One of the precious few salutary aspects of the Trump presidency is that it has forced some members of the mainstream media—and even a few conservatives—to face up to the rot inside the Republican Party and among its boosters. Exhibit A of right-wing decay is Rupert Murdoch, who, more than any single individual, has plotted the course of the GOP for the past 20 years. Liberals, such as yours truly, have been crowing for decades about the dangers of treating his media properties as legitimate news sources rather than as the purveyors of hate-filled lies and propaganda that they clearly are. Now, finally, these arguments are getting some traction.
This welcome reality check began with the campaign by Murdoch-owned media outlets to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller. As the independent prosecutor was readying his indictments against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and two others, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page demanded that Mueller resign, and a pair of its op-ed writers suggested that President Trump give everyone under investigation a blanket pardon. At the same time, a New York Post op-ed insisted that Manafort’s fellow indictee, onetime foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos, had done “nothing illegal” when he apparently colluded with the Russians during the election.
Meanwhile, it is all a mere coincidence, one supposes, that Murdoch’s flagship property, Fox News, found itself in the position of embracing and excusing one right-wing sex offender after another at the same time that it was revealed to be a den of right-wing sex offenders itself. With the recent accusations of child molestation against Alabama Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore, the network’s top-tier “talent”—Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham—have all questioned the veracity of the Washington Post report, which cited four on-the-record victims and more than 30 sources, and then changed the subject to the sins of either Harvey Weinstein or Bill Clinton. The Fox News anchors might as well have been taking their orders directly from Breitbart impresario Steve Bannon. Six advertisers abandoned Hannity after his defense of Moore, perhaps leading him to rethink his public position on Moore’s “consensual” sex life. Still, Hannity happily cheered on a campaign by his acolytes to attack and destroy Keurig coffee machines, following the withdrawal of the company’s advertising from his show. All of this demonstrates the fact that Murdoch has decided to throw in with the crazies, perverts, and Nazi sympathizers who populate Trump’s base, with no limits as to how low he will go. And lo and behold, it works. During this period, Fox News secured its prime-time ratings lead over MSNBC, with Hannity handily beating Rachel Maddow, whose numbers had surpassed Fox’s for three months in a row.