While Fox News continues to promote and defend Donald Trump's presidential campaign, other parts of Rupert Murdoch's media empire and Murdoch himself have criticized the candidate in what appears to be an internal proxy war.
New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman reports that the divergent tone in coverage of Trump's campaign may be evidence of a split between Murdoch and Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, who recently signed a new contract that will extend his tenure beyond the 2016 election.
Sherman reports that Fox "insiders" say Ailes "is pushing Fox to defend Trump's most outlandish comments." Trump has called Mexican immigrants "rapists" and criminals, and attacked Sen. John McCain's military record -- remarks that many on Fox have defended. Sherman also reports that Ailes told his senior executives that Murdoch asked him to "back off the Trump coverage" and that in response Ailes told his superior that he would cover Trump "the way he wanted to."
A Sherman source indicated that "Ailes has instructed The Five co-host Eric Bolling to defend Trump on air." Bolling recently called companies boycotting Trump for his racist remarks "economic terrorists," and attacked conservative pundits who criticized Trump. Fox News contributor Pat Caddell is also reportedly helping Trump behind the scenes. Sherman notes, "According to a source with direct knowledge, Caddell has been speaking to Trump 'almost every day' about his campaign."
A New York Times article reported that Murdoch personally does not like Trump, and the feeling is mutual. The Times reports that Murdoch "often described" Trump as a "phony" to his friends, and disagrees with him on immigration. Murdoch said Trump was "wrong" to characterize Mexican immigrants as "rapists," and tweeted after his anti-McCain remarks, "When is Donald Trump going to stop embarrassing his friends, let alone the whole country?"
The Times reports that despite his past feuds with Murdoch, Trump has "set his sights" on "wooing" Ailes. They note, "his treatment by Fox News is much more crucial because of the influence the channel wields among the Republican Party's base."
Associates of Ailes told the Times they believe that promoting Trump could be a win-win for Ailes, since "it could buy time for other Republican contenders to hone their messages and become more seasoned campaigners" while Fox ratings benefit from covering the ongoing spectacle of Trump's campaign.
Murdoch's other media properties have gone after Trump in recent days.
The Wall Street Journal wrote an editorial calling Trump a "catastrophe" and noted, "His only discernible principle is the promotion of his personal brand." The Journal even said, "The conservative media who applaud him are hurting the cause." But they didn't mention Fox News.
Trump pushed back against the Journal by writing, "Look how small the pages have become @WSJ. Looks like a tabloid--saving money I assume!" Trump also said, "The ever dwindling @WSJ which is worth about 1/10 of what it was purchased for, is always hitting me politically. Who cares!"
The Murdoch-owned New York Post covered the McCain story with a front page that said Trump was "toast," adding, "DON VOYAGE!"
Trump has used his Twitter account to amplify criticism from his supporters targeting Fox News, including one tweet directed at the network that read, "tell your owner Murdoch we are turning Fox off if he keeps belittling @realDonaldTrump. No Fox!" Another post he promoted accused Fox of trying to "push Jeb on their viewers."
Overall, Trump's relationship with Fox has been a positive one. He reportedly privately met with Ailes and tops the network for most time given to the 2016 Republican presidential candidates. At a recent campaign event, he praised Fox & Friends, calling co-hosts Brian Kilmeade, Steve Doocy, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck "great people."
Conservative media appear to be drafting Donald Trump's talking points.
It's been one month since the real estate mogul officially entered the Republican primary, after years of using regular Fox News appearances to promote previously-elusive presidential ambitions and push absurd conspiracies. In that time, Trump has already managed to prominently trumpet at least four right-wing media myths to explain his positions on the economy, immigration, gun safety, and the presidency, launching the long-debunked claims back into the spotlight.
Trump exaggerated the nation's unemployment rate by nearly 800 percent during a Fox News appearance on July 15, telling Sean Hannity that unemployed, impoverished Americans are "very important," and declaring: "Somebody actually last week said we have a 40 percentunemployment, so I've been saying 19 - 21 percent, but somebody actually came out last week and said we have a 40 percent, and they might very well be right."
Just a couple weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh repeatedly claimed that "the actual unemployment rate in the United States of America is not 5.5 percent ... It is 42.9 percent," citing a blog written by former Reagan official David Stockman.
According to the Bureau Of Labor Statistics, notably, June's unemployment rate stood at 5.3 percent.
