The question of Rupert Murdoch’s relationship with his top-rated TV blowhard, Bill O’Reilly, has come up before. Now, courtesy of Michael Calderone at Politico, an excerpt from Michael Wolff’s upcoming biography of Murdoch is asserting that:
“It is not just Murdoch (and everybody else at News Corp.’s highest levels) who absolutely despises Bill O’Reilly, the bullying, mean-spirited, and hugely successful evening commentator, but Roger Ailes himself who loathes him. Success, however, has cemented everyone to each other.”
If Murdoch and Ailes “absolutely despise” O’Reilly, I can only hope they come to despise me as much. The apparent reward for such hatred is endless fawning, copious perks, and a brand new multimillion dollar contract renewal. But I wouldn’t get too excited. Wolff provides very little support for his conclusion, and what he does provide is weak and contradicted by past comments and behavior.
Wolff suggests that Murdoch’s purchase of Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, was in part to distance himself from the tenor of Fox News. Though why he thinks that the famously conservative newspaper is a departure from the obvious partiality of Fox is a mystery. Wolff seems to think that Murdoch finds the more sedate bias of the Journal preferable to the loudmouth variety at Fox. However, he doesn’t consider the more likely scenario that Murdoch will turn up the volume at the Journal. He has already said publicly that wants the Journal to publish shorter, punchier stories, with less business and more general news. And Wolff, at least in this excerpt, doesn’t consider that a major factor in purchasing the Journal was to beef up resources for Murdoch’s recently launched Fox Business Network.
Politico’s Calderone curiously opines that Murdoch’s political views are “difficult to pin down.” In support of this he cites Murdoch’s backing for Thatcher, Reagan, Blair, Koch, and McCain. That seems pretty easy to pin down to me. They are all notable conservatives with the exception of Tony Blair, who started out as a progressive Labour Party leader, but ended up as a Bush lapdog. And rumors have it that Murdoch and Blair made a pact early on that if Blair did not interfere with Murdoch’s business aspirations, Murdoch would see to it that News Corp. enterprises (including the London Times, the Sun, and the Sky News satellite network) would stand behind Blair.
As further evidence of Murdoch’s squishy liberalism, the article cites the New York Post’s endorsement of Obama over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. But the endorsement from the Post reads like an outright condemnation. Here are some highlights from the Post’s column endorsing Obama:
- “…an untried candidate, to be sure…”
- “Obama is not without flaws.”
- “For all his charisma and his eloquence, the rookie senator sorely lacks seasoning…”
- “Regarding national security, his worldview is beyond naive…”
- “His all-things-to-all-people approach to complicated domestic issues also arouses scant confidence”
- “…he is not Team Clinton…That counts for a very great deal.”
- “…we don’t agree much with Obama on substantive issues.”
With friends like that, who needs enemas? The Post eventually endorsed McCain in the general election. And unlike the Obama endorsement, it was enthusiastic and complimentary.
I don’t for minute believe that Murdoch has become disenchanted with O’Reilly or Fox News. His views are as consistent as ever. In September he lashed out at Obama saying that he is a naive, 60’s style Socialist, and that his administration would worsen inflation, ruin America’s relationships with other nations, and drive companies to leave the country. All achievements for which George W. Bush can already claim credit.
Shallow analysis like that of Wolff and Politico has been asserted before. In the end, Murdoch is who he has always been: an irredeemably conservative corporatist, consumed with lust for money and power. As long as O’Reilly contributes to those goals, Murdoch’s love for him will endure.
Hilarious Update: Kara Swisher at All Things Digital has dredged up a laughably appropriate example of Michael Wolff’s deficiency of insight. In 1998 Wolff said:
“I think the myth of the Internet is that it is going to come into everybody’s home.”
Good call, Mikey.