Softer Murdoch Eyes Times

It should really come as no surprise that News Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch wants to be respected by the limo liberals who (officially) disdain his politics and tactics. That's why he paid so dearly for the Wall Street Journal, and was proud for having done so, right? But no one really thought age and young wife Wendi Deng would gentrify Murdoch's barbarian soul to such an extent that he now spins fantasies about buying the Times from one side of his mouth while betraying his conservative shock troops at Fox News Channel out of the other. Murdoch's brash past is becoming an embarrassment to him as his portfolio becomes more respectable, at least according to Michael Wolff, who excerpted his sanctioned Murdoch biography in the October Vanity Fair. And yet the Aussie can't help but revert to his old ways, like when he told Wolff that Muslims are, as a group, inbred:

All right, he’s not quite a liberal. He remains a militant free-marketeer and is still pro-war (grudgingly, he’s retreated a bit). And there was the moment, one afternoon, when over a glass of his favorite coconut water (meant to increase electrolytes) he was propounding the genetic theory that the basic problem of the Muslim people was that they married their cousins.

Other hints that Murdoch is still an unpolished, rough-and-tumble media mogul: He is a terrible mumbler, has alienated many of his children from his business and likes to personally report dirt on his foes (Wolff observers him trying to nail down gossip about a Hillary Clinton adviser).

But is no longer the unwavering backer of Fox News that he once was. After begging an audience with Barack Obama, Wolff writes, Murdoch arranged a "truce" with the Democratic presidential candidate and Fox News. Also, he's no fan of Fox shouting head Bill O'Reilly:

Fox has been his alter ego. For a long time he was in love with the Fox chief, Roger Ailes, because he was even more Murdoch than Murdoch. And yet now the embarrassment can’t be missed—he mumbles even more than usual when called on to justify it; he barely pretends to hide the way he feels about Bill O’Reilly. And while it is not possible that he would give Fox up—because the money is the money; success trumps all—in the larger sense of who he is, he seems to want to hedge his bets.

And Murdoch would "really like to own" that temple of liberal New York respectability, the Times:

Now, everybody around him continues to tell him that buying the Times is pretty much impossible. There will be regulatory problems. The Sulzberger family would never … And then there’s the opprobrium of public opinion.

But it’s obviously irresistible to him. I’ve watched him go through the numbers, plot out a merger with the Journal’s backroom operations, and fantasize about the staff’s quitting en masse as soon as he entered the sacred temple.

Given his history with the Journal, it would be a mistake to write off Murdoch's ambitions for the financially-troubled Times. And given his savvy, it would also be a mistake to assume the mogul walked through his acquisition fantasy with a media reporter for any reason other than to broadcast it to the entire world, in particular the Sulzberger family, whose dividend payouts are crippling the newspaper they supposedly would never relinquish.

[Vanity Fair]