Rupert Murdoch veered off script this week with some tweets that ran completely counter to the Fox News spin this campaign season. In fact, they undercut the entire political premise at Fox, which is to attack Democrats without question, and to force Republican politicians to champion a truly right-wing agenda. Is there a rift brewing?
It's true Murdoch has a history of taking stances on issues such as global warming and immigration that are diametrically opposed to the propaganda programming Fox airs. So perhaps this is another example of that.
And some observers might say Murdoch's candid comments suggest competing voices are welcome within News Corp. I think that's unlikely though, at least within Roger Ailes' Fox world where you're either on the team or off. Remember that in 2008, angry that Murdoch might use his New York Post to endorse Obama after Fox had tagged him a terrorist sympathizer, Ailes reportedly "threw a fit" and threatened to quit. (Murdoch's Post endorsed McCain instead.)
Did Murdoch's curious tweets cause similar consternation?
Note this one:
Election: To win Romney must open big tent to sympathetic families. Stop fearing far right which has nowhere else to go. Otherwise no hope.
Murdoch stresses Romney has "no hope" of winning in November if he keeps kowtowing (my word) to the "far right." Instead, he has to embrace the "big tent."
Where to begin in describing the lack of self-awareness in that statement? Or is it just shocking hypocrisy in play?
Murdoch owns Fox News, the epicenter of the "far right" in America, and Fox News has been relentlessly urging Republican candidates to wage right-wing battles against Obama. But seven weeks before Election Day, Murdoch now thinks Romney should stop trying to impress the "far right"? He should stop trying to appeal to the Fox News audience?
Urging a "big tent" appeal, Murdoch actually sounds like the Republican strategists who try to win elections for a living (instead of winning cable ratings races) who fretted that the vice presidential selection of Paul Ryan would doom the Romney campaign because of the "extremely unpopular" policies Ryan advocates.
The irony is Murdoch (and Fox News) was among those who all but demanded Ryan be the VP pick, and who then loudly cheered his selection. The pivotal Ryan pick was a perfect example of Romney catering to the "far right" in a way that Murdoch now says is counter productive to the candidate.
Also, it's a bit baffling the way Murdoch dismissively refers to the "far right," as if he's not the most important broadcaster within the "far right," and as if Fox isn't the "far right" sun around which the conservative movement orbits every day. There's a reason New York magazine labeled Ailes "the head of the Republican Party." And there's a reason a GOP source told the magazine "You can't run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger Every single candidate has consulted with Roger."
And note to Rupert: The Republican Party, at the urging of Fox News, eagerly folded its "big tent" years ago.
Here's another Murdoch tweet from this week that likely produced bewildered looks inside the Fox News green room:
Retrospect; Conventions mixed but net big win for democrats. Michelle O and Clinton the big stars. Bill brilliant, Hillary away until 016.
The proclamation from the Fox News owner that the DNC was a hit last week, and that "big star" Bill Clinton was "brilliant," must have come as a surprise to Fox talkers who spent last week denigrating the convention and bemoaning Clinton's flat, "self-indulgent" speech.
In fact, Fox tried for days to deflate the convention by lying about its television ratings, misleading about what Obama said in his acceptance speech, and in general just endlessly bemoaning its very existence. (Fox was simply part of the larger right-wing media crackup over the convention.)
Turns out though, Murdoch thought the whole thing was a "big win for Democrats."
I don't know what Murdoch's long-view strategy is, but in the short-term, by touting the success of the Democratic convention and downplaying the political importance of the "far right," it sure looks like he's throwing Fox News under the bus.
Crossposted at County Fair, a Media Matters blog.