy, funny, and charismatic,” Ruddy shared. “A determined man. A man for all seasons.”
Ruddy said Fox News opposes Zelensky with Tucker Carlson repeating Kremlin talking points and Fox’s prime-time coverage “ignoring the war completely.”
“More than 40 million Americans watch and read Newsmax regularly, and I wanted Zelensky to know we stand with him and the Ukrainian people. He is fighting for us.”
Chris Ruddy is the CEO and majority owner of Newsmax. He was born right off the cusp of the Boomers and the Gen Xers. Ruddy graduated from high school in 1983.
My first question was logically about his being into MTV music videos.
“I didn’t watch a lot of those,” Ruddy said.
“I was kind of a nerd. I was into the speech & debate team,” he chuckled.
He credits his high school debating experience with honing his skills for a career in journalism. “It forces you to look at issues from both sides.”
Ruddy, 57, grew up in the 60s and 70s.
We talk about sitcoms and how the world has changed.
“I think the Brady’s were the first couple on television to sleep in the same bed,” Ruddy recalled. If you grew up in those days, that’s a bit of trivia you just don’t forget. Where people slept on The Brady Bunch.
He graduated summa cum laude with a degree in history from St. John’s University in 1987. He earned a master’s degree in public policy from the London School of Economics. He’s been a media fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
I quickly realized I was out of my depth. This guy is uber smart.
Ruddy comes from a large Irish Catholic family, something he referred to as a tribe.
Before you ask: yes, he’s Catholic. Ruddy grew up on Long Island in a small town called Williston Park, just across from the New York City border. His father, Frank, was the lieutenant running the nearby Nassau County 3rd Precinct.
Ruddy said he spent his summers as a kid only, 10 or 11, in the precinct house’s “holding room” for those just arrested, sitting with his dad drinking Yoo-Hoos, and often talking about what was in the news.
“I think there’s a certain mentality in a family with a father who works on the police force,” Ruddy said. “He was always wired, alert and concerned. Kind of a daily paranoia.”
Ruddy said doors on the car always had to be locked. His father faced the door whenever the family went to a restaurant.
I used to think only mob bosses did that. I stand corrected.
Interestingly, Ruddy senior didn’t like carrying a gun.
“He was like Sheriff Andy Taylor, in that regard,” Ruddy explained, referencing the Andy Griffith Show. His father didn’t like wearing a gun because he always said cops were just civilians in uniforms. Their job was to help people. “His mission as a cop was to see that people were treated fairly.”
Surprisingly Ruddy also studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I asked him how that came about for a kid from Long Island.
“It goes back to me always being a news junkie,” Ruddy said. “I was interested in the whole conflict in the Middle East. It was always a constant discussion in my home and around New York with such a large Jewish community here. My mom always sided with the Israelis.”
While attending St. John’s, Ruddy saw an ad in The New York Times,” he said. “It said you could study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
He recalled the headline of the ad read, “Study in the center of the worlds’ great three religions.”
“I thought that was a fascinating place. So, I looked into the school. It was founded by Albert Einstein. So I decided to go.”
An unusual destination for the son of a cop.
“My dad was a great believer in the American Dream. He didn’t expect his sons to be police officers.”
Ruddy’s father passed away when he was 12, and he said his life was fairly self-governing after that.
“I made the decision myself to go to Israel. My mother didn’t like the idea; she felt it was too dangerous.
“I was 19, and back then, people did things like that at that age.”
Ruddy said he went off to Israel, and it was eye-opening. “Media perceptions of Israel at the time painted it as an aggressor, and it wasn’t.”
He’s seen a lot in his career. For a journalist, that helps one gain a sense of perspective on life.
We’re in some rather turbulent political times. According to Ruddy. The Nixon era of his childhood was comparatively mild compared to today.
He’s also gotten to know presidents well, including former presidents Trump and Clinton.
Interestingly, Nixon’s grandson, Christopher Cox Nixon, serves on Newsmax’s board, and Michael Reagan, Ronald Reagan’s son, is a long-time friend of Ruddy and serves as a Newsmax Contributor.
When he was just a kid, Watergate exploded on the national landscape.
