- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2023

The beef between former President Donald Trump and Fox News is getting ugly and is leaving an indelible mark on the early jockeying in the 2024 presidential race.

Mr. Trump has laid into Rupert Murdoch, chair of Fox Corp., and Trump allies have piled on, accusing the nation’s most-watched news network of selling out, turning its back on the MAGA movement and trying to tip the scales in favor of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

The simmering tensions boiled over at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington where former Trump adviser Steve Bannon sparked one of the loudest ovations of the four-day confab after he blasted Mr. Murdoch.

“People were standing on their chairs and saying, ‘[expletive] Fox,’” Mr. Bannon told The Washington Times. 

He is among a growing faction in the Trump universe who say Mr. Murdoch, global investment billionaire Ken Griffin and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky are part of a cabal trying to derail Mr. Trump’s reelection bid.

“I am not trying to shut down Fox, but there is zero probability we will allow the rootless cosmopolitan elite that are the Murdochs — these foreigners — to basically say Trump will not return to the White House,” Mr. Bannon said. “It will not happen.”

SEE ALSO: Trump supporters at CPAC say Biden woes enlighten Americans

Mr. Bannon said he is looking into filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing Fox News of giving free campaign contributions to Mr. DeSantis vis-a-vis its coverage. 

“It shows such a lack of respect for the audience,” he said.

Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.

Fox News has long been viewed as the home for Republican and conservative viewpoints, much like MSNBC has been the natural habitat for Democratic and liberal voices.

The once-strong bond between Mr. Trump’s political movement and Fox News has been strained since the network called Arizona for President Biden in the 2020 election. 

The decision infuriated Mr. Trump and his supporters, most of whom hold the stolen election claims as an article of faith and remain skeptical of Fox News

SEE ALSO: Trump takes lead in a two-man matchup with DeSantis, poll shows

Conservative radio host John Fredericks said Fox News has given Mr. Trump’s third bid for president short shrift. He described the relationship between the MAGA movement and Fox News as “tenuous.”

“The fact that they didn’t cover President Trump on one thing he did between his announcement in Mar-a-Lago and his CPAC speech is absolutely despicable,” Mr. Fredericks said. 

Murdoch can do what he wants, I don’t care. We have built a new alternative media,” he said. “If they don’t want to run our stuff, if they want to make believe we don’t exist so that they can be controlled and kneel to woke corporations and Wall Street, that is fine. Their viewership is gonna dry up.”

Fox News, in prior years, had a big presence at CPAC. That was not the case this year. The network pulled out of the event.

Media row instead featured an assortment of Trump-inspired networks and talking heads, ranging from Mr. Fredericks to Right Side Broadcasting and Real America’s Voice News, which airs Mr. Bannon’s “War Room” show.

Mr. Bannon was smack in the middle of it all. Crowds salivated for the chance to catch him in person and  watch him tape “War Room.”

The simmering tensions are playing out amid a legal battle between Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems. The company has brought a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the network for knowingly promoting false claims that the company was involved in election fraud.

The case appears to be headed to trial.

Mr. Murdoch, in recently released testimony, admitted that he “seriously doubted” the rigged election claims and said, “We thought everything was on the up-and-up.”

The revelations have opened up the network to stiff criticism from both the right and left, including the charge that the decision to air the bogus claims helped fuel the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Mr. Trump has come at it from a different angle. He has said if Mr. Murdoch does not believe the election was stolen, “then he & his group of MAGA Hating Globalist RINOs should get out of the News Business as soon as possible.”

On Monday, Mr. Trump doubled down on his criticism with a 3 a.m. post on Truth Social, his social media platform.

“How does Rupert Murdoch say there was no election fraud when 2000 Mules shows, on government tape, that there were millions of ‘stuffed ballots,’ & Elon Musk released the FBI/Twitter Files, where pollsters say that the silencing of information made a 17% difference in the Vote,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Then there was, of course, FBI/Facebook, another big election integrity fraud costing millions of Votes-& this doesn’t even count all of the many other ways they cheated, or the fact that they avoided State Legislatures?”

The movie “2000 Mules” was produced by conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza who used purported “geotracking” data from cellphone apps to trace people, or mules, allegedly involved with stuffing ballot drop boxes in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The claims were never substantiated.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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