The roots of the conservative news media industrial complex came in the 1990s with the rise of three key forces: Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and Matt Drudge.Republican pols went along at first.
All broke ground and revolutionized their respective platforms: Fox News opinion programming on TV, Limbaugh on radio, and Drudge on the web.
In the years that followed, many emulated their successes. What Limbaugh did with talk radio paved the way for hosts like Hannity, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, and more. And what Drudge did with the internet helped spawn a slew of conservative websites. Breitbart, TheBlaze, The Daily Caller, Hot Air, and Townhall came online to serve a right-leaning audience with an insatiable appetite for news told through a conservative lens.
"What it became, essentially, was they were preaching this is the only place you can get news. This is the only place you can trust. All other media outlets are lying to you. So you need to come to us," said Ted Newton, president of Gravity Strategic Communications and former communications adviser to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
"And so in an attempt to capture an audience, they almost made them slaves to those news outlets. So there is a whole group of people who will only watch Fox, who will only read Breitbart. And they are living in a bubble," he added.
Toward the end of President George W. Bush's second term, the symbiotic relationship showed signs of souring. Establishment figures inside the GOP supported immigration reform and a bailout at the height of the 2008 recession. Conservative talkers didn't.
As the years progressed, it became increasingly clear the entertainment wing of the party had seized control. Republicans tried to play friendly with them, giving credence to the industry by lavishing praise, submitting editorials, and granting access, but more and more they were whipped by media figures on the right for supposedly not being conservative enough.