There is no doubt Matt Drudge and his powerful news aggregator, Drudge Report, were adamantly pro-Trump during the primaries and general election. If was actually a little strange how pro-Trump Drudge had been during the early days of the primary because the site had never been so supportive of a single Republican candidate early on. His site bashed Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul throughout 2015 and into 2016. Most believed it was because he became enamored by Donald Trump, just as millions of Republicans and Independents had.
But what if he was like Stephen Colbert, Joe Scarborough, and others who pretended to like Donald Trump because they believed he had no chance of winning? Unlike left-leaning personalities who turned against candidate Trump at various times between his official GOP nomination and the general election, Drudge Report continued to go after Hillary Clinton and apparently support Trump. What if it was a show, a way of maintaining conservative credibility while secretly hoping and believing he would lose?
Most who used to go to Drudge Report say Matt Drudge “turned” at some point, but if we look back at his archives we see his support was already starting to wane shortly after President Trump’s inauguration. Today, Drudge Report is unabashedly anti-Trump and has been for some time, but even in the early days of his presidency we can see hints of contempt towards the President. They weren’t as overt as they are today, but many of the headlines on Drudge posted in January and February, 2017, seemed like passive-aggressive attempts to subvert the President.
A week after the election, Drudge posted stories such as “With Priebus, Paul Ryan’s Speakership Has Direct Channel to White House…” and “Kobach for attorney general?” On the surface, these seem like standard news headlines. But the Bloomberg story linking RINO Paul Ryan to the White House was meant to throw shade at the President for selecting Priebus as Chief of Staff and the McClatchy story on Kobach painted him as a scandal-ridden choice for the position. Stories like these are littered throughout Drudge in the post-election days with a strong plurality of links going to progressive outlets like Washington Post, New York Times, and CNN.
Drudge was quick to jump on any story that could be used to call into question President Trump’s adherence to his promises. A February, 2017, top headline read, “DREAMERS MAY GET THEIR DREAM – TRUMP DEALING ON IMMIGRATION.” It linked to a CNN story and was clearly intended to get conservatives concerned about the fate of DACA after President Trump repeatedly promised to put an end to it during the general election.
After going through several months of Drudge archives, I’ve come to the conclusion that after President Trump’s surprise victory, Drudge immediately set out to turn conservatives against him. It hasn’t worked, and by the middle of his first term it was clear he had captured the hearts and minds of many of his Republican skeptics. This is around the time when Drudge became much more aggressive with his anti-Trump stance. Over the last year and a half, even the President’s major victories have been ignored while every misstep has been highlighted on Drudge Report.
The results have been clear. As Drudge Report continues to hemorrhage visitors, competitors are rising as conservatives seek new aggregators to keep them up on the latest news without having to deal with an anti-Trump bias.
Whatfinger grew by 40.8% year-over-year, increasing its traffic from 2.23 million to 3.2 million. The next largest site, the Liberty Daily, grew by 72% as its average monthly visits grew to 1.72 million, according to SimilarWeb.
The Liberty Daily makes no bones about its rivalry, cheekily billing itself as “The Conservative Alternative to the Drudge Report.”
B.J. Rudell, associate director of the Center for Political Leadership, Innovation and Service at Duke University, said the growth of Drudge rivals reflects a polarized climate in which news-seekers “want to read what they already believe.”
Many (including us) have reached out to the conspicuously private Matt Drudge to find out why he turned against the President and thus far there have been no known replies to inquiries.
While many are trying to figure out what made Matt Drudge change, I contend that he’s finally letting his real feelings come to light. He didn’t turn against the President. His faux-support for candidate-Trump was all for show and pageviews.
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