Emily Berl / The New York Times
Sunday, July 1, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Think of the people most commonly associated with President Donald Trump’s destructive presidency, and names like Sessions, Bannon, Miller, Manafort, Hannity and Kushner may come to mind.
But another name belongs on that list, either at or near the top.
Of those who are abetting Trump in dividing the American people and undercutting the foundations of our democracy, Rupert Murdoch looms large.
The Fox News executive chairman not only provides Trump with a megaphone to activate his base supporters, along with a de facto staff of advisers like Sean Hannity who pipe advice directly to the president, but he’s also become closely aligned with Trump on a personal level.
“They talk weekly — and sometimes daily,” wrote the Financial Times’ Edward Luce in May. “Mr. Trump takes his cue from Fox & Friends, the morning show that plays the same role in Mr. Trump’s day as the presidential intelligence briefing did for his predecessors. Sometimes Mr. Trump phones the show live. Thirty minutes into his latest call, one of the hosts had to cut him off. He was starting to incriminate himself.”
Luce went on to note that when Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox announced a mega-deal with Disney in December, Trump called to confirm that Murdoch was retaining Fox News among his holdings.
That’s how important Murdoch and Fox News are to Trump.
So while Murdoch may not get as much attention as others for his role in Trump’s presidency, Americans should make no mistake: Murdoch is a clear and present threat to the nation.
The media mogul has a history of undermining democratic tenets in both his native Australia and in Great Britain, most recently when he helped stoke nationalist fervor that led to the U.K.’s disastrous Brexit vote.
His deliberate disregard of journalistic standards and ethics helped erase the line between reporting and commentary, truth and propaganda, giving rise to Fox News’ Orwellian “fair and balanced” motto and to Trump’s “fake news” attacks that have left many Americans divided in camps based on the political leanings of their news sources.
While Murdoch has been all over the board politically, he’s had an insatiable hunger for more power and influence. London Evening Standard columnist Anthony Hilton said that when he asked Murdoch why he was opposed to the European Union, the response was: “That’s easy. When I go into Downing Street, they do what I say; when I go to Brussels, they take no notice.”
And now, Murdoch has the same kind of pull on Pennsylvania Avenue that he gained on Downing Street.
He’s built one of the president’s most powerful assets — the audience that Trump has repeatedly weaponized against his opponents, not only those on the left but moderates within his own party. And he’s created a pipeline through which Trump can gauge the opinion of that audience, and Murdoch and his staff can push Trump’s buttons by funneling him advice.
Just as he helped entice voters in the U.K. into the self-destructive Brexit separation — and while doing so, violating one of the nation’s strict broadcasting rules by airing pro-Brexit commentary on the day of the vote — he’s poised to help Trump on his march toward authoritarianism.
Murdoch and Trump: This is a dangerous combination.
So how to push back against Murdoch and his family?
It will require more than ignoring Fox News and its website. Boycotting the organization’s advertisers and supporting its competitors would be a strong start, as would cutting ties with businesses that insist on showing the channel in lobbies or other public areas.
It’s time to actively oppose Murdoch and the propaganda machine he calls a news organization.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct Rupert Murdoch's title at Fox News. | (July 2, 2018)