Donald Trump, who once dominated the Fox News broadcasts, is now running into a brick wall with what four members of his circle say is a “soft ban” from the top of the conservative news channel, as it rolls out the red carpet to even the low-profile rival candidates.
“Everyone knows that there’s this ‘soft ban’ or ‘silent ban,’” one source close to Trump told Semafor. “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.”
In recent months, 2024 Republican presidential hopefuls have been seen almost daily on the network, pitching themselves to its vast conservative audience. According to Media Matters’ internal database of cable news appearances, Nikki Haley’s been featured on weekday Fox News shows seven times since announcing her presidential bid on February 14. Even the little known fund manager Vivek Ramaswamy, who announced on February 21, has made four weekday appearances. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is widely expected to run, has been all over the network in recent days.
Trump hasn’t been on Fox News since announcing his presidential bid in November. His last weekday appearance on the network was in September with host Sean Hannity. During that interview, Trump said a president could declassify documents “by thinking about it.”
One Trump official told Semafor that the former president plans to push for appearances on the network in the coming months as the campaign ramps up.
But another Trump aide told Semafor that they’ve heard firsthand about the “soft ban” from people at Fox.
The aide said that some prime time hosts — who typically operate largely autonomously from the network’s leadership — have reached out in an effort to book the former president. But those appearances haven’t come to fruition.
“The understanding is that they’re [Fox] not to have Trump on for an interview, because the Murdochs have made it pretty clear they want to move on from Trump … Fox is showing that by not having him on,” a Republican operative familiar with Trump’s campaign added.
But his aides have found that it’s less strictly enforced on Fox’s website, where he’s often featured with exclusive articles — like when he welcomed Haley into the race or when he planned to visit Ohio after the train derailment.
Fox News did not respond to a request for comment from Semafor.
Fox News’s recent antipathy toward Trump had been an open secret until last week, when documents revealed in Dominion Voting System’s $1.6 billion defamation suit against the network included Murdoch instructing an aide “to make Trump a non-person” after January 6.
Other Murdoch-owned companies have been critical of Trump as well, which suggests that Murdoch is, indeed, pushing a hard pivot away from the former president. The New York Post, for example, brutally covered Trump’s announcement at the end of last year with the headline, page 26: “Florida Man Makes Announcement.”
The network skipped his speech in Ohio last week and Trump himself has complained publicly in recent days that the network is aggressively “promoting” DeSantis, despite him being the frontrunner in recent 2024 polls.
Trump once had a direct line to Fox’s leadership, but he and his team are now more in the dark about what’s happening at the central media company for the Republican Party. Now his aides are reading the tea leaves of Fox’s air, and asking Fox aides for any sign that change might be in the air.
“They have been ramping up their efforts to try to give more fair coverage, or fair airtime” amid criticisms from conservatives over coverage decisions, the person close to Trump noted. “I don’t think they’re trying to reverse course, but they’re trying to appease, and tamp down, some of that criticism.”
The View From Donald Trump
“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 Wednesday on Truth Social, responding to the Dominion court filing.
Room for Disagreement
Politico’s Jack Shafer suggests Murdoch will ultimately just follow the money.
“As late as Jan. 26, 2021, Murdoch was still so fearful of Trump that he had not executed the pivot and was still allowing stolen-election crackpot (and loyal Fox advertiser) Mike ‘MyPillow’ Lindell a platform on the network’s Tucker Carlson Tonight show. Why allow it? Murdoch was asked. Presumably cashing Lindell’s fat checks in his mind’s eye, Murdoch replied, ‘It is not red or blue, it is green.’”