Has Rupert Murdoch — owner of Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and New York Post — turned on Donald Trump?
Signs certainly are pointing that way, but maybe we all need to tap the brakes before coming to any hard conclusions.
We’ve been down this road before.
Certainly, many conservatives are trying to pin the lack of a red wave in this year’s midterms on Trump. (More on that below.) Many of the high-profile candidates Trump backed did not perform well in their elections. And some of those critics have made their voices known on Fox News and other places this week. In addition, Murdoch’s properties appear to be patting the back of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who easily won reelection and is getting lots of buzz as the possible 2024 Republican nominee for president.
On Wednesday, the New York Post front page featured DeSantis with the headline “DeFuture.”
But Thursday’s front page was a stunner.
It featured an unflattering photo illustration of Trump sitting on a brick wall with the headline “Trumpty Dumpty.” It also said, “Don (who couldn’t build a wall) had a great fall — can all the GOP’s men put the party back together again?”
Wait, there’s more. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board had an editorial with this headline: “Trump Is the Republican Party’s Biggest Loser.”
So that’s two big Murdoch properties taking shots at Trump.
But before we declare that Murdoch is through with Trump, it should be noted that this is not the first time there were signs that Murdoch seemed to be moving on from Trump. Back in July, following a damning hearing of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, both the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal wrote editorials blasting Trump, saying he was unworthy to be president and “utterly failed” his duties on Jan. 6.
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, however, was quick to point out that he wrote a column back in July saying we shouldn’t believe Murdoch has turned his back on Trump until we start seeing Fox News, especially the primetime hosts, ripping into Trump. As Wemple wrote then, “So yeah, when (Sean) Hannity starts blasting away at Trump, we’ll know something’s up.”
It should be noted that Fox News did have some talk about Trump’s role in these midterms and commentary, including that of his former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, urging him to not announce he is running for president until after the Georgia senatorial runoff election early next month.
Meanwhile, Trump took to his Truth Social network Thursday to insist he was not “furious,” as some have reported, that many of the candidates he backed did not win their elections. And he blasted Fox News along the way, writing, “Despite having picked so many winners, I have to put up with the Fake News. For me, Fox News was always gone, even in 2015-16 when I began my ‘journey,’ but now they’re really gone. Such an opportunity for another media outlet to make an absolute fortune, and do good for America. Let’s see what happens?”
Then Trump really went off. In more posts on Truth Social on Thursday evening, he blasted Murdoch’s NewsCorp and DeSantis. Trump said the New York Post was “no longer great.” He also wrote, “If CNN were smart, they’d open up a Conservative network, only have me on, and it would be the most successful network in History. Fox only made it because of me.”
He also took credit for Twitter’s success. And he went after DeSantis, once again calling him “DeSanctimonious,” among other insults. His unhinged rant also questioned how his endorsed candidate, Mehmet Oz, lost in Pennsylvania, while, with no proof, accusing Pennsylvania of being corrupt.
And yet you could see a day when Murdoch and Trump kiss and make up, so to speak, because we’ve seen this all before.
And for a bit more, check out this Twitter thread by Washington Post media reporter Sarah Ellison. She writes that this apparent fraying of the relationship between Murdoch and Trump is “not a shock.” But Ellison also smartly points out, “of course, Rupert can always change his mind, as he has done before.”
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The calls are coming from inside the house
As I mentioned above, Trump is taking some grief from within his own party for Republican shortcomings in the midterms. The New York Times’ Michael C. Bender and Maggie Haberman — two of the most plugged-in political reporters, particularly when it comes to Trump — published a piece Thursday: “Trump Under Fire From Within G.O.P. After Midterms.”
Bender and Haberman wrote, “The chorus of criticism, which unfolded on Fox News and social media throughout the day, revealed Mr. Trump to be at his most vulnerable point politically since the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.”
Does this mean the party wants to distance itself Trump?
Bender and Haberman wrote, “Mr. Trump has built a deep well of loyalty with Republican voters, and party officials cautioned that it was too soon to tell whether he would suffer any lasting political damage beyond a flurry of bad headlines, or whether a rival will emerge to challenge him. Mr. Trump has built a career on outlasting political controversy, and Trump aides insisted that any suggestion of weakness was a media confection.”
