Why Is William Barr Meeting With Rupert Murdoch? - 2019-10-11
Donald Trump might not be president were it not for Fox News, the right-wing network that for years gave the blustery game show host a political platform and in 2016 promoted his long-shot candidacy. His symbiotic relationship with Fox has continued as president, with the outlet essentially acting as state media, not to mention an employee pipeline. But lately there's been trouble in paradise. While hosts like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham are as loyal as ever, the president has grown increasingly angry with other of the network's reporters, including Chris Wallace and Shep Smith, along with polls that suggest its viewers are coming around on his impeachment. "It is so different than it used to be," Trump lamented Thursday.
It was against this backdrop that William Barr, Trump's dutiful attorney general, met with Fox News mogul Rupert Murdoch on Wednesday night. Why they met, or what they discussed, is not clear, according to the New York Times, which first reported the rendezvous. But the timing of the meeting—as Trump, under siege from Democrats, ramps up his criticism of Fox News—raised eyebrows, leading to questions about whether the administration is attempting to get the network back in line. "What is the Attorney General of the United States doing meeting with the owner of a private television network?" CNN's Vicky Ward tweeted Thursday.
The tête-à-tête underscores the ties between the Trump administration and the conservative network where, as NPR's David Folkenflik noted, several former Trump aides (Hope Hicks, Raj Shah, Sarah Huckabee Sanders) are now on the payroll. That relationship has come under strain as Smith and Wallace cut through Trump allies' efforts to spin the president's Ukraine scandal. Even some of the typically supportive opinion hosts on the network, like Tucker Carlson and Steve Doocy, have shown small cracks in their support; Carlson co-wrote an op-ed opining that "there's no way to spin" the president's July 25 phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky (though he then implied impeaching Trump would be a bridge too far), and Doocy has suggested it would be "off the rails wrong" if Trump did indeed seek a quid pro quo with Kiev.