Trump and Murdoch lock horns

There is no love lost between Mr Rupert Murdoch (above) and Mr Donald Trump, and the latter's recent controversial statements as a Republican hopeful have only made things worse.
There is no love lost between Mr Rupert Murdoch (above) and Mr Donald Trump, and the latter's recent controversial statements as a Republican hopeful have only made things worse.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Republican presidential hopeful woos CEO of influential Fox News channel instead

NEW YORK • In the rarefied world of New York moguls, Mr Rupert Murdoch never thought much of Mr Donald J. Trump. Mr Trump's divorces and marriages sold newspapers, but beyond that, Mr Murdoch had no time for the flashy real estate developer.

"Phony" was how Mr Murdoch often described him to friends. There was the time Mr Trump screamed that he would sue for libel, after Mr Murdoch's New York Post reported that the exclusive Maidstone golf club in East Hampton planned to deny Mr Trump a membership.

Then there was the awkward aftermath of Mr Murdoch's own high-profile divorce from Ms Wendi Deng Murdoch, when Mr Trump's daughter, Ivanka, remained loyal to Ms Deng Murdoch, a close friend.

Now, as Mr Trump holds on to a first-place position in the polls while being roundly denounced for harsh statements about Mexican immigrants and for belittling Senator John McCain's war record, he has already lost the man who controls many of the nation's most important media organisations.

"When is Donald Trump going to stop embarrassing his friends, let alone the whole country?" Mr Murdoch wrote on Twitter on Saturday, after Mr Trump mocked Senator McCain for having been captured as a pilot during the Vietnam War.

On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal, the crown jewel of Mr Murdoch's print company, News Corp, published a scathing editorial calling Mr Trump a "catastrophe". And The Post's front page screamed "Don Voyage" under a headline declaring "Trump is toast".

Mr Trump responded by trashing The Journal on Twitter. "Look how small the pages have become," he wrote. "Looks like a tabloid."

Recognising that winning over the notoriously headstrong Mr Murdoch appears unlikely, Mr Trump has set his sights, instead, on wooing perhaps the only media executive who wields as much firepower among Republicans: Mr Roger E.

Ailes, the chairman and chief executive of Fox News.

As the creator of the highest-rated cable news channel in the country and one of the most profitable assets in Mr Murdoch's film and television company 21st Century Fox, Mr Ailes has been given the freedom to operate largely outside the purview of Mr Murdoch.

Mr Trump and Mr Ailes had a private lunch last month in New York but Mr Trump has not arranged a meeting with Mr Murdoch, as other Republican candidates have.

Mr Trump's treatment by Fox News is crucial because of the influence the channel wields among the Republican Party's base.

And Fox News, as the host for the first primary debate on Aug 6, has set the criterion that the debate will include the top 10 candidates as determined by national polls.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2015, with the headline 'Trump and Murdoch lock horns'. Print Edition | Subscribe