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Trump can't stop looking back — but Rupert Murdoch's Fox News can

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Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch. Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock, Wikimedia Commons

Rupert Murdoch would like Donald Trump to move on from 2020 already. That’s true for many of us, but Murdoch’s opinion might carry a little bit more weight — his family does control Fox News, which remains the most powerful brand in conservative media.

“The current American political debate is profound, whether about education or welfare or economic opportunity,” Murdoch said Wednesday during News Corp’s annual shareholder meeting. “It is crucial that conservatives play an active, forceful role in that debate, but that will not happen if President Trump stays focused on the past.”

That’s absolutely right. Trump remains obsessed with last year’s presidential election. The former president and his allies continue to push for audits of the results even in states he won. He did an online interview with MyPillow’s Mike Lindell just this week, in which the pair obsessed over bogus theories of election fraud. Trump is never, ever moving on, and there probably isn’t much Murdoch can do about that.

What Murdoch can do, though, is commit his network to stop amplifying Trump’s complaints.

As Media Matters for America points out, Fox News is one of an array of right-wing outlets that have continued to go along, in ways big and small, with Trump’s “Big Lie” that the election was stolen. Trump has gone on Maria Bartiromo’s show to grouse about his loss, while Tucker Carlson has done a number of segments suggesting President Biden’s victory was less than legitimate. And though Arizona’s recent election audit did confirm that Biden won the state, you wouldn’t necessarily know it from watching Murdoch’s network.

Murdoch and Trump have had a fraught relationship — Murdoch reportedly gave the go-ahead for Fox News to call Arizona for Biden on election night, which predictably resulted in a Trump tantrum. But that also led to an unexpected (and temporary) surge in viewers for right-wing competitor Newsmax, which scored its first ratings victory over Fox by advancing and amplifying Trump’s ever-more outlandish election claims. Murdoch may want Trump to move on, but he’s learned the hard way that getting crosswise with the former president is bad for business.

Still, if Murdoch is interested in his company’s profits, he’s also got an eye toward winning future elections. “The past is the past, and the country is now in a contest to define the future,” he said Wednesday.

No argument here. Now somebody should tell the on-camera talent at Fox News.

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