WASHINGTON: The powerful media empire of conservative billionaire Rupert Murdoch appeared to turn its back Thursday on Donald Trump, labeling the former US president a “loser” who shows “increasingly poor judgment” after the midterm elections.
Just days before he is expected to announce his 2024 White House candidacy, the Wall Street Journal, the flagship of Murdoch’s News Corp, declared in an editorial that “Trump Is the Republican Party’s Biggest Loser,” pointing to the party’s disappointing performance in Tuesday’s midterms.
Trump later Friday hit back at Murdoch, appearing to relish a scuffle, accusing News Corp. media of falling in line to back a potential Republican rival of Trump for the 2024 presidential nomination, a choice he said News Corp. would rue.
The cover of News Corp’s tabloid New York Post depicted Trump on a precarious wall as “Trumpty Dumpty” who “had a great fall” in the vote, blaming him for the failure of Republicans to sweep past Democratic rivals in the battle for control of Congress and governors’ mansions.
And at the hugely influential Fox News television network, praise was thick for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, seen as Trump’s top rival for the party’s 2024 nomination.
“The biggest winner of the midterm elections was without a doubt Governor Ron DeSantis, whose landslide victory in the state of Florida was breathtaking,” wrote Fox columnist Liz Peek.
“The biggest loser? Donald Trump,” she said.
After supporting him through his 2017-2021 presidency, Fox, a Murdoch arm separate from News Corp, did not completely abandon Trump, still the most powerful figure in the Republican Party.
But even the network’s biggest star, talk-show host Tucker Carlson, assailed the Republican establishment for Tuesday’s ballot box failures and at least partly blamed the ex-president.
“Many others are saying that Donald Trump is the reason Republicans didn’t do as well as they thought they would. That’s a more complicated question,” he said late Wednesday.
“The truth is, Trump has always been a mixed blessing politically.”
The Murdoch outlets are some of the most influential sources of information for US conservatives, unabashedly backing Republicans and attacking Democrats.
So blaming Trump for election disappointments while lavishing praise on DeSantis could shape public views ahead of 2024.
Trump is expected to announce his candidacy next week, whereas DeSantis, who first had to win reelection to the Florida governorship, has only hinted that he might battle for the White House.
In fact Republicans scored significant gains Tuesday in the House of Representatives and are expected to wrest control of the chamber from Democrats when the outstanding races are settled.
But the party had expected to more powerfully trounce President Joe Biden’s Democrats and easily seize both the House and the Senate — still undecided — as well as some key governorships.
Instead, a number of candidates closely aligned with and endorsed by Trump failed to win in key races.
“Trumpy Republican candidates failed at the ballot box in states that were clearly winnable,” the Wall Street Journal wrote.
DeSantis meanwhile did not tap Trump for support in his race Tuesday, and he swept to a massive reelection victory.
On the cover of its first edition after the election, the New York Post celebrated DeSantis as “DeFUTURE.”
Meanwhile it told Trump: “The fate of your candidates Tuesday looks terrible for your increasingly poor judgment, which grows parallel to your desperation.”
Trump appeared to confirm the divorce from the Murdoch empire Thursday.
“Despite having picked so many winners, I have to put up with the Fake News. For me, Fox News was always gone,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.
He issued a rambling four-paragraph statement later decrying DeSantis — whom he ridiculed as DeSanctimonious — for “playing games” about whether he will run for president in 2024.
In 2016, “Fox News fought me to the end,” Trump said, until he won, “then they couldn’t have been nicer.”
The Wall Street Journal “loved Low Energy Jeb Bush, and a succession of other people” but Trump said he “easily knocked them out, one by one,” and the Murdoch properties fell into line.
“We’re in exactly the same position now,” Trump asserted.