Murdoch’s media sour on Trump

Mayank Chhaya-

Mayank Chayya

Two high-profile newspapers owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch have turned on former President Donald Trump after relentlessly building him up and acquiescing to his repeated political, cultural, diplomatic and moral transgressions.

The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, the former a respected broadsheet and the latter and a brass knuckle tabloid, published nearly simultaneous editorials which essentially rejected Trump as unworthy of seeking presidency again. The edits have caused quite a hubbub in the media and political circles in Washington and New York.

“As his followers stormed the Capitol, calling for his vice-president to be hanged, President Donald Trump sat in his private dining room, watching TV, doing nothing. For three hours, seven minutes….As a matter of principle, as a matter of character, Trump has proven himself unworthy to be this country’s chief executive again,” the Post editorial said.

After the first hearing on January 6 in June, the Journal had said, “Trump betrayed his supporters,” This time they went much further. It said he took an oath to defend the constitution and had an obligation to defend the Capitol against the January 6 mob attack.

“He refused. He didn’t call the military to send help. He didn’t call [Mike] Pence to check on the safety of his loyal [vice-president]. Instead, he fed the mob’s anger and let the riot play out.”

The Journal pointed out that Trump had “shown not an iota of regret” and added, “Character is revealed in a crisis, and Mr Pence passed his January 6 trial. Mr Trump utterly failed his.”

This dramatic disowning of a churlish and destructive politician is rather disingenuous considering all of Murdoch’s media properties helped create Trump’s cult for years and even profited from it handsomely.

There was nothing in the trajectory of Trump’s conduct that suggested that he would never do what he did on and before January 6. It is safe to assume that the top echelons of Murdoch’s media empire knew about the kind of politician they were deliberately inflating because it suited their commercial interests. There may have been some element of ideological affinity toward Trump but by and large what Murdoch’s media have done is cynically exploit the vicious political climate that he generated with his absurd fulminations and accusations.

The apparent shift in Murdoch’s approach towards Trump is attributed to the notion that he is pragmatic. What he is is a self-serving creator and exploiter of political and cultural fault lines. It is too late for a place on the righteous bandwagon for Murdoch and his media. There is nothing that they have discovered in the man recently that he did not flaunt for decades. The idea that January 6 broke the proverbial camel’s back for Murdoch and those in his orbit is a ludicrous one because there have been so many other transgressions that should have done that much earlier.

Media observers say there are signs that even Fox News, the most ardent of Trump supporters, may be cooling off its ardor for the man. For instance, last Friday, Fox News did not broadcast Trump’s rally in Arizona. Instead, they ran an interview with Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor and potential president candidate for 2024. It is as if Fox News is subtly latching on to a version of Trump’s without his huge liabilities arising out of the January 6 hearings.

It is obvious that the Murdoch media empire does nothing at this level that is not calibrated. It would be interesting to see if their souring on him, coupled with his potential criminal jeopardy in the January 6 attack, mellows him down or has the exact opposite effect of making him even more unhinged.

In terms of Trump’s potential criminal exposure, the Post edit caveated its piece by saying “It’s up to the Justice Department to decide if this is a crime.” It indeed is but the fact that one of Murdoch’s newspapers and that too the one which Trump has often credited with having helped create his aura some 30 years ago has now called him “unworthy” must rankle.