Former President Trump while in office could usually turn to Fox News for comfort. There were differences from time to time, and Trump made headlines occasionally by going after personalities on Fox — most famously Megyn Kelly during a 2015 GOP presidential primary debate.
But for the most part, Trump, a rabid cable news follower, could tune in to find Fox News star hosts heaping praise on him and his administration while lambasting his critics and political enemies.
Trump still has his supporters on the network, but the dynamic between a former president openly flirting with another run for the White House and Rupert Murdoch’s top media asset is definitely changing.
For one thing, Fox is more focused on President Biden, a subject of relentless prime-time attacks, than Trump, and the network didn’t air Trump’s speech this week in Washington, D.C., even as it did air a portion of an earlier address Tuesday by former Vice President Mike Pence.
“Trump’s superpower is getting all the coverage. That’s not happening anymore. Fox is not covering him 24 hours a day,” said Daniel Cassino, a media expert who wrote a 2016 book about the network’s influence over American politics. “So it seems that is leading to frustration that he’s not dominating Fox the way he did before.”
That tension boiled over this week, when Trump lashed out at Fox and its flagship morning program, “Fox & Friends,” after two of the show’s longtime co-hosts threw cold water on polling suggesting young voters felt Trump was the best choice for Republicans looking to win back the White House.
Other Murdoch-owned media properties have separately fired off editorials critical of Trump in the wake of damaging revelations from the House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
“Character is revealed in a crisis, and Mr. Pence passed his Jan. 6 trial,” The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board wrote last week. “Mr. Trump utterly failed his.”
“Mr. Trump took an oath to defend the Constitution, and he had a duty as Commander in Chief to protect the Capitol from a mob attacking it in his name. He refused,” the board declared.
The New York Post, also owned by Murdoch, ripped Trump in a separate editorial.
“It’s up to the Justice Department to decide if this is a crime. But as a matter of principle, as a matter of character, Trump has proven himself unworthy to be this country’s chief executive again,” it wrote. “His only focus was to find any means — damn the consequences — to block the peaceful transfer of power. There is no other explanation, just as there is no defense, for his refusal to stop the violence.”
Trump in a statement on Tuesday complained that Fox, the Journal and the Post “have always been against me, until I won.”
News Corp., which owns and operates the three outlets, declined to comment on Trump’s recent attacks.
A representative for Trump did not return a request for comment on suggestions that he has fallen out of favor with Murdoch.
Spats between Trump and Murdoch’s conservative media empire are not unheard of.
The former president was infuriated by the outlet’s decision to call Arizona for Biden on election night and famously sparred with one of its former top anchors, Chris Wallace, before the election on a number of occasions.
Several of Fox’s top personalities were also critical of Trump following the 2020 election.
The recent ascension of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to the national spotlight has given Murdoch’s news outlets a new face to put forth for its millions of viewers and readers as a potential successor to Trump as the leader of the Republican Party and conservative movement.
British pundit Piers Morgan, whom Murdoch recently hired to host a show on United Kingdom-based TalkTV, penned an op-ed in the Post earlier this summer explicitly urging conservative voters in the U.S. to “dump Trump” and throw their support behind DeSantis.
“I think that Trump is quite frankly a dead weight for Fox and Murdoch,” said A.J. Bauer, a professor at the University of Alabama who researches and analyzes trends in conservative media. “He did a lot of very helpful work for them, he boosted them for four, five, six years, but they’re not loyal in the way that he expects and the way he needs in order for his political winds to shift.”
Some say that if Trump wins the GOP presidential nomination again, Murdoch and the former president could put their public feuding aside, as they have in previous years.
“If Trump runs for president in 2024 and buries the field, there will be plenty of time for Murdoch to do what he traditionally does: Place his bet on the leading pony,” Jack Shafer, the longtime media writer, said in a column reacting to the editorials from the Journal and the Post this week. “Like a pair of powerful gangsters who quarrel over how to divide the spoils, Murdoch and Trump will reconcile if they determine it’s in their mutual interests to reconcile.”
Trump also still gets plenty of coverage on prime-time Fox that he likes.
Host Laura Ingraham on Tuesday night reacted to news of the Justice Department including Trump in its ongoing investigations into Jan. 6 by calling it “a political vendetta to prevent someone from running for office and succeeding and winning the presidency again to millions and millions of Americans.”
Fellow prime-time host Sean Hannity, a longtime personal friend of Trump, has routinely denounced the Jan. 6 panel as a “witch hunt” lacking merit.