A fun bit from Axios, especially the detail about Trump interrupting people randomly to ask them about ratings. I still don’t understand what Fox did to piss him off so much besides having some Democrats on and calling Arizona correctly, if prematurely, for Biden.

But I look forward to him explaining his grievances in detail as he prosecutes this feud.

Trump also has been telling confidants that “people at the highest levels of Fox” have reached out to his people to try to repair the relationship but that he has no desire to do that.

“He wants to make them pay,” said a source who discussed Fox News with Trump in recent days.

He’s focused in particular on Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum. Trump interrupted a recent conversation that had nothing to do with Fox to ask the person he was talking to whether they’d heard that Newsmax’s Greg Kelly recently beat MacCallum in the 7 p.m. hour.

I’m imagining the Presidential Daily Brief:

— Good morning, sir. We’ll start with Iran. We have evidence that the regime has produced six nuclear weapons and is looking to smuggle them into–
— Did you hear that Greg Kelly beat Martha MacCallum in the demo? Just one night, but still. Wow!

Is Trump’s public aggravation at Fox real or is his promotion of Newsmax and OAN really just a form of playing hard to get, like flirting with one person in front of a second in order to make the latter jealous? The aggravation is real, I’m sure, inasmuch as he’s sincerely ticked off at FNC for calling Arizona for Biden and for running periodic segments during the daytime hard news hours debunking some of his election conspiracy theories. But is he serious about trying to make Newsmax a viable alternative or is he just “working the refs” at Fox, so to speak, by halfheartedly reminding them that there are now other options for him if he wants a right-wing TV megaphone?

WaPo says he’s working the refs:

Behind the scenes, Trump has told others that pitting Newsmax and OAN against Fox News puts pressure on the larger network to cover him more favorably. He has also expressed concern in public and private about Fox News’s coverage in the final months of the campaign, when the network confirmed reports that Trump had been heard calling fallen military service members “suckers” and “losers,” and later declared Joe Biden the election winner, despite Trump’s protests. He has since complained about the amount of coverage the network has given to his legal team, including former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and attorney Jenna Ellis.

“He thinks it’s the big difference between 2020 and 2016,” Christopher Ruddy, the founder of Newsmax and a Trump confidant, said of the president’s anger with Fox News. “He is happy with the Hannitys and the Laura Ingrahams, but he has been disappointed with the overall coverage.”

Ruddy told WaPo that he’s already offered Trump his own show on Newsmax but expects the president will remain a free agent in hopes of maximizing his media presence across all networks — which can only mean Fox, right? He wouldn’t do MSNBC and it’s an open question whether CNN would even have him on post-presidency. Every anchor on that network has inveighed against him on camera as a font of endless lies; they’ve got a guy on staff whose entire job is to fact-check Trump when he speaks and to call him out publicly on his misstatements. As an ethical matter, I don’t know if they’ll give him a platform once they’re no longer basically required to because his job title makes everything he says qualify as news.

So if Trump won’t commit to Newsmax, it must mean that he still wants a relationship with Fox. Which makes sense: Not only is it the most-watched cable news network, it’s poised to grow its audience further once Biden takes office and it reverts to its old comfortable niche as leader of opposition media. For all the hype lately about Newsmax, CNN, and MSNBC each making inroads with cable-news viewers at Fox’s expense, it’s easier to imagine Fox singularly dominant once again six months from now than to imagine its competitors continuing to eat into its ratings. Conservative viewers, not liberals, will be hungry for scandal and incompetence by the Biden administration and Fox’s rivals understand that keenly. “Nobody will need MSNBC the way they needed it the last four years,” said one MSNBC host to Vanity Fair. “The TV will go off.” The Times also nabbed a showy quote from an MSNBC on-air personality: “What happens when you don’t need us?”

Fox has nothing to fear from CNN and MSNBC with Biden in the White House. It might have a little something to fear from Newsmax as the GOP base turns more radical, but having to report on the Biden administration’s foibles every day will help put Fox’s news division back on “the team.” And the primetime hosts will of course be every bit as adversarial to Team Biden as Newsmax’s hosts will be, further reducing the need for Fox viewers to turn the channel to scratch their itch. The one potential wrinkle for FNC is that Biden’s presidency will be focused in its earliest stages on a common national goal, the distribution of the COVID vaccine. That will mean Fox’s news coverage will be somewhat less adversarial at first, creating an opening for Newsmax to supply a diet of nonstop daytime rejectionism for viewers looking for that sort of thing. They’re not going to pass Fox, but they may have a few months left to draw some new viewers before Fox pulls away again.

Here’s Geraldo Rivera, who was no longer on speaking terms with the president at last check due to his belief that Biden won the election, insisting last night that Biden won the election.