Is Rupert Murdoch dumping Trump?

Thomas URBAIN
·3 min read
A large screen shows Fox News anchor Sean Hannity at a Trump rally in Waterford, Michigan on October 30, 2020

Is Rupert Murdoch dumping Trump?

A large screen shows Fox News anchor Sean Hannity at a Trump rally in Waterford, Michigan on October 30, 2020

Fox News and the New York Post, magnate Rupert Murdoch's main media outlets, have started distancing themselves from Donald Trump as the US election vote counting drama drags on -- a first since the president came to power and a potential turning point.

On Thursday night in Phoenix, Arizona, supporters of Trump bluntly shouted "Fox News Sucks" in reference to the news outfit considered fiercely loyal to the president for the past five years.

Fox News infuriated Trump and his people on election night by calling Arizona for Democrat Joe Biden.

Jared Kushner, Trump's advisor and son in law, called Murdoch in vain to try to get that call retracted. Other media held off from calling the battleground state for Biden as the tallying of ballots continued.

Since that night, Fox News has stepped very carefully around allegations of massive vote fraud coming from the Trump campaign and the man himself.

"We just haven't seen it. It hasn't been presented to us," Fox News anchor Brett Baier said on the air Friday.

So people are asking if Fox News, which helped bring Trump to power in 2016, is in the process of dumping him as Biden closes in on the magic number of 270 electoral votes that would win him the White House.

DePauw University communications professor Jeffrey McCall said Fox News has always had a twin identity -- on one hand, star anchors who are more editorialists than journalists and on the other a newsroom that is much more measured.

Some Fox journalists, such as Chris Wallace, who was the moderator at the first Trump-Biden debate, are very well respected professionals.

On the in-your-face editorial side stands Fox star Sean Hannity, who is very close to Trump and said on Thursday evening, "Americans have every right to be suspicious ... to distrust the legitimacy of the results."

McCall said that the way Fox News has treated Trump since the election and its early calling of Arizona for Biden show the more serious side of the network is trying to "operate as independently as possible from the opinion section and even from the ownership."

"These people have their own journalistic standards that they want to uphold."

But Reece Peck, who wrote a book about Fox News called "Fox Populism", said this distancing could alienate some viewers and prompt them to switch to another news source, such as OAN, a small new outfit, ultra conservative and extremely pro-Trump.

Behind Fox News, which chalked up 14.1 million viewers on US election night, is, of course, Murdoch.

The 89-year old media mogul is known for his conservative views but over the past few months has come to grips with the idea of a Biden win, according to the Daily Beast.

Still, said McCall, "My guess is that the Murdoch family is not calling into the newsroom to tell Bret Baier how to cover certain kinds of stories."

 -'The political winds' - 

Murdoch's other pet US outlet, the New York Post, might be "a closer reflexion of Murdoch's own opinions politically than even Fox News," said Peck.

He said Murdoch exercises a lot more control over this tabloid newspaper than he does over Fox News.

As the vote count drags on and the world waits to hear the name of the winner, the Post has not embraced any of Trump's statements about fraud and the election being stolen from him.

Just days ago, right before the election, it did not hesitate to run a story that said Biden's son Hunter, sitting on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, sold access to his father, who was then vice president under Barack Obama.

On Friday the Post ran two opinion pieces that made the assumption that Trump would probably lose the election.

"Murdoch at times you can sense him understanding where the political winds are going," said Peck, who teaches at City University of New York (CUNY).

And Biden is a centrist Democrat that he could stomach.

"Biden is not very threatening to the business community in the United States," said Peck.

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