The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘This is the reality’: Newsmax and One America grapple uneasily with Biden’s electoral college victory

The White House as seen on Sunday. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

For the past six weeks, two upstart cable news channels — Newsmax and One America News — have tried to outflank Fox News from the right by embracing President Trump’s strategy of election denialism.

But on Monday, as the electoral college sealed Democrat Joe Biden’s victory, their paths seemed to diverge slightly.

John Bachman, who anchors an afternoon show on Newsmax, the larger of the two channels, referred to Biden as the president-elect and noted that Trump’s legal challenges of the election results have failed at almost every step.

“What I’m trying to do is manage everyone’s expectations,” Bachman told viewers. “These judges don’t seem to be taking up these cases. This is the reality. This is the motion set in place.”

Yet OAN, the smaller of the two channels, virtually ignored the unfolding developments as electors cast their votes, instead devoting about four hours of daytime programming to a live feed of a hearing by the Arizona Senate to address voting procedures. Its 4 p.m. news roundup failed to mention the electoral college vote at all.

President-elect Joe Biden spoke on Dec. 14 after the electoral college voted 306-232 in his favor. (Video: The Washington Post)

Newsmax hopes conservative anger at Fox News and a few Trump tweets can boost the much smaller network

And on Newsmax’s “American Agenda,” which followed Bachman’s show, host Bob Sellers seemed to treat Biden’s victory as an unsettled issue, saying that people are “waiting with bated breath” for the results of the process and asserting that “there are still some outstanding cases of irregularity.”

James B. Renacci, a Republican former congressman from Ohio, appeared on Sellers’s show and talked up the possibility that a member of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate could file a written objection to the certification process during a joint session on Jan. 6 to finalize the results.

Around 5:30 p.m., CNN and MSNBC declared in on-screen graphics that Biden had reached the 270-vote threshold to be confirmed as president. Around the same time, a guest on Newsmax talked about alternative slates of electors meeting and said: “I think we’ve still got several weeks here for this thing to play out.”

During one segment, when Washington Times writer Tim Constantine criticized the president and his team for continuing to argue that the election is fraudulent without sufficient evidence in a bid to stay politically relevant, Sellers gently chastised him: “Tim, it’s kind of strange that you say that.”

Newsmax has seen substantial gains in its still-small ratings since the election. Nielsen doesn’t monitor OAN’s ratings, although most industry experts estimate that they are a fraction of its more-established cable-news competition.

Conservative media has stayed devoted to Trump’s bogus claims of victory — but cracks are starting to show

While other cable channels, including CNN and MSNBC, kept tabs on the vote as it emerged through the day, occasionally featuring video of electors meeting in their state capitals, OAN stuck to the Arizona hearing. Its 4 p.m. news update led with a service outage by Google and YouTube, followed later by reports about one of Trump’s angry tweets about the election and the weekend march in Washington by pro-Trump demonstrators.

Conservative attorneys Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, who have represented the Trump team in some of their election challenges, made an appearance on Newsmax. “How can you certify an election with all this fraud going on?” Toensing asked rhetorically. There have been no substantiated claims of organized fraud on a scale to affect the results in any state.

DiGenova hyped the release of an audit conducted by a group called Allied Security Operations Group that focused on the performance of Dominion Voting System machines in one particular county in Michigan and accused the company of fraud. No such claims have been substantiated, and Dominion has denied all accusations of wrongdoing.

“There will be a lot discussed about this over the next 24 hours,” diGenova predicted. As a caveat, Toensing added, “Maybe only on Newsmax.”

Paul Farhi contributed to this story.