As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 2024 presidential campaign flounders, the eyes of the Murdoch media empire are turning to a new contender — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
Youngkin has been the subject of positive coverage recently on Fox News, in which the network’s hosts have regularly pushed him to run in 2024. However, Fox’s recent promotion of the Virginia governor has whitewashed his record of anti-LGBTQ policies, the limits he has implemented on access to public health resources, and campaign appearances for election deniers.
Recent reporting suggests the Murdochs are souring on DeSantis and turning toward Youngkin as a potential 2024 candidate
- News Corp. Chair Rupert Murdoch reportedly hoped to use DeSantis to make former President Donald Trump “a non person.” According to documents released in Dominion’s lawsuit against Fox, Murdoch and other executives sought to “keep Trump down” after the 2021 Capitol insurrection and “move on for the future of the conservative movement.” DeSantis, who one Fox producer called “the future” of the Republican Party, became a frequent guest on the network throughout 2021 and 2022. [Vox, 2/28/23]
- Fox offered DeSantis friendly coverage as he teased a presidential campaign. DeSantis, who was elevated to national prominence in part thanks to that strategy of regular Fox appearances, was the recipient of overwhelmingly positive coverage from the network in early 2023. Mentions of the Florida governor on Fox even outpaced those of Trump for the first time in early March. [Media Matters, 5/17/21; 3/3/23; 3/14/23]
- As DeSantis' campaign stalls, Murdoch-owned media has grown cold to him. Though the Florida governor always trailed Trump in polling, that gap has widened in recent months, and the Murdochs were quick to take note. Owing to this, as well as dissatisfaction with DeSantis’ “nonstop cultural-grievance strategy” and “awkward” public image, Rupert Murdoch has reportedly lost faith in the Florida governor’s ability to defeat Trump, leading to a sudden shift in the tone of coverage across News Corp. properties, including The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. [Rolling Stone, 7/11/23]
- New reporting suggests Murdoch wants Youngkin to enter the race. As DeSantis faces increasingly critical coverage across Murdoch-owned media, the media mogul has remarked in private that he “would still like to see Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia enter the race.” [The New York Times, 7/12/22]
- Youngkin’s plans for 2024 remain unclear. Despite suggesting in April that he would not be running for president, pressure from donors reportedly led the governor to reconsider a presidential run, with a senior aide to Youngkin claiming that success in Virginia’s November elections would be “proof that his political machine is ready to go.” Success in these elections would be crucial to Youngkin’s national image, as much of his agenda has to this point been halted by Democratic control of the state Senate. [Axios, 5/22/23; NBC, 1/26/2023]
Fox’s recent coverage of Youngkin has been overwhelmingly positive — and in some cases, has pushed for a 2024 run
- Youngkin has been featured in at least 6 live interviews on Fox in the past month — one each on Fox & Friends, Fox & Friends Weekend, America’s Newsroom, and Fox News Tonight, and twice on Hannity.
