As you may know, American tabloid newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch owns a large number of media outlets across the United States, including the Wall Street Journal and American news network Fox News. He also happens to be one of Donald Trump’s closest friends and biggest supporters. While it’s not unusual for business leaders to have close friendships with one another, Trump and Murdoch’s relationship goes beyond business interests and into the political arena. In fact, Trump even named one of his sons after Murdoch! Here’s a closer look at how this unconventional friendship between two powerful men came to be.
How Did They Meet?
The two first met in the 1980s at a Manhattan social gathering and have been friends ever since. Trump, who was newly married at the time and had just bought the most luxurious home in Manhattan, the 65-story Trump Tower, invited Murdoch to stay with him and his wife, Ivana. Murdoch accepted the invitation and took up residence in the tower, which became known as ‘Mar-a-Lago’, its last three letters standing for the names of the three Muses – tragedy, comedy, and romance – of Greek mythology.
Murdoch regularly spends his winters in Palm Beach, where he owns property, and his summers in Maine, where he has a large mansion. When he’s in New York, the 87-year-old mogul usually stays at Trump Tower or the Manhattan Palace, a Midtown high-rise that also houses a hotel and condos. He is so close to Trump that he sometimes acts as a lobbyist or as a sounding board for the real estate mogul.
Murdoch became a significant donor to the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, contributing over $750,000. He visited the White House multiple times in support of Trump’s candidacy and attended several official functions with the president. In return, Trump has praised Murdoch’s ‘golden Touch’ and credited him with helping to elect him president.
Why Does Murdoch Support Trump?
It’s not hard to see why Murdoch supports Trump. The president, who is also a wealthy man, has expressed interest in expanding media markets, especially throughout the United States, and Murdoch has a lot of experience in this area.
Murdoch also sees the president as a potential market for his newspapers and television stations. According to The New York Times, in 2016, Murdoch’s three main US properties (the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and Fox News) had a combined audience of nearly 500 million people. By comparison, the entire 2016 United States presidential election had an audience of about 330 million.
Additionally, the Times notes, “Mr. Murdoch has been among the most vocal supporters of Mr. Trump in the media, and the president has returned the favor, repeatedly complimenting him on Twitter and at campaign rallies,” and going so far as to name one of his sons, Oliver, after Murdoch.
The close relationship between Trump and Murdoch is a unique one, and it goes beyond business and into the political arena. Trump has said that it is “not a usual friendship” but that he and Murdoch are “good friends” and that he is “very proud” to have such a prominent supporter in his corner. Despite their differences, including on some political issues, this is not a relationship that is likely to end any time soon.
Is Trump’s Relationship With Murdoch Bad For America?
It’s complicated. The president has frequently stated that he is friends with many different types of people and that he is not beholden to any particular group or ideology.
That being said, it is clear that Trump’s friendly relationship with Murdoch does not sit well with everyone. The Atlantic writer James Bennet has accused the president of “normalizing corruption” and “pandering” to Murdoch.
“He is, in other words… acting like a typical member of the elite,” writes Bennet, “seeking favours from a powerful friend to advance his interests.” Bennet argues that the close relationship between Trump and Murdoch “will almost certainly lead to further conflicts of interest” and “will almost certainly damage the legitimacy” of the president.
Aly Raisman, a liberal commentator and journalist who primarily covers issues of gender and sexuality, was also critical of Trump’s association with Murdoch, arguing that the president is “profiting greatly from the office of president” and “is creating a conflict of interest” by “benefitting from (Murdoch’s) political connections.”
While they may disagree on some fundamental issues (such as globalization and trade), it is clear that Trump allies such as Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel have also expressed concerns about the president’s relationship with Murdoch.
The question is, does all this criticism hold any water? Is Trump’s relationship with Murdoch, a man who is both a billionaire and an influential media figure, really that bad?
To be clear, the president, who is currently in the middle of a congressional impeachment inquiry, has not been accused of any specific wrongdoing by Bennet, Raisman, or McDaniel. These particular critics simply believe that Trump’s continued friendly relationship with Murdoch is not a good look for the United States.
But for a man who has refused to release his tax returns, has repeatedly criticized media organizations who have challenged his version of events, and who has said that he is friends with many different types of people, it is surprising that Trump’s relationship with one man, Murdoch, is receiving so much scrutiny.
It’s also critical to point out that Trump, who has boasted about his connections to powerful people, has repeatedly refused to hold himself to the same standards that he wants others to follow. What’s more is that he has specifically singled out Media mogul and founder of the FOX News network, Rupert Murdoch, for praise.
It is well known within the president’s inner circle that he considers Murdoch to be one of his best friends. Despite repeated questioning from House impeachment investigators about his ties to foreign countries and oligarchs, Trump has not provided any evidence that he has been hindered in his relationship with Murdoch by national security concerns.
What About Trump’s Alleged Conflicts Of Interest?
The president has denied that there are any conflicts of interest between himself and Murdoch.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in October 2019, Trump was asked about the relationship between his business interests and his role as president. “There is no conflict — otherwise I wouldn’t do the show,” he replied. “I mean, I could see how people could possibly view it as a conflict, but there is no conflict.”
While Trump has denied that there is anything improper about his relationship with Murdoch, others are not so sure. Ethics experts have repeatedly pointed out that the president’s continued close relationship with a man who is both a billionaire and highly influential in his own right is likely to lead to further conflicts of interest, noting the numerous times that Trump has cited Murdoch’s opinion or asked questions of a media figure during his 2020 reelection campaign.
The most recent example of which was on Oct. 16, when he asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, “Who do you think is the best at this stuff? Tell me, who?” The British prime minister responded by naming the Australian news anchor, who then proceeded to ask two questions about Brexit.
Ethics experts have also pointed out that Trump’s insistence that there should not be any conflicts of interest with his presidency is not an adequate answer to the growing number of people, including members of his own administration, who have questioned his commitment to avoiding any potential conflicts of interest.
The Impact Of Trump’s Relationship With Murdoch
The president’s relationship with Murdoch is likely to have far-reaching and unpredictable consequences.
Murdoch is one of the most influential, if not the most influential, men in American media. He owns a large number of newspapers and television stations across the country, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and Fox News. Additionally, he is one of the few men who has been able to maintain control of his family’s media empire, which was founded in the 1920s.
Trump, who began his tenure as president with an attack on the media and frequent allegations of corruption, has frequently cited The Wall Street Journal, which he often reads, as proof of his claims that the mainstream media is “fake” and “corrupt.”