Are you having trouble figuring out why three prominent commentators for Fox News went for Donald Trump’s jugular at the GOP presidential debate in Cleveland this week?
Allow me to speculate.
Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Fox empire, has long been a foe of Trump’s, and opposes his bid for the presidency. According to an article last month in the New York Times, they differ on large issues, like Trump’s hardline opposition to illegal immigration, and trivial ones, such as whether Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, should have remained friends with Murdoch’s former wife, Wendi, after the couple was divorced.
At the start of my journalistic career, I worked for a newspaper in Philadelphia owned by Walter H. Annenberg, best known perhaps as Richard Nixon’s ambassador to Great Britain. In 1988, at age eighty, Annenberg sold what remained of his media empire to Murdoch for $3 billion.
Annenberg’s father, Moe, once worked for William Randolph Hearst, who was renowned for using his newspapers and their staffs as weapons to destroy his enemies. Walter himself became a newspaper tycoon very much in Hearst’s mold. And Murdoch may be carrying on the tradition.
Murdoch pays his top Fox News commentators well into the millions of dollars per year. Folks who take down that much pay tend to be obedient to the whims of the fellow who disburses the money.
And so, on Thursday night, we saw hard-as-nails Megyn (Roots) Kelly, amiable, boyish Bret Baier and kindly, lovable Chris Wallace doing everything they could to make Trump look like a shady businessman, a misogynist, and a crypto-Democrat. Their performances were blatant to the point of obscenity, and stank to high heaven, or so my journalistic nose tells me.
Journalism has a long history of nurturing whores. And not all of them have earned seven-figure incomes. Annenberg’s principal whore, among many, at the Philadelphia Inquirer was a guy named Harry Karafin, who made maybe $10,000 or $15,000 a year in salary when I knew him in the early Sixties.
One of Harry’s principal assignments was to help demolish Milton Shapp, a business enemy of Annenberg’s, who was running for governor of Pennsylvania. In one story, he discussed the mysterious fact that Shapp had changed his name from Shapiro. Shapp? Trump? Wait, do you really suppose that is the Donald’s original name?
Harry turned out to have as much of an entrepreneurial flair as his master, Mr. Annenberg. Because, unlike the Fox folks, he wasn’t making really big bucks, he developed a lucrative sideline. When he was sent out to investigate local businesses, he would offer the executives of those companies the option of paying him a fee for “public relations,” which would ensure that no bad publicity about the companies would appear in the Inquirer. He got away with this for years, until a local magazine blew the whistle on him, and he wound up in state prison.
Let’s hope that no one goes to prison for saving the country from Donald Trump.