Rupert Murdoch's Donald Trump nightmare: He can't control the monster Fox News created

The media tycoon reportedly can't wrangle Roger Ailes to shut down Fox's Trump fanboys

Published July 22, 2015 6:20PM (EDT)

Rupert Murdoch           (AP/Josh Reynolds)
Rupert Murdoch (AP/Josh Reynolds)

If there seems to be a split in the way Rupert Murdoch-owned media outlets are covering the presidential campaign of Donald Trump that's because one of Murdoch's holdings is reportedly out of control -- Murdoch can't get Fox News to stop positively covering The Donald.

According to New York Magazine's Gabriel Sherman, the conservative media mogul has been unsuccessful in his attempt to wield influence over the editorial decisions of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. Sherman reports that Ailes has pushed Fox's on-air personalities to defend Trump's controversial comments in recent weeks, boasting that the conservative network was covering the Trump campaign to his personal specifications. For his part, Murdoch appears to be dead set against a Trump candidacy, publicly blasting the Republican's incendiary rhetoric:

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Trump, who has a longstanding relationship with Fox News, met with Ailes for an extended lunch around the time of his announcement and has called the cable news executive “one of the great geniuses in television history.” During the month of June, Trump appeared on Fox 10 times, amounting to 1 hour and 48 minutes of free airtime from the network and it's become evident that there is little Murdoch can do to stop it. According to Sherman, Murdoch, whose 21st Century Fox is the parent company of Fox News, recently called Ailes to ask him to "back off the Trump coverage.” Trump was back on "Fox & Friends", a show where he held weekly appearances before entering the presidential race, this morning to push-back against all of the negative scrutiny his stunt giving out Lindsey Graham's personal cell number generated. Per usual, the host provided Trump his softball interview. And as Sherman points out, "yesterday, at a campaign event in South Carolina where he gave out Lindsey Graham's personal cell-phone number, Trump heaped praise on Fox & Friends' Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Elisabeth and Hasselbeck, 'They're great people.'" Sherman, a veteran Fox News observer, describes "Fox & Friends" as "a show that is used by Ailes to inject his point of view into debates."

And as the New York Times explains, there is little Murdoch can do to wrangle editorial control over the network from Ailes: "As the creator of the highest-rated cable news channel in the country (even surpassing ESPN in total viewers on some nights) 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."

So, for now, Murdoch's control is relegated to the front page of the NY Post, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal and his personal Twitter account. But the head of one of the most powerful media conglomerates in the world can't stop his biggest media asset from acting as Trump's biggest booster, as the carnival barker marches his campaign to the first Republican debate stage -- on Fox News.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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2016 Elections Conservative Media Donald Trump Fox News Roger Ailes Rupert Murdoch