“I think there was a lot of accountability and clarity back then,” Ruddy explained. “I think Nixon crossed the line. At the same time, I think he was treated unfairly. Presidents have committed acts far worse than what Nixon did.”
As a reporter for the New York Post and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Ruddy covered the Clinton White House.
Clinton handled his big Lewinsky scandal differently than Nixon, Ruddy said.
“Clinton apologized early on. He and I have spoken about it. I think he has remorse and hindsight is always 20/20. He’s been accused of not apologizing, but he did.”
Ruddy added, “I believe Bill Clinton is a true patriot; he did a number of really good things as president.”
“I’m a Reagan and a Trump conservative.” Ruddy quickly clarified his pro-Clinton statement. Ruddy is also a pragmatist. “I’m an Edmund Burke kind of guy.”
Ruddy became well-known for writing about the Whitewater case, and notably culminated in a 1997 book he wrote, The Strange Death of Vincent Foster: An Investigation.
“I was actually approached by Simon & Schuster to write a book on Foster. The capstone of my reporting on it for two years.” Ruddy said he never advocated any conspiracy theory on the death but looked carefully at the police inquiry of the case.
From journalist to starting Newsmax was one big jump. Ruddy said he had a wide array of people who helped him.
One was Alexander Haig, who became an advisor to Newsmax in its early years. Haig had an illustrious career in the Army, as Nixon’s chief of staff, NATO Supreme Allied Commander, and later Reagan’s Secretary of State. He also was president of United Technologies and helped found AOL.
“I think Al enjoyed talking to me because I knew of, or about, almost every major figure he dealt with,” Ruddy recalled. “We’d sit for hours in the den of Everglades Island home on Palm Beach, and he’d download about Nixon, Watergate, Reagan, a lot of backstories. It helped me understand how things really work at the highest levels.”
Regarding his journalism background, Ruddy started doing investigative reporting for the New York Post. “I was particularly interested in welfare reform and spent some time with Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, who was innovating on that. I also covered abuses in programs like Social Security disability.”
When writing his articles or books, Ruddy said he takes the same approach.
“I pull together all the relative pieces. I look for evidence, quotations, and citations. I put numbers on things. Then I try to pull it all together. I use handwritten outlines, figure out what I want to start with, and add the numbers of my cites, where things will be inserted. Then I start typing.”
Ruddy said even today, he likes to occasionally write because it’s a release and expression of yourself. “There’s power in that,” Ruddy said. “I sort of have to wind myself up to write. Putting it all together. I tend to drink a lot of Coke as I start.”
Ruddy, like me, prefers to write with noise in the background.
“I think that’s because we both come from large families,” Ruddy laughed.
After all his successes, Ruddy said he doesn’t believe in positive reactions to things he’s done.
“Not really,” he said. “Maybe it’s Irish Catholicism. Whatever it is, I don’t believe my own press releases. I think of what Rudyard Kipling wrote, ‘If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same.’”
Ruddy isn’t afraid to call out the state of the media.
“Journalists keep lowering values and standards,” Ruddy said. “Years ago, you would never accuse someone of lying. It’s just something you just didn’t do. If they lied, you said they ‘misrepresented’ something or provided ‘inaccuracies.’ Now you turn on the TV, and everyone is calling each other a liar. The old buffers don’t exist anymore.”
Ruddy said he is a great admirer of Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the New York Post and later Fox News.
“He bet billions on Fox. A lot of billionaires complain about the media bias in the U.S., but Murdoch actually had the cajones to put billion-dollar chips on the table to change the media status quo here. It changed America.”
After leaving the Post in 1995, he joined the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review as a national correspondent.
Following Ruddy’s work at the paper, in 1998, he started Newsmax with a $25,000 investment from the daughter of William J. Casey, Reagan’s CIA Director.
Along with billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who owned the Tribune-Review, and other private investors, Ruddy raised $15 million in the initial years to start Newsmax.
Ruddy told me Newsmax was losing money for the first three-and-half years, then broke a profit in 2001.
After a long period of running a “must read” digital website for right-of-center Americans, Newsmax transitioned to television starting in 2014.
“I was seeing the growth of these OTT channels and thought that would be the future,” Ruddy said. “Fox News had half of the cable market, and I figured we could get some of that. Even a small percentage would put us on the map.”
