Florida man becomes boring: US media leap off the Trump train

Conservative media outlets sacrifice their golden goose as he morphs into an electoral albatross

Donald Trump announces candidacy for president in 2024

Donald Trump announces candidacy for president in 2024
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It's official: Donald Trump is boring.

That, at least, is the consensus at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which is leading a broader media shift away from the man they once couldn’t get enough of.

Mr Murdoch’s New York Post reacted to Mr Trump's declaration that he is again running for the White House in 2024 with a contemptuous shrug.

“Florida Man Makes Announcement” was Wednesday’s front-page headline, buried under a gruesome local story and with the article itself tucked away on page 26.

It followed a string of front pages trolling Mr Trump, including one ridiculing him as “Trumpty Dumpty” who couldn’t build a wall, and another calling Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis “DeFUTURE”.

Mr Murdoch was never a huge fan of Mr Trump, though he has certainly benefited from the advertising money and huge viewership the brash politician brought to his media empire.

The Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021, was not enough to shake support for Mr Trump, nor were his baseless claims the 2020 election was “stolen” from him.

But now it is clear that after a string of Republican setbacks, the ratings golden goose must be sacrificed before he becomes even more of an electoral albatross.

Mr Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal blamed Mr Trump for the Republicans’ lacklustre performance during last week’s midterms, pointing to his “perfect record of electoral defeat” since 2016, when he beat Hillary Clinton.

The man who boasted that Americans would “get bored with winning” soon went on to lose control of the House of Representatives in 2018 and the presidency in 2020.

The defeats are bad enough for Mr Trump, but to lose Mr Murdoch’s endorsement is a catastrophe.

Just ask former British prime minister Gordon Brown, who lost to David Cameron in 2010 after the media mogul that famously anointed Tony Blair in 1997 decided he’d had enough of a Labour government.

Even Fox News, which for more than four years acted as giddy cheerleader for Mr Trump and gave him many softball interviews, is trying to distance itself.

As the defeated president announced his new White House bid, Fox did something that may once have been unthinkable: they cut away from the primetime speech.

It’s not just News Corp that is turning its back on Mr Trump, even though he remains a wildly popular figure among many Republican voters.

During Mr Trump’s speech, CNN pulled the plug on its coverage soon after Mr Trump delivered the money quote: “In order to make America great and glorious again, I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States.”

MSNBC didn’t air the speech live at all.

It’s a sea change from 2015 and 2016, when news networks gave Mr Trump unfettered airtime, effectively silencing his Republican challengers and Ms Clinton, and arguably ensuring his rise to power even as they expressed outrage over his hectoring and bullying style.

A low point for American broadcast journalism came when several networks for hours displayed an empty lectern from which Mr Trump was scheduled to speak, instead of giving airtime to anyone else running for the world's top job.

The question now is whether the media's attempt to ignore Mr Trump can last. He has a strong chance of becoming the Republican nominee again and journalists love to put “Trump” in a headline — his name often garners more clicks on a story or video than that of President Joe Biden — but Tuesday's announcement seemed to mark a palpable shift in public perception.

Even he seemed uninspired by his own bleak speech, which was his standard mash-up of fearmongering, negativity and bullying.

Attendees were seen shuffling awkwardly for the exits as Mr Trump went on and on for more than an hour. At least one reporter said security guards stopped people from leaving the ballroom.

Perhaps Anthony Scaramucci, who briefly served as Mr Trump's spokesman and is now in finance, said it best: he likened his former boss to a gnarled, undead thing that no one can bear to look at anymore.

“You know how you have a zombie that you can’t kill, like in the Night of the Walking Dead? That’s Trump,” Mr Scaramucci said.

“He’s the orange zombie that the Republicans are desperate to make extinct … Trump is fighting [like it’s] 2016-17 in 2024, but the world’s moving to 2030.”

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Published: November 16, 2022, 11:59 PM