Peacemaker Murdoch Brokers Obama-Fox News Truce

04 September 2008

NEW YORK: Michael Wolff, a latterday St Luke whose object of biographical veneration is Keith Rupert Murdoch, has chosen this moment in time to reveal that the boss of News Corporation helped broker a "tentative truce" between Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Roger Ailes, the rabidly Republican boss of Fox News Channel

St Luke, it seems, is eager to promote his upcoming biography of the media mogul, The Man Who Owns the News, doing so via a series of extracts in Vanity Fair magazine. 

So headlinewise, this was an especially good moment to get Obama onside.

The candidate, reportedly miffed at Fox News' mordacious coverage of himself and his wife Michelle, refused to have any truck with the Murdoch-controlled news channel. 

But the absence of a news property as hot as Obama could cost the channel mucho moolah in lost viewers and ad revenues, prompting Murdoch to intercede.

In a frenzy of string-pulling (which reportedly involved the Kennedy clan) KRM managed to arrange a secret meeting between Obama, himself and former Republican Rottweiler Ailes, now Fox News chairman/ceo.

Despite Murdoch's placatory stance (according to St Luke), "Obama lit into Ailes. He said that he didn't want to waste his time talking to Ailes if Fox was just going to continue to abuse him and his wife; that Fox had relentlessly portrayed him as suspicious, foreign, fearsome - just short of a terrorist."

Continued the biographer: "Ailes, unruffled, said it might not have been this way if Obama had more willingly come on the air instead of so often giving Fox the back of his hand. A tentative truce, which may or may not have vast historical significance, was at that moment agreed upon."

St Luke also let it be known that what Murdoch now wants – really, really wants – is to add the NewYork Times to his portfolio of prestige newspapers.

"He is spending time now in consideration of an even more far-fetched fantasy, the New York Times: he'd really like to own it too.

"Now, everybody around him continues to tell him that buying the Times is pretty much impossible. There will be regulatory problems. The Sulzberger family would never … And then there's the opprobrium of public opinion.

"But it's obviously irresistible to him. I've watched him go through the numbers, plot out a merger with the Journal's backroom operations, and fantasise about the staff's quitting en masse as soon as he entered the sacred temple."

St Luke also infers that KRM, under the twin influences of anno domini and spouse Wendi Deng, is inching infinitesimally toward a more liberal political stance.

"And while it is not possible that he would give Fox up – because the money is the money; success trumps all – in the larger sense of who he is, he seems to want to hedge his bets."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff