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Trump + Murdoch = Another Racially Toxic Presidential Campaign

The race-hatred engines are getting revved up again. Prepare for an ugly fall.

Trump and Rupert Murdoch embrace at a ceremony in New York
Trump and Rupert Murdoch embraced at a 2017 ceremony in New York.

The politically cancerous pattern of using racism for political gain and financial profit dates back to the earliest days of our republic, but now, amplified by Donald Trump, it is again increasingly in our faces.

Black workers at a General Mills plant in Georgia are suing over white management allegedly sanctioning a “Good Ole Boys” club that uses Confederate symbols and open racism to intimidate and cow them.

A producer on The Apprentice show is—now that his nondisclosure agreement has expired—telling the story of Trump’s casual and repeated use of the n-word, and his questioning whether Americans would ever “buy a n— winning” the show’s faux business competition.

The GOP and right-wing hate media have turned racism into both a political weapon and a machine to generate billions in annual profits. Today’s “school choice” movement, racial and anti-immigrant hatred, and the MAGA movement all have the same roots.

America’s media and the GOP try to pretend that the primary animating force of Trump’s MAGA movement isn’t race, but it absolutely is. And it’s been both politically and financially profitable for those willing to join him.

This all dates back to 1954, when the then-moderate-dominated Supreme Court reversed its 1898 Plessy v. Ferguson “separate but equal” ruling and said that public schools must integrate. The response from the right was swift and certain. By the end of that decade, public schools across the South had closed, leaving private school or no school as the only option. It continued into the 1960s.

Jerry Falwell opened an all-white “Christian” private school, one of hundreds across the country, and Bob Jones University proudly continued to admit only white students. Oil baron Fred Koch, the father of Koch brothers Charles and David, helped fund the 1958 startup of the John Birch Society.

As the brilliant new documentary Bad Faith details, in the run-up to the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, the anti-integration movement needed a new nonracial issue to publicly blur its racism while bringing together the nation’s bigots into a “Christian” voting bloc. They picked abortion as the nonracial hook on which to hang their political activism and organizing. After all, abortion was then most often used by middle-class white women and was thus, they noted, “depriving the nation of large numbers of white babies.”

The so-called Moral Majority movement (and its successor, the Tea Party movement) were heavily funded by oil billionaires (including Fred’s sons), after Reagan, Falwell, et al. committed to broadening their agenda to include deregulation of monopolies and the fossil fuel industry, along with massive tax cuts.

Thus was born the modern-day alliance between the morbidly rich, polluting, and monopolistic industries and white supremacists that has taken over the GOP and calls itself MAGA.

Another key element: the media. As the fascist governments of the 1930s showed in Europe, for a movement to seize control of a government, it must not only have rich donors but also a powerful media arm.

To accomplish this, President Reagan fast-tracked citizenship for Australian billionaire Rupert Murdoch (the son of media mogul and notorious racist Sir Keith Murdoch) in 1985 so he could legally purchase U.S. media properties: Fox “News” was launched here the following year, as Reagan ordered the Federal Communications Commission to stop enforcing the Fairness Doctrine, and Republicans in Congress later gutted the “equal time rule.”

In this, Reagan knew what he and the GOP were getting; Murdoch had by that time already flipped both Australian and British politics toward the hard right, using frequent and lurid stories featuring crime by minorities.

Writing for The Sydney Morning Herald (the Australian equivalent of The New York Times), former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called Rupert Murdoch and his right-wing news operations “the greatest cancer on the Australian democracy.” Rudd wrote: “The uncomfortable truth is Australian politics has become vicious, toxic and unstable. The core question is why?” Noting that “Murdoch owns two-thirds of the country’s print media,” Rudd added, “Murdoch is not just a news organization. Murdoch operates as a political party, acting in pursuit of clearly defined commercial interests, in addition to his far-right ideological world view.”

Here in America, Fox “News” has had such a powerful influence on American politics that its most recent political creation, President Donald Trump, even ordered government agencies to show it on their in-house TVs.

When Fox and Tucker Carlson set out to rewrite the history of the treasonous January 6 coup attempt at our nation’s Capitol with a three-part special alleging it could have been an inside job by the FBI, two of their top conservative stars, Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes, resigned in protest.

Text messages released by Congresswoman Liz Cheney and the committee that investigated the insurrection show that the network’s top prime-time hosts were begging Trump to call off his openly racist and murderous mob while at the same time minimizing what happened on the air.

Steve Schmidt, a man who’s definitely no liberal (he was a White House adviser to George W. Bush and ran Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, as well as John McCain’s 2008 campaign), has been blunt about the impact of Fox “News”: “Rupert Murdoch’s lie machine is directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, the poisoning of our democracy and the stoking of a cold civil war. There has never been anything like it and it is beyond terrible for the country.”

While Biden press secretaries Jen Psaki and Karine Jean-Pierre have been humorous in their dealing with Fox’s Peter Doocy’s attempts at gotcha questions in the White House press room, there’s nothing funny about inciting attacks on our country and then openly lying on the air about “antifa” to cover it up, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented that Fox did.

That white backlash to the Brown v. Board decision is still alive and well in America and was amplified by the election of Barack Obama as president: It led straight to Trump’s racist birtherism and the flowering of his 2015 candidacy. Fox and right-wing media have exploited that reaction and relentlessly used it to enrich themselves in the modern day.

It’s also the foundation of Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential candidacy, which is being endlessly promoted across the right-wing hate media spectrum. Carlson and other heirs to William F. Buckley Jr.—along with the MAGA contingent within the GOP—continue to promote his and Sir Keith Murdoch’s message of white superiority, albeit shrouded in more acceptable language for today’s audiences.

“Banishing from polite company” is a phrase from a different era, but it’s time to ask if Fox has grown to such destructive dimensions that our government’s press rooms should stop recognizing it as a legitimate “news” organization and our military should reconsider right-wing media’s impact on our troops.

On average, every cable-connected household in America is paying $2 a month to Fox “News” via their cable company fees. A growing movement, UnFox My Cable Box, is trying to change this.

To continue with Rudd’s metaphor, if our media and body politic are infected with a cancer—driven by white grievance and an unending thirst for profits, regardless of the damage it does—it’s our responsibility as Americans to call it out and isolate it so it can’t further harm our democracy and, by extension, the other democracies of the world.