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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Newsmax is working to pull ahead of conservative rival Fox News, trying to lure away its vital booking agents with promises of higher salaries, two people who have been contacted by Newsmax tell me.

Why it matters: The battle to serve as the venue of choice for conservative viewers has intensified as President Trump has chastised Fox for declaring Joe Biden the election winner and Newsmax has pandered to his believers.

Newsmax is owned by Trump friend Chris Ruddy. The bookers — who try to land guests at a moment's notice — said they believe his network courted them because it wants to gain their contacts.

  • They said several other colleagues — mostly younger Fox employees with lower salaries — also have been approached.
  • A spokesperson for Newsmax did not respond to a request for comment. Fox News did not immediately provide a comment.

Background: Trump's criticism of Fox has created a parallel universe on the right, where the conservative network isn't pro-Trump enough for millions of his diehards, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • Newsmax is using this period to its advantage, filling its air with segments and hosts who argue the president still has a chance to defeat Biden.

On Monday, ratings for Newsmax passed Fox in the 7pm hour for the key 25- to 54-year-old demographic for the first time ever, CNN's Brian Stelter reports.

Go deeper

Growing GOP problem: Powerlessness

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Republicans are losing power where power matters most at the national level: in politics, media, technology and the workplace.

Why it matters: Republicans often felt mistreated when they had real power in the form of the presidency and Senate. Watch Fox News or listen to Ben Shapiro, and you will see and hear how this new isolation will feed Republican worries and grievances in the months ahead.

OIG: HHS misused millions of dollars intended for public health threats

Vaccine vials. Photo: Punit Paranjpe/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel alerted the White House and Congress on Wednesday of an investigation that found the Department of Health and Human Services misused millions of dollars that were budgeted for vaccine research and public health emergencies for Ebola, Zika and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: The more than 200-page investigation corroborated claims from a whistleblower, showing the agency's violation of the Purpose Statute spanned both the Obama and Trump administrations and paid for unrelated projects like salaries, news subscriptions and the removal of office furniture.

John Kerry: U.S.-China climate cooperation is a "critical standalone issue"

President Biden's special climate envoy John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. must deal with China on climate change as a "critical standalone issue," but stressed that confronting Beijing's human rights and trade abuses "will never be traded" for climate cooperation.

Why it matters: The last few years have brought about a bipartisan consensus on the threat posed by China. But as the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, China will be a vital player if the world is going to come close to reining in emissions on the scale needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.