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Rupert Murdoch abandons Trump — here's why it matters

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The Murdoch press has turned its back on former U.S. President Donald Trump (Image by Dan Jensen)

Powerful media owner Rupert Murdoch is no longer supporting Donald Trump as the next president of the USA, as Alan Austin reports.

ON AMERICAN prime-time cable television last Friday, Fox News confirmed that Rupert Murdoch has switched his support for the next US president from Donald Trump to Ron DeSantis.

Laura Ingraham, one of Trump’s most fanatically loyal spruikers since he launched his campaign for the top American job in 2015, introduced her guest:

“Joining us now, and I’m delighted he’s with us, Governor Ron DeSantis from the great state of Florida... You’re the guy. You’re the man of the moment!”

The weight of this was not just Ingraham’s breathless endorsement. Nor was it DeSantis beaming back with incredulous joy. The significance was that right at that moment, Donald Trump was speaking at a major rally in Arizona which Fox was completely ignoring. That would have been unthinkable just a month ago.

Murdoch and Trump since 2015

Many observers believe Rupert Murdoch made Donald J Trump President. Fox News’s uncritical adoration of the former TV host and failed businessman and its malicious coverage of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, ensured millions of voters were duped on a range of issues. But it goes much deeper than that.

Trump made many senior White House appointments on the basis of the fealty shown to him on Fox News.

Contracted Fox commentators given plum positions include National Security Advisor John Bolton, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, White House director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Communications Director Hope Hicks.

Ambassadors plucked from Fox include those sent to New Zealand, Germany and Poland. Business Insider has listed 21 Fox people who went to work for Trump.

For advice on policy matters, Trump often called his favourite Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs. So this rift changes American politics.

‘Unworthy to be chief executive again’

The first sign of Murdoch’s shift came just over a week ago, on 22 July, after damning evidence had been aired by the Select Committee in Washington investigating the 6 January 2021 insurrection.

An editorial in Murdoch’s New York Post (NYP) stated:

To his eternal shame, as appalled aides implored him [Trump] to publicly call on his followers to go home, he instead further fanned the flames by tweeting: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”

 

His only focus was to find any means – damn the consequences – to block the peaceful transfer of power...

 

It’s up to the Justice Department to decide if this is a crime. But as a matter of principle, as a matter of character, Trump has proven himself unworthy to be this country’s chief executive again.

Strong words.

On the same day, Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal (WSJ) ran a similar editorial condemning Trump’s multiple breaches of duty on 6 January:

‘Instead, he fed the mob’s anger and let the riot play out. In the 18 months since, Mr Trump has shown not an iota of regret... Character is revealed in a crisis and Mr Pence passed his 6 January trial. Mr Trump utterly failed his.’

The first indication of a rift at Fox News came last Monday when panel show presenter Greg Gutfeld gushed that the Select Committee hearings into 6 January had actually helped Trump’s image:

“It ended up accidentally exonerating Trump... Why is it that he seems more electable now? Is it because the public saw it was a show trial?”

He was smacked down immediately by strident fellow-panellist Jessica Tarlov:

“First, the 6 January committee is not a show trial. We even have the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post saying that Trump is unelectable again. It was dereliction of duty. He sat by and watched this for hours.”

Did the decision come from Rupert Murdoch himself?

We know from parliamentary hearings in Australia that Murdoch seldom instructs his editors directly, but makes sure they know his thinking.

Media correspondent for National Public Radio, David Folkenflik, believes the damning NYP and WSJ editorials could not have been written “without Murdoch's assent or direction”:

“The financial folks who, for example, read The Wall Street Journal. We're giving cover for you to send your money in other directions... Murdoch is basically not on board at this point. We can go in another direction. And you've seen Ron DeSantis rise in coverage, and I think that's really the alternative the Murdochs are looking to at the moment.”

Will this make a difference?

For decades, Rupert Murdoch has been credited with deciding governments in Britain, Australia and the United States.
Australia’s May Election suggests his power may still be significant, but no longer decisive.

All seven Murdoch capital city daily newspapers campaigned vigorously in their mendacious “news” reporting for a return of the Morrison Government. Six of them openly endorsed the Coalition the day before the Election.

In regions where News Corp prints the only newspapers – Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory – support was higher for the Coalition than elsewhere. Coalition support collapsed in Perth where the daily newspaper is not owned by Murdoch.

In the end, Australian voters rejected News Corp’s messaging comprehensively.

The Republican Party will select its next presidential nominee at its National Convention in August 2024 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Many things will change before then. The Justice Department confirmed last Wednesday that criminal investigations into Trump are underway. These could land Trump in gaol. Although even that would not dampen the ardour of many of his supporters.

Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.

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