Last week, Trump tripled the U.S.' undocumented immigrant population during a July 8 interview on CNN's The Lead, claiming, "We have 34 million [undocumented immigrants] in the country. I used to hear 11, now I hear it's 34 million." The real number of undocumented immigrants is nearly 20 million less -- experts confirm that the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. actually hovers around 11 million, according to a Washington Post analysis that compared Census, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Pew Research Center data.
Trump appears to have relied on a year-old, long-debunked report from conservative website Breitbart.com. In 2014, Breitbart.com misrepresented a contracting bid the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for card stock to print a maximum of 34 million green cards and work authorization cards over a five year period, spinning the listing to claim the Obama administration was preparing a massive "executive amnesty." Neither of these cards are specific to undocumented immigrants. And as The Hill explained at the time, not only is such a contracting bid "typical," these cards are for use by immigrants who have been legally granted permanent residency and "a single recipient could receive up to five work permits over the life of the contract." Because this is not, in fact, an estimate of the undocumented population, both the White House and USCIS called suggestions that it was a "precursor" to the president's executive action on immigration "crazy" and "too clever."
Discussing his views on gun safety regulations in a July 7 interview with Ammoland.com, Trump revived conservative media's false claim that former President Bill Clinton banned guns on military bases. He asserted that "President Clinton never should have passed a ban on soldiers being able to protect themselves on bases."
Trump's misinformation originated from conservative media's attempt to blame Clinton for the 2013 mass shooting at Washington D.C.'s Navy Yard facility, seizing on a March 1993 Army regulation they claimed banned the carrying of guns on military bases. In fact, the 1993 regulation came from a 1992 directive issued under former President George H.W. Bush -- which actually allows guns to be carried on military bases under a substantial number of circumstances. Military experts have said more permissive gun carrying rules are a bad idea.
Trump is even still pushing perhaps the most infamous conservative media myth of the Obama presidency -- birtherism. "I really don't know" where President Obama was born, Trump declared in a July 9 interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, an accusation that follows years of the candidate teaming up with Fox News to push the absurd conspiracy theories that Obama had not released a valid birth certificate and may have been hiding the fact that he was not born in America.
The pervasiveness of right-wing media talking points in Trump's positions is not surprising given that he's been a Fox News fixture for years. He reportedly met with Fox president Roger Ailes before announcing his presidential candidacy, and since then, the network has only increased his exposure. In Media Matters' most recent study of appearances by likely and declared Republican presidential candidates on the network, Trump topped the entire field in airtime. During the month of June, Trump appeared on Fox 10 times, racking up 1 hour and 48 minutes of airtime, 23 minutes more than his nearest competitor, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Since the beginning of May, Trump has the most airtime of any of the candidates.
Donald Trump reportedly met with Fox News president Roger Ailes before announcing his presidential candidacy.
According to New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman, "multiple sources" told him that before Trump announced his candidacy, he had a "'2-3 hour' private lunch with Ailes."
For years, Trump has been a fixture on Fox News, and had a regular segment commenting on the news on Fox & Friends. Since he became a presidential candidate, his exposure on the network has only increased. In Media Matters' most recent study of appearances by likely and declared Republican presidential candidates on the network, Trump topped the entire field. During the month of June, Trump appeared on Fox 10 times, racking up 1 hour and 48 minutes of airtime, 23 minutes more than his nearest competitor, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Since the beginning of May, Trump also has the most airtime of any of the candidates.
After Trump made remarks calling Mexican immigrants criminals and "rapists," several Fox figures jumped to his defense.
As part of the "Fox Primary," Republican candidates have been vying for a spot at the debate hosted by the network, while they have reportedly timed campaign announcements to coincide with the network's coverage. CNN's Brian Stelter has noted, "there really is no disputing Fox's power in influencing the GOP."
Trump isn't the first 2016 candidate to meet with Ailes. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) reportedly met with Ailes and Rupert Murdoch in 2013 as part of an effort to "smooth concerns among Republicans and influencers about whether he shares his famous libertarian father's views on issues like national security."
The aura of invincibility that Roger Ailes quickly tried to create at Fox News last week after news broke about Rupert Murdoch's executive succession plans has now evaporated. The implications may be long lasting, not only for the cable channel, but also for the Republican Party.
Since its inception nearly 20 years ago, Ailes has ruled the Fox News fiefdom within Murdoch's sprawling 21st Century Fox media empire and built it into a hugely influential moneymaker. The Ailes programming fingerprint has always been omnipresent at Fox.
