Rupert Murdoch has handed the reins of his world-destroying news empire to his most reactionary son. And apparently he’s leaving as a classic elite Republican bullshit Never-Trumper, who doesn’t like Trump has tried propping up Ron DeSantis to stop him and is otherwise all out of ideas:
Murdoch’s unhappiness and befuddlement is the throughline of Wolff’s amusingly vicious and very well-timed book, “The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty,” which is to hit shelves next week, days after Murdoch, 92, announced his retirement from the Fox Corporation and News Corporation boards. Wolff paints Fox’s owner as embarrassed by the channel’s vulgarity and horrified by its ultimate political creation, Donald Trump. Murdoch apparently very much wants to thwart the ex-president, just not at the price of losing a single point in the ratings.
In his tortured enabling of Trump, Murdoch seems the ultimate symbol of a feckless and craven conservative establishment, overmatched by the jingoist forces it encouraged and either capitulating to the ex-president or shuffling pitifully off the public stage. “Murdoch was as passionate in his Trump revulsion as any helpless liberal,” writes Wolff. The difference is that Murdoch’s helplessness was a choice.
Few people bear more responsibility for Trump than Murdoch. Fox News gave Trump a regular platform for his racist lies about Barack Obama’s birthplace. It immersed its audience in a febrile fantasy world in which all mainstream sources of information are suspect, a precondition for Trump’s rise. (Many people have described losing loved ones to Fox’s all-consuming alternative reality.) After Trump lost in 2020, Fox helped spread the defeated president’s falsehoods about a stolen election, which both contributed to the Jan. 6 insurrection and cost Fox nearly $800 million in its settlement with Dominion Voting Systems. (It was as part of that settlement, Wolff writes, that Fox fired its biggest star, the demagogic troll Tucker Carlson.)
Whatever his personal feelings, not only Trump but the radicalization of the party that made its takeover by someone like Trump inevitable hangs fully on him.
And apparently he wishes not only history but his kids will absolve him:
Though “The Fall” is peppered with references to HBO’s “Succession,” Murdoch comes off as the anti-Logan Roy, desperate for the approval of his mostly liberal children, with the hateful Fox News standing between them. “He just wants his kids to love him,” Roger Ailes is quoted saying. “And they don’t.” In a chapter set in the winter of 2022, Wolff describes Murdoch fantasizing about giving up Fox, which his friends urge him to do. They emphasize “how much better his relationship with his children would be without the curse of Fox News.”
Another difference between Murdoch and Logan Roy is that the latter was utterly unapologetic about both his reactionary politics and his venality until his last flight; he never kidded himself about what he was. Rupert’s small glimmers of conscience and wish he could duck responsibility if anything makes him more evil.