6. Joe Scarborough & Mika Brzezinski
Each morning Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski talk directly to the most influential Americans in D.C., New York and beyond. Period. And that has been bad news for the president as they have become his most biting critics — a far cry from 2016, when they frequently hosted then-candidate Trump for jovial chit chats. This year saw the relationship go from oppositional to outright nasty thanks to Trump’s infamous “facelift” tweet, amongst other insults. The hosts of Morning Joe – now married – were undeterred, stepping up the fury and kicking MSNBC’s #Resistance into gear alongside some of the smartest analysts on television. Their influence has only grown in 2018 and for Mediaite readers, their commentary regularly starts our day. Expect these newlyweds to continue to be at the very center of the news cycle as 2020 ramps up.
5. Chris Cuomo
The longtime CNN New Day co-host made a big move in 2018 — getting a nightly showcase all to himself with the launch of Cuomo Prime Time. At 9 p.m., Cuomo is tasked with squaring off against the titans of cable news, Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow. But he has more than held his own since the show’s debut in June. Cuomo Prime Time has surged to quickly become the top rated hour on CNN, and is handily the best show on cable that can score interviews (often tough ones) with major newsmakers on both sides of the aisle. Cuomo’s a pugilistic interrogator, and his interviews often produced fireworks — resulting in a great deal of buzz. With the addition of his two hour daily show on SiriusXM’s POTUS channel, Cuomo has become one the most important voices in news media. Let’s get after it!
4. Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade & Steve Doocy of Fox & Friends
Already a staple of President Donald Trump’s morning viewing, the highly-rated morning show became a regular media stop for the commander in chief in 2018. Whether at the White House, on the road, or by phone, Trump’s frequent and extensive interviews often kickstarted the news cycle. What’s more, his habit of blasting off consequential morning tweets based on what he sees on the breakfast show has not waned in 2018. The influence wielded by Fox & Friends — and hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, and Brian Kilmeade — has become so renowned that lobbyists have famously purchased ad time on the show to get their message directly in front of a powerful audience. The elites may scoff, but on Main Street, this show is not only watched, but revered. And if ratings are any indication, Fox & Friends is where the vast conservative audience across the country turns for their morning media fix.
3. Matt Drudge
“It’s on Drudge” is either a really great or really terrible development depending on your perspective. Either way it’s major, and more so than ever. Matt Drudge’s website, a link aggregator with a conservative bent, is an enigma: aesthetically idiosyncratic, sensationalist, frenzied, yet precisely curated. It’s also massive. Like, one billion page views a month massive. The bare-bones website not only dictates the news of the day for politicians, executives and readers beyond, it has a huge influence on how media outlets cover the news. The man behind the Drudge Report remains as elusive as his website, rarely — if ever — making public appearances and only speaking to the press sporadically. Nonetheless, his massive presence looms.
2. Jeff Zucker
To say this has been a big year for CNN would be an understatement. The network has been at war with the White House and has upped the ante with a not-so-subtle Facts First ad campaign. At the helm of this adversarial relationship is Jeff Zucker, CNN’s CEO and omnipresent leader. Zucker and Trump go way back to days of old at NBC, and they haven’t been shy, in recent years, about taking shots at each other. Zucker called out the president directly following the CNN bomb threat weeks ago, and the network fought back aggressively after Jim Acosta’s press pass was revoked. Unlike some execs at other networks, Zucker is known to get his hands dirty by producing certain shows and segments himself. Nothing major at CNN happens without Zucker’s sign off. And these days at CNN, everything is major.
1. Sean Hannity
There are many figures in media and on the air at Fox News that form what certain critics refer to as President Donald Trump’s “shadow cabinet.” Only one of them has phone calls with the president on a truly regular basis. When Sean Hannity isn’t chatting with the leader of the free world over the phone – they talk policy, media, ratings, and gossip – he’s speaking to him through his Fox News primetime show. Did we mention Hannity is the highest-rated cable news show in the United States? It has been for two years running. And not by any small measure. Hannity regularly notches a whopping three million viewers a night and sometimes breaks four. His three-hour radio show garners millions of listeners too, making Hannity a veritable media empire in and of himself. He has no shortage of critics who argue that his sort of advocacy doesn’t belong on a news network, but despite that Hannity has emerged as the king of cable news — after playing the long game over two decades at Fox. Pair that with a direct line to the White House, and there’s simply no one more influential.
[Photos via Getty Images and screengrabs]
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