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MICHAEL GOVE’S friendly “Thumbs Up” interview with US president-elect Donald Trump is a part of the rapprochement between The Donald and Rupert Murdoch.
Their relations were previously strained, showing an underlying rivalry, or even jealousy on Murdoch’s part. Their let’s-make-up routine also includes a Murdoch executive joining Trump’s cabinet.
The voters of Surrey Heath might think of Gove as their MP but he is more a Murdoch man, with a current salary of £150,000 a year from the Times for writing “columns” like his obsequious interview with Trump.
Gove is a perfect man to do Murdoch’s work with Trump as he is a long-term Rupert operative. Gove’s history makes it look like he is a kind of “Jason Bourne” who was “conditioned” by Murdoch’s “Operation Treadstone.”
In fact his whole identity was created in Murdoch’s “black site” in London’s Docklands. Gove was a Murdoch employee before he was a Tory MP. While he was an opposition MP, Gove was paid £60,000 a year as a Times columnist. This had two advantages. First, Murdoch was able to build up Gove’s profile, turning the squeaky nobody into a Tory name. And second, he was able to condition Gove to complete loyalty.
When Gove left government last year, he immediately started taking a new, larger salary from Murdoch’s Times. Gove was also given a £17,500 book contract by HarperCollins, a Murdoch “cut out” company.
But the Murdoch-Trump links go beyond a friendly interview with his trusted emissary Gove in a Murdoch paper. Trump is appointing most of his cabinet from the worst of the Republican Party rather than the even worse “Tea Party” or “alt-right” circles.
This includes nominating Elaine Chao as transportation secretary. Chao became a “non-executive” director of Murdoch’s News Corporation in 2012 and still sits on the board. Under US laws, Chao made a “financial disclosure” of her interests as part of her appointment to government. She says that in addition to her Murdoch salary she “will receive a cash payout” from News Corporation when she resigns from the board to become transportation secretary.
Murdoch will welcome these links to Trump to smooth over a past breach between the two ageing right-wing billionaires.
Murdoch’s hysterically right-wing US channel Fox News might well have helped give birth to the politics that formed Trump-ism but Murdoch was not initially keen on Donald. He and Fox backed Ben Carson for Republican nominee.
Trump’s misogynist “blood coming out of her whatever” barb was directed at Fox anchor Megyn Kelly, who pressed Trump hard on his “character” and sexist comments in the campaign.
Murdoch’s break with Trump in part comes from their potential rivalry — had he not become president, Trump considered setting up a “Trump TV” which would have challenged Murdoch in the US market for right-wing ranting.
It might also stem from a jealousy. News UK insiders say Murdoch gives an impression that, seeing Trump’s success, he wishes he had used his media power to pursue a more open political career. He looks down on Trump and so is shocked that The Donald now has the top political prize.
The Murdoch-Trump break also seems intertwined with a small war against women in which Rupert is oddly on the right side. Murdoch set up Fox News with Roger Ailes, a sinister former aide of Richard Nixon. Ailes helped build Fox into the Conservative mega-mouthpiece it became. Murdoch backed Kelly in her “feud” with Trump.
However, Ailes had to resign from Fox last July following allegations of gross sexual harassment against Fox women, including Kelly. Ailes then left to advise Trump, just as the future president’s “grab them by the pussy” remarks surfaced, where Donald boasted about committing sexual assaults.
Fox turned round to support Trump, but the damage was done. So Chao’s arrival in Team Trump creates a bridge between the rightwing mogul and the right-wing president.
It is, however, bad news for the United States. Chao was labour secretary under George “Dubya” Bush from 2001-2009.
US official watchdog the Government Accountability Office (similar to our National Audit Office) found her department “did not adequately pursue labour violations,” letting off employers who wrongly sacked or paid staff below minimum wage rates. Chao also cut mine inspectors’ jobs, and presided over two lethal mine disasters, which killed 15.
All this qualifies her to help Trump with his promise that “the American working class is going to strike back, finally.”
So the Gove-Trump interview isn’t just about Gove being a terrible sycophant to power. It’s about how billionaires try to negotiate political influence by promoting each other, stroking their egos and splurging their values across the media.
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