NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Steve Bannon, a former top adviser to Donald Trump, unloaded a torrent of attacks here Friday on Fox News and its leader, Rupert Murdoch — a sign of escalating tension between the former president's political network and Murdoch's conservative media empire.
"You've disrespected Donald J. Trump long enough," Bannon, who hosts a popular right-wing podcast, said of Murdoch in remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, which was heavily attended by Trump-loyal Republicans.
"Murdoch, you’ve deemed Trump’s not going to be president," Bannon added at the close of his fiery speech. "Well, we’ve deemed that you’re not going to have a network. Because we’re going to fight you every step of the way."
Bannon derisively labeled the Australian-born Murdoch and his family "a bunch of foreigners" and cast them along with hedge fund CEO Ken Griffin and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell as enemies of Trump's "Make America Great Again" movement.
The broadsides came as Trump and his allies have soured on Fox News because of its coverage of the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Meanwhile, the cable network and other media properties owned by Murdoch’s News Corp. have featured Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who, according to polls, is Trump’s strongest rival for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination — prominently in recent coverage. As part of his ongoing book tour, DeSantis has already sat for interviews with the New York Post and The Times of London, both Murdoch properties, as well as for interviews with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Jesse Watters and the hosts of "Fox & Friends." DeSantis’ memoir was published by HarperCollins, itself owned by Murdoch.
“Old man Murdoch, while you’re at it, no more softball interviews for the guys running against" Trump, Bannon said Friday.
A Fox News spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Fox Nation, a streaming platform, has sponsored and broadcast CPAC events in the past but did not do so this year.
Bannon was sentenced to four months in prison in October after he was found guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. That sentence has been delayed as he appeals his conviction.
Bannon's remarks come days after court documents in the Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corporation, were unsealed. Those documents made public a slew of private communications between Fox News hosts and executives revealing that many did not believe the president’s false fraud claims after the 2020 election and openly mocked them in private — while allowing them to flourish on air. Dominion sued Fox for broadcasting baseless claims of vote-flipping that Trump allies alleged.
Murdoch saw little evidence for Trump’s claims and found some to be "bulls--- and damaging." In one email, he suggested Trump might become a "sore loser." Murdoch also acknowledged in testimony that some Fox News hosts, including Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo, had done more than just give a platform to baseless claims of voter fraud, saying in a deposition that they “endorsed” the claims. In emails after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Murdoch said Fox News wanted “to make Trump a non person” and was “pivoting as fast as possible.”
“We have to lead our viewers which is ... not as easy as it might seem,” he added, according to the filing.
Fox News has defended its coverage and called Dominion’s lawsuit “baseless.”
"Read the depositions," Bannon said. "They have a fear, loathing and contempt for you."
Bannon also railed against the cable network for calling Arizona's electoral votes early for Democrat Joe Biden on election night in 2020 and for not covering his 2024 campaign closely.
"They don't even cover it live for 20 minutes,” Bannon said of Trump’s announcement speech in November. "And then they say, 'If there’s anything newsworthy, we’ll cut back,' and they go to some panel and some discussion. Note to Fox senior management: When Donald J. Trump talks, it’s newsworthy."
Throughout the past week, Trump has taken to ripping Fox News leadership on his Truth Social platform, posting that Murdoch was “throwing his anchors under the table, which also happens to be killing his case and infuriating his viewers, who will again be leaving in droves — they already are” and demanding that Murdoch “apologize to his viewers and readers for his ridiculous defense of the 2020 Presidential Election.”
Trump continues to insist the election was "RIGGED!" Reviews of the 2020 election, including through hand recounts and risk-limiting audits, have validated election results across swing states, and Trump’s efforts to overturn the election result were tossed out of court on dozens of occasions.
“If Rupert Murdoch honestly believes that the Presidential Election of 2020, despite MASSIVE amounts of proof to the contrary, was not Rigged & Stolen, then he & his group of MAGA Hating Globalist RINOS should get out of the News Business as soon as possible, because they are aiding & abetting the DESTRUCTION OF AMERICA with FAKE NEWS,” Trump wrote. “Certain BRAVE & PATRIOTIC FoxNews Hosts, who he scorns and ridicules, got it right. He got it wrong. THEY SHOULD BE ADMIRED & PRAISED, NOT REBUKED & FORSAKEN!!!"