Key takeaways from Michael Wolff’s book on Murdoch, Fox and US politics

<span>Photograph: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic</span>
Photograph: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Michael Wolff’s new book, The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty, was eagerly awaited even before the Guardian published the first news of its contents on Tuesday – and before the stunning news on Thursday that Rupert Murdoch will finally step down as chairman of his rightwing media empire.

Related: Rupert Murdoch stepping down as chair of Fox and News Corp

In a feeding frenzy over Wolff’s book, other outlets reported more revelations familiar in tone and sometimes in cast list from the gadfly author’s blockbusting trilogy of Trump tell-alls: Fire and Fury, Siege and Landslide.

In response, Fox News pointed to a famous impersonation of Wolff by the comedian Fred Armisen when it said: “The fact that the last book by this author was spoofed in a Saturday Night Live skit is really all we need to know.”

Nonetheless, what have we learned about Rupert Murdoch, Fox and US politics from The Fall so far? Here are some key points:

Murdoch did not expect Dominion to prove so costly

Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox News for $1.6bn, over the broadcast of Donald Trump’s lies about voter fraud in 2020. According to Wolff, in winter 2022, an irate Rupert Murdoch told friends of his then wife, Jerry Hall: “This lawsuit could cost us fifty million dollars.” When the suit was settled, in April, it cost Fox a whopping $787.5m.

Murdoch thought Ron DeSantis would beat Trump

Murdoch reportedly predicted the Florida governor would beat Trump for the Republican nomination next year, siphoning off evangelical voters because “it was going to come out about the abortions Trump had paid for”. But it seems Murdoch’s radar was off again: a few months out from the first vote in Iowa, notwithstanding 91 criminal charges, Trump holds gigantic polling leads over DeSantis, whose campaign has long been seen to be flatlining.

Murdoch wishes Trump dead …

Murdoch, Wolff says, directs considerable anger Trump’s way, at one point treating friends to “a rat-a-tat-tat of jaw-clenching ‘fucks’” that showed a “revulsion … as passionate … as [that of] any helpless liberal”. More even than that, Wolff reports that Murdoch, 92, has often wished out loud that Trump, 77, was dead. “Trump’s death became a Murdoch theme,” Wolff writes, reporting the mogul saying: “‘We would all be better off …?’ ‘This would all be solved if …’ ‘How could he still be alive, how could he?’ ‘Have you seen him? Have you seen what he looks like? What he eats?’”

… but Lachlan just wipes his bottom on him

Rupert Murdoch’s son, Lachlan Murdoch, is in pole position to take over the empire. According to Wolff, the younger man is no Trump fan either. As reported by the Daily Beast, Wolff writes: “In the run-up to the 2016 election, the bathrooms at the Mandeville house featured toilet paper with Trump’s face, reported visitors with relief and satisfaction. [Lachlan] told people that his wife and children cried when Trump was elected.”

Rupert has choice words for some Fox News stars

The Daily Beast also reported on the older Murdoch’s apparent contempt for some of his stars. Considering how, Wolff says, Sean Hannity pushed for Fox to stay loyal to Trump, the author writes: “When Murdoch was brought reports of Hannity’s on- and off-air defence of Fox’s post-election coverage, he perhaps seemed to justify his anchor: ‘He’s retarded, like most Americans.’”

Hannity may have been on thin ice

Also reported by the Daily Beast: Wolff says Murdoch considered firing Hannity as a way to mollify Dominion in its defamation suit, with Lachlan Murdoch reportedly suggesting that a romantic relationship Hannity had with another host could be used as precedent, given the downfalls of media personalities including Jeff Zucker of CNN.

DeSantis may have kicked Tucker Carlson’s dog

According to the Daily Beast, and to a lengthy excerpt published by New York magazine, Wolff writes that in spring of this year, Ron DeSantis and his wife, Casey DeSantis, visited another leading Fox host, Tucker Carlson, and his wife, Susie Carlson, for a lunch designed to introduce Murdoch’s favored Republican to his most powerful primetime star. What Wolff says follows is worth quoting in full:

The Carlsons are dog people with four spaniels, the progeny of other spaniels they have had before, who sleep in their bed. DeSantis pushed the dog under the table. Had he kicked the dog? Susie Carlson’s judgment was clear: She did not ever want to be anywhere near anybody like that ever again. Her husband agreed. DeSantis, in Carlson’s view, was a ‘fascist’. Forget Ron DeSantis.

Carlson saw a presidential run as a way to escape

Related: Rupert Murdoch thought $787.5m Dominion suit would cost Fox $50m, Michael Wolff book says

Carlson has said he “knows” his removal from Fox after the Dominion settlement was a condition of that deal. Dominion and Fox have said it wasn’t. On Wednesday, New York magazine published Wolff’s reporting that Trump openly considered making Carlson his vice-presidential pick. But Wolff also fleshes out rumours Carlson considered a run for president himself – reported by the Guardian – and says the host seriously pondered the move “as a further part of his inevitable martyrdom – as well as a convenient way to get out of his contract”. This, Wolff says, left Rupert Murdoch “bothered” – and “pissed at Lachlan for not reining Carlson in”.

Wolff is no stranger to gossip …

… often of a salacious hue. Roger Ailes, the former Fox News chief, features prominently throughout The Fall, a font of off-colour quotes and pungent opinions, including that Trump, whom he helped make president, is a “dumb motherfucker”. Ailes died in disgrace in 2017, after a sexual harassment scandal. According to a New York Times review, Wolff describes the Fox-host-turned-Trump-surrogate Kimberly Guilfoyle “settl[ing] into a private plane on the way to Ailes’s funeral”, adding: “What was also clear, if you wanted it to be, was that she was wearing no underwear.”

Jerry Hall called Murdoch a homophobe

Sticking with the salacious, the Daily Beast noted a focus on “Murdoch’s attitude towards homosexuality”. Hall, the site said, is quoted as responding to a discussion of someone’s sexuality by asking: “Rupert, why are you such a homophobe?” Repeating the charge, the former model reportedly told friends: “He’s such an old man.”