But now as Murdoch signals his eventual withdrawal from corporate leadership and hands the reigns over his sons, James and Lachlan, Ailes is suddenly left without his key ally and now faces a somewhat uncertain future. (Fox's contract with Ailes, who is 75, expires next year.) The Fox boss now has to report to Murdoch's children, both of whom he has sparred with in the past and who have reportedly signaled their distaste for Ailes' brand of toxic programming. In previous corporate scuffles, Ailes always emerged victorious because he had Rupert's final support.
"For Ailes, it was a stinging smack-down and effectively a demotion," wrote Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman in New York. "Roger Ailes Burned By Murdoch Sons In Fox News Power Shift," read the Talking Points Memo headline. (Also note that Ailes is losing another longtime corporate ally, Chase Carey, who's resigning as chief operating officer.)
For the Republican Party, the swirling questions inside Fox News mean this campaign season might be the last one Ailes pilots as the head of Fox News, or at least as the head of Fox News as we currently recognize it. (If the Murdoch sons eventually set out to alter the network, will Ailes have the power to stop them?)
Having seamlessly turned Fox News into the marketing and 'policy' wing of the Republican Party, the current campaign season could mark the end of an era if Ailes' internal power is eroded. Some inside the Republican Party and conservative movement might actually be wondering if that's a good thing.
How fitting is it that the same week Ailes struggles to maintain his power base, Donald Trump's looming presidential campaign emerges into full view? A longtime Fox favorite, Trump, who personifies the often tasteless brand of divisive rhetoric that Ailes helped hallmark, is poised to unleash a presidential push that could do deep damage to the Republican Party.
If forced to pick a Republican candidate to endorse, Trump likely would not be Ailes' choice. (The Fox boss prefers to side with possible winners.) But the content of Trump's message is undeniably Ailes-esque. Trump's a cartoonish nativist birther who thinks climate change is a hoax. He's loud, offensive and ill informed, which means Trump functions as the Fox News id. He's the guttural roar of Fox's aging, white audience.
"Trump is what Ailes did to the GOP," tweeted Sherman.
A report from New York magazine indicates that Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes is leaning towards Gov. Scott Walker for the Republican presidential nomination, while personally involving himself in the network's attacks on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
The report, from media writer Gabriel Sherman, is tied to the recent shakeup in the corporate leadership of Fox News parent 21st Century Fox. Rupert Murdoch is stepping down from 21st Century and installing his son James, who presided over publications involved in the phone hacking scandal in England, as the company's new CEO. But Ailes will reportedly continue to report directly to Rupert Murdoch, and not to James, who he reportedly once described as a "fucking dope."
Sherman reports that Fox insiders say that Ailes -- a long time conservative activist who worked on Richard Nixon's presidential campaign -- "simply isn't dazzled by any of the GOP contenders" for president "so far" and has even personally clashed with Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, chiding Christie for appearing with President Obama during Hurricane Sandy as "the fat kid in high school chasing the popular kid" (At the time of the hurricane Murdoch said that Christie had to "take blame" if Obama was re-elected).
Yet Ailes is "said to like" Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is "a ready-made Fox hero" for his Midwestern roots and union-busting agenda. Sherman also notes that Walker's "hard-line" immigration position is "in sync with Fox's." Fox has been a reliable ally for Walker in his fights against public sector labor unions, and on-air hosts have described the governor as a "sexy guy" and someone who makes "my toes curl." In turn, Walker advised fellow Republicans to use Fox to get their "message out."
Media Matters has extensively documented the "Fox News primary" in which Republican presidential candidates vie against each other for the network's attention in order to build a following and campaign funds from the network's heavily conservative audience. Some of the current candidates, like Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson, were Fox News employees. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is considering a run, also worked for Fox.
Fox's role as kingmaker of the Republican field is more pronounced in this cycle as the network is determining who qualifies to participate in the first official television debate in what some at Fox have described as "Fox's Cleveland primary." Sherman notes that after the failed 2012 election, "many GOPers privately blamed Fox for turning debates into a reality-show spectacle."
Sherman also reports that Ailes is eager to tell the story of "Hillary Clinton as Über-villain" in the 2016 election, harkening back to a 1994 interview in which Ailes accused Clinton of a "suicide cover-up - possible murder." An associate of Ailes told Sherman that it would be "Freddy Krueger time" at the White House if Clinton is elected.
