The Australian-born billionaire is disgusted by Trump’s handling of COVID-19, remarking that the president is his own worst enemy, that he is not listening to advice about how best to handle the pandemic, and that he’s creating a never-ending crisis for his administration, according to three people who have spoken with Murdoch.
In response to an email inquiry for this report asking him if he believes Biden will win in a landslide and his thoughts on Trump’s handling of coronavirus, Murdoch responded, “No comment except I’ve never called Trump an idiot,” referring to a 2018 report that the media mogul called the president a “fucking idiot” following a chat about immigration.
While Murdoch believes the outcome of the election is a fait accompli, his New York tabloid has been doing everything in its power to help Trump’s re-election chances, publishing a screaming page 1 story on Wednesday under the headline, “Biden Secret E-Mails.” The supposed “smoking gun” emails purported to show that Hunter Biden had introduced his father to a Ukrainian businessman when he was vice president, though the Post relied on unverified documents given to them by Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani. (Biden’s team denies that such a meeting took place.)
Murdoch had long prized having unfettered access to the White House, much like the direct line he has enjoyed to leaders in Australia and the U.K. But people familiar with the matter say the two men have not spoken in several weeks after Murdoch grew tired of Trump’s endless complaints about what the president viewed as negative coverage on Fox News.
The 89-year-old has spent much of 2020 in Oxfordshire with fourth wife, Jerry Hall, and is described by people both within Fox and News Corp as “semi-retired” from day-to-day operations of his media empire, having delegated responsibilities to his eldest son, Lachlan, following the sale of vast parts of 21st Century Fox to Disney for $52.4 billion last year.
At one point in the winter, as Murdoch grew increasingly frustrated with Trump, he even considered getting behind another Democratic candidate, having discussions about supporting Mike Bloomberg in his ill-fated presidential run, a Murdoch executive told The Daily Beast.
But he is now firmly of the mindset that the next president will be Biden, telling one associate, “after all that has gone on, people are ready for Sleepy Joe.”
Friends say Murdoch has never taken Trump seriously and his association with him is out of business necessity. He once tweeted, “When is Donald Trump going to stop embarrassing his friends, let alone the whole country?”
It has been a tumultuous year for the Murdoch family, with youngest son, James, and his wife, Kathryn, unleashing an extraordinary public attack on Fox News and News Corp over their coverage of the deadly Australian wildfires.
“Kathryn and James’ views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known,” a spokesperson for the couple told The Daily Beast in January.
“They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary.”
The couple’s combative stance against the family company led to James resigning from the board of News Corp in July, citing editorial disagreements.
“I reached the conclusion that you can venerate a contest of ideas, if you will, and we all do and that’s important,” he told The New York Times about his decision to quit. “But it shouldn’t be in a way that hides agendas. A contest of ideas shouldn’t be used to legitimize disinformation. And I think it’s often taken advantage of. And I think at great news organizations, the mission really should be to introduce fact to disperse doubt—not to sow doubt, to obscure fact, if you will.
“And I just felt increasingly uncomfortable with my position on the board having some disagreements over how certain decisions are being made. So it was actually not that hard a decision to remove myself and have a kind of cleaner slate.”
While the elder Murdoch has dialed back his workload, he is taking a keen interest in a secretive new TV news channel being developed in the U.K. by former CBS News chief David Rhodes, who has been tipped as a future head of Fox News, a network where he served as vice president of news.
People familiar with the project, which is expected to launch early in the new year, remain tight-lipped about its content, giving rise to speculation it will be a watered-down Fox News-style opinion-led platform to take audience share away from the BBC.
All parts of Murdoch’s empire have suffered staff cuts blamed on the pandemic and those with knowledge of the organization’s operations say budgets are being constantly reviewed with more cost-cutting in the cards.
In what many view as an indicator of the organization’s waning commitment to print, the company announced in August it would close its Bronx printing plant and move the printing of The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and the New York Post to The New York Times’ printing plant in Queens.
This isn’t the first time Murdoch has predicted a Democratic landslide, telling a conference in 2008 that Obama would win the election in a convincing victory.
The question that continues to be asked is how Fox News and its prime-time stars, who have gone all out for Trump, will react to the Nov. 3 verdict and who the Murdochs look to back in 2024, with insiders talking up the prospect of one of their own—Tucker Carlson—making a run for the White House.
Carlson has previously denied any interest in running for office. “I’ve never been involved in anything like that, I’ve never wanted to be involved in anything like that,” he told Mediaite in August. “I’ll tell you this: I’m completely committed to saying what I think is true, and politics is a hard place to do that.”