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Why Donald Trump’s Super Tuesday win is a defeat for Rupert Murdoch

Sign up for the daily digest chronicling the evolving media landscape here. New York CNN  —  Donald Trump just defeated Rupert Murdoch (again). With Nikki Haley exiting the presidential race, the twice-impeached, four-time indicted, insurrection-inciting former president has vanquished the field of Republican Party challengers to secure unbridled control over the GOP. That’s an outcome that Murdoch, the billionaire media mogul and one-time Republican kingmaker who controls Fox News, had hoped to avoid. Murdoch has privately leveled harsh criticism against Trump. And after the 2020 election, he even wrote in an email to a Fox News executive, disclosed during litigation with Dominion Voting Systems, “We want to make Trump a non person.” While Fox News never completely turned on Trump and blasted the election-denying president with its full might, the network did without question give him the cold shoulder as it flirted with other candidates in the Republican field over the last few years, most notably Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Fox News eagerly propped up DeSantis post-2020, all while effectively blacklisting Trump for a time. Murdoch’s tabloid The New York Post even once declared DeSantis “DeFUTURE.” That was no accident. Trump himself understood that Murdoch has not wanted him to serve as the Republican nominee. Over the past few years, he has repeatedly raged at the media mogul on his Truth Social platform, blasting him for perceived slights and for having worked to elevate DeSantis. Some of this criticism has been unfair, as we’ve noted, given Fox News’ general refusal to throw actual elbows at Trump and still echo much of his dishonest rhetoric, repeatedly shielding him as he was hit with 91 criminal counts and civil fraud judgments worth hundreds of millions of dollars after exiting office. But Trump was not wrong in his assessment that Murdoch’s network certainly would have preferred to have had another candidate at the helm of the Republican Party. Now that Trump has secured command over the GOP, it is déjà vu for Murdoch. Eight years after Trump beat Fox News into submission during the 2016 race (remember when the network sparred openly with him over his trashing of then-anchor Megyn Kelly, among other things?), he has done the same again. That means that as the presumptive GOP nominee, Trump will once again have Fox News at his full disposal, able to wield the network like he did during his time in the White House as an effective political weapon, which he will harness in the weeks and months ahead against President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party. Of course, the writing has been on the wall for Murdoch for some time now. And that has been reflected gradually in Fox News’ coverage. In recent months, the network has returned to its old ways, handing over its massive platform to Trump and allowing him to spread mis-and-disinformation. The reversal has even led Fox anchors to attack other outlets for having the courage to hold the wall against Trump’s lies and fact check his claims. With his victory in the primaries official, Trump has not only secured control over the GOP but regained command of his most powerful propaganda organ. Fox News — which will never support a Democratic candidate for president — is left with no real choice but to prop him up. Murdoch and his network executives know that if they were to dare not fall in line, Trump could batter the right-wing channel and encourage his legion of fans to switch over to Newsmax, as was the case in the immediate wake of the 2020 election. Put more simply: Trump has checkmated Murdoch, clearing one more hurdle standing in his way on the path to the White House.