Making fun of Newsmax is pretty easy. The ultra-conservative network positioned itself as an even-further-right wing alternative to Fox News. They peddled Donald Trump’s election fraud claims to the point that a Dominion employee actually sued them for defamation. Newsmax settled the suit and apologized late last month, but it hardly matters. They’ll forever be known as the the network that most eagerly peddled Trump’s big lie. At least to people like David Litt.
Litt, an author and former speechwriter for Barack Obama, made an appearance on Newsmax Monday morning. He was apparently there to discuss Elon Musk’s appearance on Saturday Night Live, but couldn’t help taking the interview in a different direction.
Newsmax anchor: What happened on SNL?@davidlitt: "People made stuff up, then said it on television like it's true, and that actually happens pretty frequently on American TV. For example, in 2020 Dominion voting system sued Newsmax over its false claims about election fraud…" pic.twitter.com/ealyHGdGlM
— Andrew Feinberg (@AndrewFeinberg) May 10, 2021
Litt’s insistence put Newmax anchor Rob Finnerty in an extremely awkward position. “Are you trying to catch me on a Monday morning totally off topic or do you want to talk about Elon Musk?” he asked before essentially re-apologizing for the network. He gave Litt one final chance to discuss SNL or Elon Musk or quite literally anything else, but Litt didn’t take it.
As far as political dunks go, Litt’s is a decent one. It’s clear he planned this beforehand, which is fine as far as cable news appearances go. And it moved the interview from a dumb subject (Elon Musk on SNL) to an equally dumb subject (Newsmax’s bogus election fraud claims and subsequent settlement). Is it a little forced? Sure. Does it come off as disingenuous and rude? Absolutely. But that’s the entire point.
It’s just speculation, but it almost seemed like viewers were about to witness some kind of victory lap from Newsmax. The lead-in implied the segment would focus on Musk—a billionaire and noted celebrity outside the liberal Hollywood milieu—making SNL more relevant with his appearance. It’s almost like saying “see what happens when you don’t make your sketch comedy show political?” while making a political point of your own. It’s downright silly, and Litt turned it on its head.
Newsmax can’t expect much more from its guests after how it treated the 2020 election and its aftermath. Ideologically sympathetic guests probably won’t be an issue. But this is about how seriously Newsmax can expect to be taken as a network after their election coverage.
Does Newsmax deserve this, though? That’s a different debate entirely. They probably don’t deserve it any more or less than any other disingenuous news network deserves a pranking. But usually if your anchors have to shout over a certain pillow executive spouting absurd election fraud lies so your network avoids legal action, it might lead some people to wonder why on earth you booked said pillow executive in the first place.
Maybe the most revealing part of the non-segment came after Litt was cut off. Finnerty, disappointed, seemed like he really wanted to talk SNL, but said something odd. “That’s unfortunate, because I was really looking forward to this interview,” he said. “I didn’t watch on Saturday but I thought Elon Musk did an okay job.” How would he know that if he didn’t watch, though? Maybe it was accidental wording—perhaps Finnerty saw clips of Musk’s sketches or simply watched the broadcast at some point Sunday. But a Newsmax anchor vouching for something they admit they didn’t see seems like a fitting ending to Litt’s Monday morning troll job.