And apparently Murdoch-owned Fox News aired this morning’s January 6 hearing, including the testimony of former digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt defending the network’s infamous early call of Arizona for Biden on election night 2020.
Maybe that’s all a coincidence, a nod to the fact that even major righty media can’t completely ignore the hearings. But with rumors swirling that Trump might announce his 2024 candidacy soon and that Team DeSantis is eyeing a primary fight, reading the tea leaves to try to discern which way NewsCorp, a.k.a. Murdoch media, is leaning is important. No one is more influential in shaping righty opinion than Fox, after all, especially during a presidential primary. Ted Cruz supporters complained loudly in 2016 that Fox gave too much flattering coverage to Trump relative to the more traditionally conservative Cruz. Who ended up winning there?
If there’s a broader movement afoot in Murdoch media to favor DeSantis and disfavor Trump, that would be legit news.
Although, if there is such a movement, there’s no reason to assume it’s being coordinated from the top. Editors at the Post, the Wall Street Journal, and Fox News might all reasonably prefer DeSantis on the merits as someone who can deliver the same policies as Trump minus the frequent wince-worthy behavior and the odd attempt now and then to overthrow democracy. In fact, that was the point of Friday’s Post editorial. Why would Republicans triple down on the architect of the insurrection when they have a deep bench of potential nominees?
Trump has become a prisoner of his own ego. He can’t admit his tweeting and narcissism turned off millions. He won’t stop insisting that 2020 was “stolen” even though he’s offered no proof that it’s true…
Meanwhile, reports that Trump was pleased that the Jan. 6 crowd chanted for Vice President Mike Pence to be hanged — a truly reprehensible sentiment — makes him unworthy for the office. Trump can’t look past 2020. Let him remain there.
Look forward! The 2024 field is rich. You have Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley … the list goes on. All candidates who embrace conservative policies without the preoccupations of the Don…
Tune out the Jan. 6 hearings and binge-watch the new season of “Stranger Things.” Unsubscribe from Trump’s daily emails begging for money. Then pick your favorite from a new crop of conservatives. Look to 2022, and 2024, and a new era. Let’s make America sane again.
Hmmmm. Meanwhile, at the Journal:
Many Congressional Republicans dishonored themselves by voting to object to electors, even after the riot. But most of the GOP refused to go along. The person who owns Jan. 6 is Donald Trump. Remarkably, he seems to welcome this. “January 6th was not simply a protest,” he wrote Thursday on Truth Social, “it represented the greatest movement in the history of our Country to Make America Great Again.”
Pity the people who went to Washington believing this nonsense, not least the more than 800 who have been charged with criminal offenses. Thursday’s hearing ended with video of rioters explaining their thinking, as their criminal charges flashed on the screen. “I did believe that the election was being stolen,” one man said, “and Trump asked us to come.”
Mr. Trump betrayed his supporters by conning them on Jan. 6, and he is still doing it.
There’s no scenario in which Murdoch outlets begin covering Trump consistently negatively. Their Republican audiences wouldn’t stand for it. If there’s any effort to take Trump down, I expect it’ll follow the same 2016 playbook that bedeviled Cruz and his fans. Fox and the rest won’t begin sniping at Trump, they’ll simply lavish flattering coverage on one of his challengers to promote them. And since there’s only one challenger who stands a chance of defeating him, that means lots of fawning press for Ron DeSantis. Is there any evidence of Team Murdoch trying to promote DeSantis and/or to criticize Trump?
In November, Rupert Murdoch himself made a point of stating at NewsCorp’s annual shareholder meeting, “It is crucial that conservatives play an active, forceful role in that debate, but that will not happen if President Trump stays focused on the past. The past is the past, and the country is now in a contest to define the future.” That’s also the message of the Post’s Friday editorial, as chance would have it. Last August, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Fox News was so eager to have DeSantis on that a producer once offered to let him choose his own topic if he’d agree to an interview. Between Election Day 2020 and early February 2021, DeSantis received 113 requests for appearances from Fox, nearly one a day, with one source at the network telling the Times, “We see him as the future of the party.”
A few months ago news broke that DeSantis had a handshake deal with Simon & Schuster to publish his upcoming book but then backed out. Allegedly he did so because S&S shares a parent company with CBS, which ran an infamous hit piece on DeSantis last year, but maybe he concluded that he preferred another publisher instead. Who did he end up signing with, you ask? Why, HarperCollins, a subsidiary of NewsCorp. And, interestingly, despite being a hot political property, he reportedly didn’t shop his book around to see what sort of bids he could get from competitors. He went straight to Team Murdoch.
Is a DeSantis/Murdoch alliance all in my imagination? Could be — but if so, it’s not just mine. Watch Joe Scarborough back in April speculating about which way the wind is blowing inside NewsCorp.
Just a theory. But worth bearing in mind as a confrontation between Trump and DeSantis becomes inevitable and NewsCorp is put in a position of having to cover it.
I’ll leave you with Stirewalt, reminiscing about Fox’s Arizona call heard ’round the world. Again, this aired live on Fox today.
Stirewalt talks about Fox News’s monumentous decision to call Arizona for Biden pic.twitter.com/suVwtHFNlr
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 13, 2022