According to Sherman, Ailes "helped edit" Fox's prime time special promoting author Peter Schweizer's error-riddled and dishonest book, Clinton Cash. A Media Matters analysis showed that the network gave Clinton Cash $107 million in free publicity over five days, despite the numerous false and inaccurate claims in it.
From the February 1 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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From the January 28 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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The Islamophobic rhetoric spewed by right-wing media in response to the deadly attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris is just the most recent in a long history of conservative anti-Islam vitriol.
Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes has reportedly contacted Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich about his interest in returning to the conservative network as a guest host.
Kasich is one of the most successful Fox News candidates. He joined the network in 2001 as a former congressman and left in 2009 to successfully run for governor. Kasich was a frequent guest host for The O'Reilly Factor and the host of the programs From The Heartland and Heroes.
Fox News hosted Kasich on November 4 after he won his reelection campaign. Co-anchor Megyn Kelly told Kasich that it "wasn't that long ago that you were here at the Fox News Channel. Everyone loved you. Now you go to Ohio. The people love you. Are you going to make a pitch on a national level and hope they love you and put you in the White House?"
Kasich dodged by the question by responding that "what I'm really bucking for in the short term is to wonder if I can come back and host O'Reilly again at least once or twice. It would be a lot of fun. I don't think they've ever had a sitting governor do that."
Kelly replied: "I think you're one of the few people he actually would allow to take over that show. I'll ask him."
The race is on to win the support of Fox News ahead of the 2016 Republican presidential primary. Republican Senator Rand Paul, often listed among likely 2016 presidential contenders, is apparently trying to court News Corp. executive chairman Rupert Murdoch, hosting the media mogul at this weekend's Kentucky Derby.
The New York Times quotes Paul saying he "thought it would be fun to have [Murdoch] come down," and Murdoch explained his presence by clarifying he had never been to the Derby and offering that he finds Paul to be a "very interesting man." But as the Times explains, the context for the day at the track is much grander than the two men's mutual interest in the event: the looming 2016 presidential race and Paul's desire to win the support of "arguably the most powerful broker in Republican politics."
The Times lays out how Paul's "libertarian brand of politics" has prompted some concern among commentators at the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal and Fox News Channel. Indeed, Murdoch himself has spoken out against Paul's views on foreign policy, telling Fortune magazine [subscription required] last month, "I agree with [Paul] on a great number of things but disagree strongly on some things -- too strongly perhaps to vote for him." According to the Times, the day at the Derby was "part getting-to-know-you and part political audition, and marked a potential turn in the race for president."
Murdoch and Paul's Kentucky Derby hangout isn't their first meeting, either. Paul reportedly met with Murdoch and Fox News chief Roger Ailes last November -- according to Politico, that meeting was similarly part of Paul's effort to "smooth concerns among Republicans and influencers about whether he shares his famous libertarian father's views on issues like national security."
Winning the support of Murdoch and his sprawling media empire -- particularly Fox News -- has been a top priority for Republican candidates for the past decade, and with good reason.
In response to Media Matters' documentation that a group pushing climate change denial has also rejected the known health impacts of tobacco and secondhand smoke, Fox News is suggesting that secondhand smoke is not dangerous.
On the April 9 edition of Special Report, Fox News correspondent Doug McKelway pointed to a report by the "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change" (NIPCC), which was written in an attempt to debunk the United Nations' recent consensus report, to claim that "a torrent of new data is poking very large holes" in climate science. In an accompanying article at FoxNews.com, McKelway responded to a Media Matters blog post documenting that the group behind the report, the Heartland Institute, has previously denied the health impacts of tobacco, by claiming that the "Heartland's denial of the dangers of second hand smoke was re-affirmed by a large scale 2013 study":
The NIPCC ["Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change"] report was immediately assailed by administration supporters. The website Media Matters reported that the NIPCC study was published by the conservative Heartland Institute, which previously denied the science demonstrating the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke. (In fact, Heartland's denial of the dangers of second hand smoke was re-affirmed by a large scale 2013 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute which found "no statistically significant relationship between lung cancer and exposure to passive smoke.")