And Ruddy said Roger Ailes, who was running Fox News at the time, had several meetings with him about leaving Fox and running Newsmax.
“Even then, he wasn’t really happy with the situation there and was thinking of doing something new.” Ailes ended up renewing with Fox and then getting fired in 2016.
Despite remarkable odds, Newsmax could get carriage on every major cable system while parlaying his new TV channel as a major OTT streaming brand.
“Now we’re the fourth-highest cable news outlet,” Ruddy said, citing Nielsen. He says more than 20 million viewers tune in to the channel regularly.
Ruddy remembers his first television hire at Newsmax television was John Bachman, a local CBS anchor in West Palm Beach, Florida.
“I think John was about 30 at the time,” Ruddy said. “He was part of a press group covering us when Sarah Palin came into the office during a 2010 visit.”
Why Florida for corporate offices?
“Our corporate offices are in Boca Raton,” Ruddy said. “Television operations are centered at our Midtown New York offices. Ruddy said he had family ties to South Florida, but he also liked the climate, both for taxes and weather.
“I wanted to establish my company outside the bubbles of New York and Washington,” he said.
Ruddy said he also discovered the Palm Beach area was a winter mecca of important people from New York, Washington, and elsewhere. In addition, geography made him a convenient place to visit for powerful newsmakers.
Ruddy said when he joined Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in the early 2000s and was still in his 30s, he was one of the youngest members.
“I’m still the youngest member of the club,” Ruddy says he likes to jokingly remind Trump. Ruddy says he sees him often and knows him very well.
What do people not know about Trump?
“I think people misconstrue his public and sometimes theatrical elements as threatening,” Ruddy said. “Whenever I introduce him to people who didn’t like him, they find him extremely likable and charming. He turns out not to be what they expected.”
Ruddy said people think Trump has no empathy. “Sure, he’s a celebrity, and he has a big ego and a sensitive one. But I have seen the personal side when he gets quite emotional about other people’s situations.”
Ruddy recalls how Trump before he became president, fought to get Amanda Knox released, a young American student who was wrongfully imprisoned in Italy for murder.
“There was a time all he would talk about was her case, asking me to cover it. He would go on TV and radio shows telling people to boycott Italy, and he was like the only big celebrity doing this.”
Ruddy noted that Knox was released in 2011, and Trump got little credit, but he really played the major role in her release.
As President, Ruddy recalls talking to Trump about the North Korea crisis early on.
“He was really mentally disturbed about it. He thought Obama left him this mess, and he was forced to make decisions that could mean the loss of many lives, huge casualties if war broke out.”
Ruddy says people see Trump as a political figure, but Ruddy thinks of him as a major historical one.
“There is no political leader in human history that draws the political interest he has. What political figure in world history had this kind of engagement, tens of thousands showing at rallies, sometimes multiple rallies the same week. There’s no one who did this.”
But then Ruddy mentioned that even Mao and Hitler, and Stalin all needed the power of the state to create a crowd. “It’s not the case with Trump,” he said.
Ruddy says he doesn’t like the political extremism of either side but says the left is trying to redefine the center and are now censoring and closing down conservative viewpoints.
“I’m not a fan of CNN, but I’d never call for them to be de-platformed or shut down,” Ruddy said. “The left believes all of their facts are true and conservative ones are false just because they come from conservatives.”
Ruddy says all major social platforms – Google, Twitter, Facebook — banned any mention of Hunter Biden’s laptop; they said it was misinformation.
“Now, a year later, the New York Times and Washington Post are reporting it was Hunter’s laptop after all.”
“It’s a dangerous thing when Google de-ranks you, de-lists you, bans you on YouTube because you have a thought about something they disagree with. Especially when they get the 230 exemption that makes them immune from lawsuits.”
What about all the recent seismic activity from the Supreme Court?
“I think these rulings are going to stay for a while,” Ruddy said. “I don’t see this see-sawing. Democrats would have to win the White House in 2024 and keep it for years to really change the Supreme Court.”
It may happen sometime in the future, he says. When it comes to Presidential elections, Democrats have a significant demographic advantage, he argues.
“And that advantage will continue to grow,” he says. Newsmax is a needed antidote for the coming changes.