Rupert Murdoch told News Corp shareholders. that former President Donald Trump needed to get over himself.
The current U.S. political debate is deep, whether it is about education, well-being or economic opportunity, he said at Wednesday’s annual meeting. It is crucial that the Conservatives play an active and energetic role in this debate, but that will not happen if President Trump remains focused on the past. The past is the past, and the country is now competing to define the future.
Murdoch is the founder and executive chairman of News Corp., and its major US holdings are Dow Jones & Company, which publishes the Wall Street Journal; the New York Post; and the publisher of books HarperCollins. Murdoch also met with shareholders of another of his companies, Fox Corp., last week. Fox, of course, owns a lot of things named Fox, including Fox News. Murdoch did not mention Trump at the Fox rally.
It might have been healthy and a public service for Murdoch, chairman of Foxs, to share his thoughts on Trump with institutional investors such as Vanguard Group Inc., Blackrock Inc. and Dodge & Cox who fund Foxs operations. Fox News has spent years amplifying the dangerous and damaging garbage Trump continues to peddle, and it is the most influential media platform backing it. But such is life.
And Murdoch could still do a lot if he really wants Trump to move forward or move away. In addition to Murdochs’ chairmanship of both companies, his family trust owns approximately 41% of Foxs shares and 38% of News Corp. shares. His son Lachlan is executive chairman and chief executive officer of Fox and co-chairman of News Corp. In other words, the paterfamilias retains enormous influence over its affairs. To get Trump and his followers to change color, he could stop allowing some of Foxs’ most influential presenters and broadcasters to spit poisonous talking points.
Maybe the family dynamic is getting in the way. Lachlan outlived his siblings, in part, by adopting his father’s conservative policies, and he runs the day-to-day operations of the Murdoch Companies, not his father. Lachlan also seems simpatico with Fox News and his flamethrowers. Maybe Rupert Murdoch wants to stay away from his son so Lachlan can handle as he sees fit.
Yet Rupert Murdoch has chosen to go public with his advice for Trump. To help Trump leave the past behind and embrace a more truthful future, he could ask some of the stars on his evening talk shows to do the same.
For example, Fox News’ most popular host Tucker Carlson recently spun a three-part documentary for Fox Nation that lied about federal agents directly instigating insurgents to storm the Capitol on January 6. . The documentary also featured tricks such as the siege being started by leftist agitators or being a trap set by the FBI. It also offered the unproven claim that millions of Americans had their basic constitutional rights violated through investigations into the events of January 6.
Carlson has admitted that he has a loose relationship with the truth and sometimes lies on his show. Fox News attorneys argued in court that no one should take the Carlsons evening show at face value because the host is not offering the facts. It offers loose, figurative or hyperbolic words.
None of the Carlsons circus acts are new. Much of it isn’t even an opinion or comment based on fact. Its propaganda. This is also the kind of thing Trump is hanging on to. Unless he changes the name from Fox News to Fox Propaganda, Murdoch might just offer clearer advice to Trump’s facilitators in his media properties.
This approach would also make commercial sense. Dominion Voting Systems Inc., a company that Trumps advisers falsely accused of rigging the 2020 presidential election, sued Fox News for defamation in March, saying it was wronged when the network broadcast false allegations about it. Fox News has argued that it is protected by the First Amendment. Dominion sued Fox Corp. last week, seeking records from Murdoch and his son about their involvement in Fox News shows about the company. A tighter leash and tighter standards at Fox could spare the Murdochs, their companies, and their investors from some of these problems in the future.
Contrary to what Murdoch told shareholders on Wednesday, the past isn’t really the past just yet, especially because some of his companies like to reshape it and distort reality to serve purposes other than the truth. Trump knows this and he is likely to ignore Murdochs advice. So now is the time for one of the most powerful stewards in the Americas to live up to a new, higher standard.
Timothy L. OBrien is a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion.
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