- Fox & Friends co-hosts Kayleigh McEnany and Steve Doocy pushed Youngkin to run in 2024, with Doocy noting that “powerful Republican donors … are encouraging you to jump into the race.” On the July 5 edition of Fox & Friends, correspondent Griff Jenkins interviewed Youngkin live at a Virginia diner, giving him a platform to attack President Joe Biden with culture war talking points on parental rights, school closures, and LGBTQ content in schools. Jenkins then asked what Youngkin would do to rein in the National Education Association if “hypothetically speaking, you were president of the United States,” leading Doocy and McEnany to push Youngkin on the possibility of a campaign for three minutes straight, arguing there “will be a clamoring for you to enter the race” if Virginia Republicans take control of the state Senate in November. Though Youngkin did not give a clear answer, Doocy interjected: “I think that’s a yes.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/5/23]
- McEnany praised Youngkin for beating the “corrupt education establishment,” commenting that “there will be a lot of people saying, ‘Run, Youngkin, run,’ should that happen in the fall.” During the June 22 edition of Fox News Tonight, McEnany lavished praise on Youngkin, commenting that “to have a Republican winning on the issue of education, it’s almost unheard of, but you did it in winning Virginia … a state no presidential candidate on the Republican side has won since George W. Bush.” McEnany also speculated about Youngkin running for president, asking him, “Are you waiting on the sidelines for 2024? There will be a lot of people saying, ‘Run Youngkin, run’ should that happen in the fall.” [Fox News, Fox News Tonight, 6/22/23]
- Fox guest Doug Schoen promoted Youngkin as 2024’s “dark horse” candidate. During a June 28 appearance on Fox & Friends, Schoen argued Youngkin represents “a moderate to conservative version of Republicanism that is inclusive and is not polarizing,” suggesting — like Murdoch — that DeSantis has been overly involved in culture wars. Hosts Doocy and McEnany both commented that Youngkin’s win was especially impressive because Virginia is a battleground state. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/28/23]
- Co-hosts Pete Hegseth and Rachel Campos-Duffy asked Youngkin twice if he was planning a presidential run. In a June 17 interview on Fox & Friends Weekend, Youngkin was teed up by the hosts for attacks against the Biden administration as the on-screen chyron read “Youngkin takes on Dems climate agenda in new op-ed.” Hegseth commented that Youngkin was “talking about some big, national issues here,” asking, “Are you still considering whether you would run for president?” Though Youngkin gave an indirect answer, Campos-Duffy pushed further, repeating, “Are you considering a run though?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Weekend, 6/17/23]
- Fox host Sean Hannity gave Youngkin a platform to promote his efforts to flip the Virginia state Senate to Republicans, then asked if he was considering a 2024 campaign. In a July 12 appearance on Hannity, Hannity opened by telling Youngkin, “God bless you” because he “showed a blue state can turn red.” Later in the interview, Hannity helped the governor promote his efforts to lead Virginia Republicans to victory in November, crucial for the parts of his agenda which have so far failed in the Democrat-led state Senate. [Fox News, Hannity, 7/12/23]
Youngkin has been touted as a “moderate” answer to DeSantis’ nonstop cultural grievances, but the Virginia governor has implemented his own reactionary vision since assuming office
- The Washington Post: Youngkin’s administration has a track record of limiting access to public health resources related to abortion, sexual health, and LGBTQ issues. According to The Washington Post, “Youngkin’s administration has at least three times in the year and a half since he took office removed information from the website without consulting its own subject-matter experts, records show, stripping public health resources on abortions, sexual health and pregnancy, among other issues.” [The Washington Post, 7/6/23]
- Slate: Youngkin pushed for a 15-week abortion ban that had “extremely limited exceptions.” The bill, which Youngkin called a “bipartisan consensus,” exposed “doctors to criminal liability for performing emergency abortions, including up to 10 years’ imprisonment.” [Slate, 1/11/23]
- The Washington Post: Glenn Youngkin initially refused to acknowledge Biden’s 2020 victory. As reported in the Post, “Youngkin never claimed the 2020 election was stolen, but refused for the first four months of his bid to acknowledge Biden had been legitimately elected. His response to repeated questions on that point was studiously coy: Youngkin would say only Biden had been sworn in and was living in the White House.” [The Washington Post, 9/28/22]
- NPR: Youngkin restricted the rights of trans students in Virginia public schools. According to NPR, “Youngkin's administration has proposed new policies for the state's schools regarding how they treat transgender students, including restricting which bathrooms they can use and which pronouns they may go by.” Under these new guidelines, school employees are prevented from using a trans student’s correct pronouns without the filing of a legal document or court order by the parent — a process that could be circumvented if the official felt they were compelled to speak in a manner that “would violate their constitutionally protected rights.” [NPR, 9/18/22]
- USA Today: Youngkin banned “inherently divisive practices” like critical race theory in Virginia schools and created a “tip line” for reporting teachers. Youngkin’s administration created the email tip line so parents could report “any instances where they feel that their fundamental rights are being violated,” but the program was shuttered by the end of the year because, out of the many tips received, “much of the activity may not have been what he was looking for. CRT, the graduate school-level framework that examines how racism continues to shape society, came up rarely.” [USA Today, 11/3/22]