Point of the day
Some polling was off regarding this year’s midterms elections, and there is a feeling that the polling didn’t accurately reflect young people voting. NBC News’ Ben Collins, who covers disinformation, extremism and the internet, tweeted, “Before the next election, you might want to find a better way to poll anyone under the age of 30 since they would rather pick up a pinless grenade than a call from an unknown number.”
Good point. Then again, does anyone at any age pick up a call from an unknown number?
Line of the day
NBC late-night host Seth Meyers had a clever poke at Dr. Mehmet Oz, who lost his Senate bid in Pennsylvania — a state where he has never really lived. Meyers said, “Oz said he’s just happy he doesn’t have to pretend to root for the Philadelphia Steelers anymore.”
Veteran sports broadcaster Fred Hickman has died. He was 66. No cause has been reported.
Hickman is probably best known for co-hosting CNN’s “Sports Tonight” in the 1980s with Nick Charles, who died in 2011 at the age of 64. Hickman also was the first person to appear on the YES Network, the network started by the New York Yankees in 2002. Hickman also went on to work at ESPN from 2004 to 2008.
Awful Announcing’s Matt Clapp has a compilation of tributes on Twitter to Hickman and his career. It included ESPN’s Hannah Storm, who tweeted, “So very sad to hear about the passing of Fred Hickman. I was the only female anchor at CNN Sports, and Fred was such a welcoming presence … always with a laugh, a quip, a story … and supremely talented. Rest In Peace, my friend.”
And now, a few media thoughts, notes and tidbits for your weekend review …
- The New York Times’ Kate Conger and Ryan Mac with “‘Economic Picture Ahead Is Dire,’ Elon Musk Tells Twitter Employees.”
- And in The Washington Post, Joseph Menn, Cat Zakrzewski, Faiz Siddiqui and Nitasha Tiku with “Twitter privacy executives quit, sparking FTC alarm.”
- And breaking news Thursday: Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, and several more executives are leaving the company. There will be more on this news and what it means for Twitter in the days ahead.
- The Daily Beast’s Jason Baragona with “Here Are All the Fox News Stars Who Promised a Red Tsunami.”
- For New York Magazine, Shawn McCreesh writes about Alex Springer’s (and Politico owner) Mathias Dopfner.
- CNN’s Oliver Darcy with “Alex Jones ordered to pay nearly half a billion dollars to Sandy Hook families in additional damages.”
- The Washington Post editorial board with “The Brittney Griner injustice just keeps getting worse.”
- Los Angeles Times culture columnist and critic Mary McNamara with “Five years after #MeToo, I am haunted by the stories we could not tell.”
- Good story and great headline. The Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Beaton with “How a Coach Named Saturday Moved From Fridays to Sundays.”
- The New York Times’ Alanis Thames and Jonathan Abrams with “Female College Athletes Say Pressure to Cut Body Fat Is Toxic.”
- I mentioned this in Thursday’s newsletter, but MSNBC made a big deal — and for good reason — that it topped CNN in viewership for primetime election coverage on Tuesday. That’s the first time that has ever happened for a midterm or presidential election. MSNBC had 3.2 million viewers to CNN’s 2.6 million. But the other part that should be noted is the CNN angle. At a time when the network is in flux under new boss Chris Licht, CNN should at least be a little concerned about its total viewers number. One positive, however, for CNN: of all the cable news and big networks on election night, it was tied for second in the valuable 25- to 54-year-old demographic. CNN also noted that it outdrew MSNBC on Wednesday during the day after election night.
- Speaking of ratings, ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” is having quite the year. Through nine weeks, it’s averaging 14.3 million viewers — the most through nine weeks since 2010. The schedule always helps, but you also have to give a little credit to the new broadcast team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, who came over from Fox Sports. It’s also an impressive number when you consider that the ManningCast of “Monday Night Football” on ESPN2, featuring brothers Peyton and Eli Manning, usually draw in the 1.3 to 1.5 million range.
- Finally today, ESPN has hired former NHL star defenseman P.K. Subban as a studio and game analyst. That’s a good get. Subban will be great on TV.
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