Fox News network's efforts to prevent Trump from being GOP nominee against thwarted by Trump's primary victories

 March 8, 2024

With all of the other major competitors having now dropped out of the primary race, former President Donald Trump has all but officially locked up the Republican nomination ahead of November's presidential election.

That is devastating news for the powers that be at the Fox News Channel, who clearly wanted virtually anybody other than Trump to ascend as the new standard-bearing leader of the GOP, according to CNN.

Yet, despite the network's efforts to move on from Trump and promote other potential successors, as evidenced by its coverage over the past few years, Fox News will have to deal with Trump still being the Republican Party's figurehead for the foreseeable future.

Murdoch wanted to make Trump a "non-person" on the network

In February 2023, Fortune reported that Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch's antipathy toward former President Trump was publicly revealed by way of his deposition in the Fox network's battle against Dominion Voting Systems' massive defamation lawsuit over 2020 rigged election claims.

Murdoch made it clear that he and other network executives, as well as some of the big-name hosts, never believed Trump's election fraud claims.

Emails and text messages also showed Murdoch and others denigrating Trump, and one 2021 text in particular from Murdoch to another top executive explained the network's plans, in that "Fox News very busy pivoting …We want to make Trump a non-person."

Fox News imposed a "soft ban" against Trump

Less than a week after those revelations were made public, Semafor reported in March 2023 that some of former President Trump's top aides were complaining after they'd become aware of a "soft ban" against Trump appearances on the network.

"Everyone knows that there’s this 'soft ban' or 'silent ban,'" one unnamed source from Trump's camp told the outlet. "It’s certainly -- however you want to say, quiet ban, soft ban, whatever it is -- indicative of how the Murdochs feel about Trump in this particular moment."

Meanwhile, as Fox News was quietly refusing to book Trump for appearances, the network was highlighting negative news about the former president while providing positive coverage and ample on-air appearances to some of his competitors.

Initially, the included Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and even entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, though CNN noted that former U.N. Ambassador took over as the network's preferred not-Trump alternative at some point in late 2023/early 2024, when it became clear that DeSantis would not be able to defeat the former president.

"Trump has checkmated Murdoch"

Politico reported in January that former President Trump himself was repeatedly calling out Fox News for how it was negatively covering him and his campaign while propping up other candidates like Gov. DeSantis and Ambassador Haley with positive coverage.

Now, however, despite those efforts from Fox News to aid the former president's challengers, Trump has nonetheless prevailed, which CNN observed was something of a repeat from the 2016 cycle, when Fox News had also sought to bolster Trump's competitors for the nomination before finally falling in line behind the eventual nominee.

That is likely to occur again, if only because the network would prefer to avoid another ratings slump and loss of viewers to rival conservative-leaning networks, not to mention the fact that Fox News seems highly unlikely to ever openly support a Democratic presidential nominee, especially one like President Joe Biden.

In the end, Murdoch's apparent desire to keep Trump out of the presidency has once again failed, and as CNN summed up: "Trump has checkmated Murdoch, clearing one more hurdle standing in his way on the path to the White House."

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