Is Murdoch trying to sink Romney?

By Nicholas Wapshott
July 10, 2012

Rupert Murdoch should never go on holiday. It only makes him grumpy. He returned last month from cruising on his yacht off the coast of Croatia looking for a scrap. When Steve Jobs invented the iPad, he could hardly have imagined the havoc caused by one crabby old geezer letting rip on Twitter. Murdoch, a genius with the snappy tabloid headline, didn’t need all 140 characters to reduce Romney’s campaign to toast. “Tough O Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless [Romney] drops old friends from team and hires some real pros,” he wrote, adding the fatal one-word zinger: “Doubtful.”

Romney met Murdoch recently for a secret chat about how things were going on the campaign trail, but the relaxed Republican nominee presumptive, perhaps with his lavish family vacation at Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, on his mind, said he thought everything was just dandy. As Murdoch’s editors know to their cost, when the antipodean grouch asks how things are going it means he thinks things are going badly. As Romney’s minders did not issue a handout about the disastrous meeting, the lazy fourth estate did not know it was going on and so did not report it. But Murdoch took to his Twitter account to let the world know he was NOT HAPPY.

As Murdoch told the British inquiry into press standards, it used to be that “If you want to judge my thinking, look at The Sun.” Nowadays Murdoch’s hacks simply follow his Tweets. There is not much pretense any longer that Wall Street Journal journalists are any more independent of their master’s voice than Nipper, the dog on the HMV logo. The paper duly piled on with a blistering leading article beginning, “If Mitt Romney loses his run for the White House…” before careening downhill, accusing the Romney campaign of being “hapless”, “politically dumb” and a “failure”. A companion blast in the New York Post, titled “Mitt’s Losing Habit”, concluded that “Not all politicians are winners. Whatever Obama may or may not be, he’s a winner. The jury’s out on Romney.” Ouch.

So, what’s going on? Why is America’s most powerful conservative media baron turning his fire on the conservative candidate just four months before the election? Maybe he just misses bullying politicians. Since he turned a blind eye to phone hacking and bribing policemen, Murdoch has become persona non grata in London. Once upon a time Murdoch’s endorsement was essential for political success there; now it’s the Tweet of death. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who long ago asked Murdoch to slip in the back door to avoid drawing attention to his visits, has stopped taking his calls. It may be Murdoch is so used to hectoring and cajoling, he can’t kick the habit.

What we know for certain is that Murdoch likes a winner because he can only finagle favors from those with power. Whatever he might confide to his Twitter followers about stopping socialism in its tracks, he takes a dim view of investment bankers like Romney who dodge tax through “carried interest” and has often backed those he calls “pinkos and communists” if he thinks they will get elected. It seems, according to his amanuenses, that Murdoch is fast coming to the conclusion that Romney is a loser.

Murdoch will have to deal with the next administration, whatever its stripe, over issues important to the profitability of News Corp, like restrictive FCC regulations, online privacy, consumer privacy protection bills, and even an amendment to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that deems Murdoch’s American empire culpable for crimes committed by his London employees. As he would prefer to bargain with a grateful Romney, who will owe Fox News a lot, than Obama, who owes him nothing, Murdoch may think shouting campaign advice may help Romney avoid defeat.

But Romney should beware of doing Murdoch’s bidding. This is a sure test of his independence. If he takes Murdoch’s advice, wins the backing of the Fox battalions and takes up residence in the White House, he will be in hock to a master who has no compunction about expecting big favors in return. Murdoch went out of his way in London to insist, under oath, that he never asked a prime minister for anything. He didn’t have to. All of them, from Margaret Thatcher to Tony Blair, knew the price of winning Murdoch’s support, and they bent over backward to make sure they kept him happy.

Nicholas Wapshott is the author of Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics. Read extracts here.

PHOTO: U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney pauses during his reaction to the Supreme Court’s upholding key parts of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare overhaul law during a rooftop news conference in Washington June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

16 comments

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This is incredible! Murdoch is NOT AN AMERICAN. What is he doing in our presidential election, and why does no one think it wrong? Without doubt, Murdoch has used the Supreme Court decision to contribute vast sums to Romney through his American corporations — just as Obama warned during the State of the Union address — and expects that his money has given him the right to direct or influence his candidate. Where are all of the phony “patriots” on the right on this issue? And why isn’t Obama all over this blatant exposure of foreign influence on our presidential campaign?

Posted by From_California | Report as abusive

if there was anything terrifing, it is Murdoch’s direct interference into US politics. for years, Mudoch had used Fox news and his other outfits to turn US politics partisan. It is time, Obama and his team should take a direct aim at Mudoch, Fox news, WSJ and others. The Repblicans have taken aims at Democratic grassroot organizations repeatedly in the past.

Posted by 0okm9ijn | Report as abusive

Murdoch is a naturalized US citizen, even though he managed it by taking advantage of a loophole in the immigration laws created by Reagan that let in rich foreigners willing to invest money in the US, something I imagine very few were able to do at that time. Murdoch uses his media organizations as fronts to gather dirt on pols and to provide a reliable mouthpiece for the right.

Posted by borisjimbo | Report as abusive

“hires some real pros”
- Presumably, Murdoch means “pros” like Andy Coulson.

One thing is for sure, his tabloid journalists won’t like Romney staffers who cannot be induced to leak confidential matters such as Romney’s list of potential V.P. candidates.

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

Rupert Murdoch is just a silly old man now, living in the past when people sometimes took notice of him. It is pathetic reading his stuff on Facebook, a pale shadow of the man he was once. He can’t even type properly. Imagine a print journalist who can’t type! Best to ignore him. To argue with him now is pointless. Believe me, truly, I have known him for nearly 60 years.

Posted by reveldor | Report as abusive

Murdoch’s strategy (as seen in the UK) has been to attack and ‘destroy’ the likely election loser before the election itself. This promotes the illusion that he has the power to control the result and puts both parties in his thrall. It works, just ask UK’s former labour Leader Neil Kinnock and every UK Prime Minister since. And Murdoch is NOT British! Good luck with him!

Posted by GetCarter1 | Report as abusive

So we have all accepted the fact that elections are bought after all. Men of such corrupt wealth & influence should be locked up for life.
Many years ago, the day after his wedding with the Asian beauty, Murdoch’s personal assistant & confidante called on me if I would be willing to process film & make prints of the event in absolute confidentiality, and I did. I had previously helped the The NY Post’s team to get out of a very difficult technical predicament, and I never asked nor accepted any compensation; for me it was a professional courtesy call, as I new many of the good people there from previous projects. At the time I was working for an independent pre-press establishment.
Well, on that Saturday morning when we normally are closed for business I opened the photo lab alone and shortly after Murdoch’s personal assistant with her entourage of four security thugs arrived with the film,I had known her professionally from many years earlier. It took the whole day to process all the film & make the prints as I was working alone. The four thugs went out to get lunch for all of us & when they returned one hour later they were smashed, stoned, and shortly after started bragging through anecdotes about Murdoch’s tough dealings & control of some very powerful political & financial figures of the time. If only a tiny fraction of what they described is true, the man is sick & corrupt to the bone.

Posted by GMavros | Report as abusive

Middle class: Thou hast met the enemy.

Posted by urownexperience | Report as abusive

“…that Murdoch is fast coming to the conclusion that Romney is a loser.”

A simple man on the street could have told Murdoch. Evidently the old grouch is not the genius he is made out to be. Ha!

Posted by JohnG-73645 | Report as abusive

7:22 AM- I think that your story is better than the one that you commented on, but think you may have blown the “confidential” thing. Good Luck

Posted by jenand | Report as abusive

Murdoch good for Obama Murdoch bad for Romney.

Posted by MJMann | Report as abusive

At the core of what Murdoch is saying, there may be some truth; but it’s hard to think of Murdoch being the right messenger for this message at this time.

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

Murdoch is an international crime boss and ought to be in custody currently for bribery, perjury, obstruction of justice, blackmail, volations of Foreign Corrupt Services Act, tax evasion, and a few other major crimes. Rupert and James Murdoch are the only two immigrants I wish to deport, hopefully back to Australia, though no offense intended to Australians, who famously deport all their immigrants.

Posted by sylvan | Report as abusive

Crony Capitalists like “winners” they can bribe.
He is envious of the Health Insurance “Industry” that had its way with Obama.

Posted by JP007 | Report as abusive

As usual, Republicans looked around and chose their most unlikely candidate to run for president. Most all of Romney’s primary contenders would have drawn more votes in November. So how come Romney continues to do so well in the polls? It must be because Obama has shown himself to be the worst possible alternative.

Posted by nikacat | Report as abusive

The whim of Murdoch fluttering in the wind prepping Romney is no more. Rupert’s influence has no weight & carries such immense baggage. R. Murdoch once a time did carry weight to change a government, but not any more. His editors were always being coaxed what to say, do, who to follow, or ruin. So much so, that he NOW has trouble in the UK, Australia, & now the US. He is toast. Romney hasn’t worked that out yet.
Luckily a Democratic Govt reigns in the likes of capitalist bent crony’s. Nowhere for them to stand than to watch Murdoch plying one court after another.

Posted by joecamel | Report as abusive