“An admirably clear and much-needed blueprint for future studies of the intimate, yet volatile relationship between mass media, populist movements, and American conservatism in the 21st century.”

L. Benjamin Rolsky Source: Los Angeles Review of Books

Over the course of its 26 year history, Fox News has become the most profitable asset of Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire and has attained iconic status in American popular culture. A quarter of Americans report watching the channel regularly and even non-viewers and critics reference Fox’s name when defining their own politics. What is it that makes the Fox News brand so distinct, compelling and polarizing? The conventional explanation for Fox’s appeal lies in the network’s conservative editorial slant, a slant that, by design, serves to confirm and validate the political predisposition of its audience. Undeniably, the network’s conservative political agenda is a major aspect of its corporate strategy, yet the prevailing focus on Fox’s ideological bias has lead analysts to overlook other ingredients essential to Fox’s broadcasting formula, namely, how its programming seeks to draw associations between right-wing politics and working-class tastes.

Fox Populism traces the historical development of Fox’s counter-elite news brand and reveals how its iconoclastic news style was crafted by fusing two class-based traditions of American public culture: one native to the politics in populism and one native to the news field in tabloid journalism. This book examines Fox News’s coverage of the Great Recession to illustrate how Fox deploys populism as a rhetorical tool for framing news events. Through close analyses of Fox News’ top-rated programs, author Reece Peck elucidates how star hosts like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity skillfully align the enduring moral rationales of American populism with the political right. This, he asserts, is how Fox News interpellates its audience as “the real Americans” and effectively re-presents narrow, conservative political demands as popular and universal. Fox News’ repeated claim to represent “the little guy” and cover news from, using O’Reilly’s words, “a working-class point of view” has often been dismissed as a simpleminded gimmick. Fox Populism seeks to show how the contrary is true. Not only does Fox’s populist journalistic style make for clever marketing and dramatic entertainment; it also stands as one of the most sophisticated and culturally astute forms of political communication in recent American history.

‘The election of a populist, tabloid-friendly, norm-smashing reality television host might have shocked most American intellectuals – but it seems safe to say it would not have shocked Reece Peck. This brilliant, lucid, and wide-ranging book shines a light on Fox News and the larger media taste culture that helped propel Donald Trump to the Presidency. Essential.’

C. W. Anderson – University of Leeds

Book events

University of Washington, Jan 30, 2019

Rutgers University, Feb 27, 2019

University of Southern Denmark, Oct 1, 2019

New York University, Oct 17, 2019

BookMarke Shoppe, Brooklyn, Oct 19, 2019

Loyola Marymount University, Oct 29, 2020

Lehman College, May 10, 2021

Reece Peck, PhD

Associate Professor
City University of New York