Media Matters had actually pointed out that the Heartland Institute once claimed that smoking "fewer than seven cigarettes a day" -- not just secondhand smoke -- was not bad for you, while simultaneously being funded by the tobacco giant Philip Morris. Regardless, secondhand smoke is unequivocally dangerous and causally linked to cancers including lung cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, the American Lung Association, and the Centers for Disease Control. McKelway cherry-picked one study that found no statistically significant link between secondhand smoke and cancer but did find a trend of "borderline statistical significance" among women who had lived with a smoker for 30 years or more. Meta-analyses have previously found that the "abundance of evidence ... overwhelmingly support the existence of a causal relationship between passive smoking and lung cancer." The Environmental Protection Agency states that it does not claim that "minimal exposure to secondhand smoke poses a huge individual cancer risk," but that nonetheless secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths a year in U.S. nonsmokers:
The evidence is clear and consistent: secondhand smoke is a cause of lung cancer in adults who don't smoke. EPA has never claimed that minimal exposure to secondhand smoke poses a huge individual cancer risk. Even though the lung cancer risk from secondhand smoke is relatively small compared to the risk from direct smoking, unlike a smoker who chooses to smoke, the nonsmoker's risk is often involuntary. In addition, exposure to secondhand smoke varies tremendously among exposed individuals. For those who must live or work in close proximity to one or more smokers, the risk would certainly be greater than for those less exposed.
EPA estimates that secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year among nonsmokers in the U.S.; of these, the estimate is 800 from exposure to secondhand smoke at home and 2,200 from exposure in work or social situations.
Clinging to persecution fantasies that seem to grow darker each year, conservative voices continue to hype doomsday scenarios in which President Obama is scheming to confiscate firearms, socialize American medicine, silence his critics through brute political force, and wage violent class warfare. Allegedly under siege at every turn as their freedoms are stripped away, conservatives embrace an imagined status as perennial victims.
The result? Wallowing in self-pity and convinced of the dark forces moving against them, conservatives launch attack after attack, insisting they're fighting forces at home akin to Hitler's Nazi storm troops. They complain louder and louder that America has become like Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler when 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
Nazi analogies aren't new and conservatives didn't trademark them. But the cries have become far more frequent during Obama's sixth year in office.
Four years ago, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes accused the management of National Public Radio of having "a kind of Nazi attitude" for firing commentator Juan Williams. Former Fox host Glenn Beck frequently immersed himself in offensive Hitler rhetoric during Obama's first years in office, while the then-burgeoning Tea Party movement did the same. And so did Rush Limbaugh, who obsessed over Obama-Nazi comparisons in 2009: "Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate."
In 2009, the Anti-Defamation League, led by Holocaust survivor Abe Foxman, documented the Tea Party's growing reliance on "Nazi comparisons" as a way to express its anti-Obama rage. Yet today the Nazi claims arrive effortlessly and on a depressingly regular basis as conservatives line up to compare this president, his allies, and this country to one of the worst chapters in civilized history.
The thoughtless rhetoric not only captures how detached Obama's critics have become from reality (not to mention the blanket insensitivity involved), but it also reveals the bizarre view conservatives have of their alleged political strife.
Fox News contributor Dr. Ben Carson recently claimed America is now "very much like Nazi Germany" in that it has a government "using its tools to intimidate the population." Carson defended the insulting comparison by suggesting American conservatives are being targeted and intimidated by the government: "Maybe if I don't say anything, I won't be audited, people won't call me a name."
Audited? Name-calling? Historical note: Those were certainly among the least painful afflictions Jews suffered during the Nazi reign of terror. "I know you're not supposed to say 'Nazi Germany,'" said Carson. "But I don't care about political correctness."
In his new biography of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, New York magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman lays out how Fox hired journalist Peter Boyer after Boyer published an Ailes-friendly profile in The New Yorker.
According to Sherman, Ailes "was pleased" with the profile, while neighbors in Ailes' New York hometown -- who were feuding with the Fox head -- "felt Boyer got spun." A year and a half later, after a stint at Newsweek, Boyer was snapped up by Fox News and added to their investigative reporting team.
Boyer's role in Sherman's book was highlighted earlier this week by Gawker, which took aim at New York Times book critic Janet Maslin's "inexplicably hostile takedown" of the Ailes biography. According to Gawker, Maslin has "maintained a 30-year friendship with" Boyer, a fact they contend should have been disclosed in her review, given Boyer's role in Sherman's narrative. (The Times responded that Maslin's relationship with Boyer was "completely irrelevant".)
So who is Peter Boyer? While he carried an impressive resume to Fox News (18 years at the New Yorker, stints for PBS, NPR, the NY Times and others), he also has a history of friendly treatment of prominent conservatives.