Analysis: Murdoch says Trump should leave election lies ‘in the past,’ but does anyone believe that’s possible?
A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
“I am pleased to report that the new News Corp’s eighth year has been our most profitable yet,” Rupert Murdoch said at his publishing company’s annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday.
At the outset, Murdoch promised to “increase audiences and enhance profitability,” but it was something he said a little bit later that soaked up all the press attention.
After castigating “Big Digital,” he took a sudden turn toward American politics, going out of his way to throw an elbow at Fox’s favorite former president.
“The current American political debate is profound, whether about education or welfare or economic opportunity,” Murdoch said. “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.”
Then Murdoch turned back to the purpose of the stockholder event — “We are fashioning our future, expanding our reach and revenue…”
And the rest of us were left to read the tea leaves.
Maggie Haberman, naturally, was the first to report on Murdoch’s message. She pointed out that the 90-year-old mogul has rarely “spoken publicly about Trump.” Murdoch’s disdain for the man has been copiously documented, but the mutually beneficial nature of the relationship papered over most of that, at least during Trump’s presidency.
Murdoch is now saying he cares about movement over man. But his massive Fox News machine does not reflect that. Should it? Will it? Here are four notes about that…
The difference between “pro-Trump” and “anti-Biden”
#1: Murdoch jabbed at Trump during the News Corp shareholders meeting, not during the Fox Corp shareholders meeting, which was held last week.
#2: Brian Lowry writes: “A lot of people are asking whether Rupert’s comments about moving past the 2020 election will be communicated to Fox’s hosts, and my guess is almost certainly no. While we can never know for certain, that sums up the difference between the network under Roger Ailes — who ran the place like a political operation to benefit the GOP — and his boss, who invariably puts profits first and foremost, and perceives Fox’s primetime to be where its audience currently resides.”
#3: I have not heard anyone at Fox Corp make this argument, but I could certainly imagine it: Fox News has left “the past in the past” just like Murdoch encouraged. The words “voter fraud” barely ever came up on Fox this fall, according to a TVEyes search, while fraud claims are still a regular refrain on One America News. Some of Fox’s content, like Tucker Carlson’s rewriting of riot history, is obviously Trump-friendly, but Fox isn’t so much “pro-Trump” anymore as it’s “anti-Biden,” exactly where Murdoch wants it to be.
#4: But where does “anti-Biden” coverage lead in a 2024 primary environment? Right back to Trump, maybe. Then again, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was front and center at Fox’s Patriot Awards event in Hollywood, Florida on Wednesday night. Per Jeremy Barr, Hannity asked the crowd about the idea of a Trump and DeSantis pairing…
Trump will never, ever, ever let go of his 2020 loss
A savvy reader wrote in with this insight: “It is so interesting to me that in the last two days we’ve seen two people (Chris Christie and now Rupert Murdoch) who clearly know what they are dealing with in Trump — much better than most of us — call for him to do something that he is as unlikely to do as stop breathing air.”
Hey Trump, get over 2020, admit you lost, stop lying, focus on the future? Does anyone within three degrees of Donald John Trump actually believe that’s a possibility?
As the Reliable reader wrote, “He would sooner disavow Ivanka at this point than his version of the election results. That will never, ever, ever happen.” So then why did Murdoch bring it up, knowing Trump will never shake free of the past?
Bill Maher was Chris Cuomo’s guest for the hour on “Cuomo Prime Time” Wednesday night. Maher laid out this prediction about Trump and 2024, a POV that is light years beyond Murdoch’s milquetoast “contest to define the future” framing:
“Trust me, he is going to run, absolutely. He is going to get the nomination, and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he just won the election. But even if he doesn’t win the election, he will SAY he won the election. There is NO doubt that he will say he won. No matter what the numbers. It doesn’t matter how much you ‘run up the score.’ That’s what Democrats would always tell me: ‘We gotta win big.’ It doesn’t matter! If they don’t believe in the election and the integrity of it to begin with, what does it matter what the number is? They’re just going to say it was rigged. They think the last one was rigged!”
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