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Updated Apr 17, 2023, 2:39pm EDT
mediabusinessNorth America

Meet the Murdochs’ newest star

Fairfax Media via Getty Images
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The News

Writing the house biography of Tucker Carlson is the sort of challenge that could make even the most loyal News Corp. hand a little nervous. Carlson is Fox News’s franchise player, but he’s also a skilled political operator who has managed to keep both Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch at bay.

So it made sense that talks are underway to give the lucrative, dicey assignment to one of Murdoch’s most trusted retainers: His new star columnist at the New York Post, Miranda Devine.

Devine, 61, isn’t standard-issue News Corp. talent. She’s not a newsreader plucked by Roger Ailes from local obscurity, or a former right-wing politician. She is, instead, a second-generation Murdoch loyalist who left Australia under controversial circumstances just four years ago, and has rapidly then become a major voice in American right-wing politics. Her right-wing politics and sharp news instincts for what readers want has endeared her to News Corp. readership, and bought instant credibility with the Fox News audience.

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Max’s view

Devine’s rise may be as revealing about the heart of Murdoch’s media empire as anything he and his family say in careful testimony at their defamation trial in Delaware this week. Along with her personal loyalty — her late father Frank was a storied Kiwi journalist whom Murdoch brought to New York to edit his beloved Post in 1986 — she is a tabloid culture warrior in the old Anglo-Australian tradition, which has made her a good fit for America’s increasingly vitriolic news culture.

And, as the Dominion revelations have made clear of Fox’s leadership, when the chips are down, she doesn’t spend much time wringing her hands about Trumpian assaults on democracy. Instead, like Fox News, she’s defined by her enemies.

Some of Devine’s columns are conservative polemics on subject like prohibiting trans women from women’s sports. Others simply fawn over Trump, a “pitbull fighting for America.”

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But Devine is often on the attack, and it’s her unrelenting focus on Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s business relationships (and personal vices) that truly established her conservative bona fides to Post readers and Fox News viewers.

Devine has stood out from her peers by lacing her pieces with elements of hard news, increasingly breaking tidbits feeding conservative media news cycles.

Over the past several months, she published leaked documents from the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into Hunter Biden’s business dealings, and developed law enforcement sources who helped her break the news about a gang that had preyed upon gay men in Hell’s Kitchen.

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Former Trump administration official Kash Patel passed her the scoop that he was suing Politico for defamation, and the Trump campaign gave her the exclusive on an FEC complaint complaining about a letter from intelligence officials in 2020 labeling Hunter’s laptop as disinformation.

The columns and exclusive stories have made her a regular on Fox News, where she’s a contributor and a frequent guest on Carlson’s prime-time show. And her recent book “Laptop From Hell,” a deep-dive into Hunter Biden’s laptop, has become one of the best-selling conservative books of the past year.

Rep. James Comer, who is leading House Republican investigations into Hunter’s business relationships, said in a statement that Devine is a “top-notch reporter who continues to reveal the full extent of the Biden family’s influence peddling schemes and shady business dealings overseas.”

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Know More

In the leadup to the 2020 presidential election, then-New York Post editor Col Allan wanted to spice up the Post’s editorial page. So he recruited Devine for a year and a half-long stint covering the election.

It was a homecoming for Devine, who was born in the US. She’d traveled to the country with her father, and studied journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism before becoming a newspaper reporter in Sydney.

But in her decades in Australian journalism, Devine developed her own distinct reputation as the ideal News Corp. right wing columnist with a Catholic bent. She aggressively defended Cardinal Pell, who was charged and later acquitted of child abuse allegations, but helped craft the Catholic church’s response to other allegations of child abuse. Devine defended a rugby player who called another player gay during a match, writing that “the word has changed meaning over the last decade. Young people use ‘gay’ to mean lame or dumb or stupid, as in ‘That’s so gay.’”

On that subject, she was a vocal opponent of gay marriage, so vocal that a heated dispute over the issue with the CEO of an airline threatened to derail Lachlan Murdoch’s Christmas party, and required the CEO of News Corp. Australia to intervene.

Her views and her sensational reporting made her one of the most well-known Australian conservative columnists, and a favorite of the Murdochs’.

While liked by many of her colleagues, Devine also had a mean streak. She apologized to a professional rugby player for mocking his sign language to a deaf friend during a match.

Most notoriously, she speculated in 2020 that a video of a weeping indigenous nine-year-old with dwarfism was not the result of bullying, as his distraught mother claimed, but a “scam.”

After the family sued her for defamation in 2020, Devine apologized and paid $200,000 to the family.

Devine’s scandals garnered national attention back home. And some of the errors in her reporting in the US were equally egregious: While it was fixed in subsequent versions, the first print edition of Laptop From Hell had a glaring error. Devine mistakenly wrote that Ashley Biden, Joe and Jill Biden’s daughter, was killed in a car crash.

But these didn’t seem to bother higher ups at News Corp. in the US, where her stock was rising. She had become a favorite of Donald Trump’s after complimenting his “bravery” in overcoming Covid-19 while in office. (Trump thanked her by tweeting out her New York Post email address.)

After the 2020 election concluded, Devine was prepared to head home. But News Corp. put on the full court press for her to stay: One New York Post source said that higher ups begged Devine to remain in her role as a columnist. Murdoch emailed Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott that December, asking her to sweeten the deal: “People are trying to steal Miranda Devine. would be great if you signed her as a contributor.” Scott promised to “work on this,” and Devine quickly became a contributor for the network.

Devine has settled into a comfortable role at the Post, breaking stories on the news team, while writing conservative red meat on the opinion side. She remains primarily edited by editor-in-chief Keith Poole personally, the result of the increased levels of scrutiny she receives, and her history of notable factual errors. And while she has been known to miss the print deadline, forcing the post to run house ads in the first print edition, another source said she’s a traffic-getter for the paper’s website.

In an email, Devine did not respond to inquiries about some of the more controversial elements of her career, including the defamation settlement in 2020, or errors in her reporting.

But she defended her reporting on Biden, saying that even Hunter’s team is reading and interacting with her reporting.

“They used not to respond but I have been in regular contact now for almost a year,” she said. “Still hoping for an interview with Hunter.”

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Room for Disagreement

Devine offers a clear and unfiltered look from inside the Trump movement, something many American publications have struggled to provide. “ Everybody is out there looking for the decent pro-Trump columnist, because we all feel responsible for doing it,” the Washington Post’s deputy editorial page editor, Ruth Marcus, said in 2017. “You know, we can’t force you to read it, but we have to offer it up to you.”

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Notable

  • Devine remains a controversial figure in Australia, where she was admonished by the country’s press council for a story she wrote with inaccurate claims about trans adolescents. She made national headlines back home when she told Fox News in 2020 that it was “incredibly selfish of older people” to be “timid and afraid” of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • But her columns carry some heft in certain Australian political circles. A 2016 story she wrote about a teacher at Sydney school who suggested students use gender neutral language prompted an investigation from an education minister (as well as pushback on the veracity of the report from the school).
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