The love affair lasted four years and it was passionate, sometimes histrionic, rarely dull. Then Rupert Murdoch found someone else.
It’s been nearly two months since the media baron dumped Twitter for a new love, Jerry Hall. On the day he married the one-time supermodel from Texas, Murdoch tweeted: “No more tweets for ten days or ever! Feel like the luckiest AND happiest man in world.”
The 10-day cooling off period has stretched well into Spring, leaving reason to believe the never-reticent 21st Century Fox co-chairman really might stride, tweet-less, to his next horizon. Gone missing with @rupertmurdoch are social commentary, broadsides against President Obama, doubts about global warming, the odd shout out (to a Teletubby?), along with the occasional mea culpa and a running monologue on the 2016 presidential campaign.
Before signing off March 4, Murdoch exhibited the warm fuzzies for one Republican candidate, Ben Carson. He mostly threw darts at another, Donald Trump. And he chided Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for pandering to black voters. All of that made headlines and can’t help raise questions about what Rupert has been thinking lately.
Has the man behind the Fox News Channel taken a late turn toward Ted Cruz? Does he still believe, as he once tweeted, that the Republicans need to unify behind one candidate, even Trump? Or has he re-heated the idea of a run by his friend, Michael Bloomberg?
The Rupert-less Twitterverse can only beg the questions. And the 85-year-old’s fourth wife, the 59-year-old Hall, isn’t helping. She tweets only the odd personal or promotional note, and then only rarely. Last Hall missive: a picture from the couple’s wedding day.
While Murdoch has his enemies, journalists adored the idea that one leader in the hyper-controlled corporate world offered his opinions, unrestrained. His micro-blogging routinely created news, as when he lobbed a rose to Carson, the retired pediatric neurosurgeon, that also came with a thorn for President Obama.
“Ben and Candy Carson terrific,” he tweeted last October. “What about a real black President who can properly address the racial divide? And much else.” Murdoch never explained what was unreal about Obama or his blackness. But he soon responded to a storm of criticism. “Apologies!” he tweeted. “No offense meant. Personally find both men charming.”
Murdoch’s social media targets have ranged from the high — calling New York Governor Andrew Cuomo a “chicken” — to the low — torching a “fat lady” social worker as a product of “welfare stamps” after she suffered injuries when a Manhattan sidewalk collapsed.
While enemies depict him as stridently conservative, Murdoch’s views are not stereotypically right wing, as when he took on Trump last summer. “Mexican immigrants, as with all immigrants, have much lower crime rates than native born,” Murdoch wrote. “E.g. El Paso safest city in U.S. Trump wrong.”
Just a few months earlier, he had created another storm by suggesting that all Muslims had a duty to stop terrorism. “Maybe most Moslems peaceful,” he tweeted, “but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.” Comedian Aziz Ansari joined many others in hitting back. “How can my 60-year-old parents in NC help destroy terrorist groups?” Ansari tweeted. “Plz advise.”
The Murdoch stream had become popular enough that even a non sequitur can push its way into the news cycle. Early last year, one Murdoch tweet amounted to just two letters: “Po.” Internet wags mused about the meaning: Post Office? Post Operative? Poison Oak? Or was the Fox executive a secret fan of Po, the fuzzy red Teletubby? He never bothered to explain.
It remains to be seen whether Trump can resist renewing his musings on the presidential race, as the primary season reaches its climax and the party conventions loom. It was not so long ago that he was touting a mini-surge by Carson as a sign that America is a “land of hope versus fear.”
He advised Trump to “calm down” when the billionaire candidate suggested Murdoch’s media empire was against him. “If I’m running anti-Trump conspiracy,” he added, “then doing lousy job!” But just a day before his Twitter feed went dark, Murdoch made it clear he did not support those trying to block Trump at all costs.
“As predicted, Trump reaching out to make peace with Republican ‘establishment,’ “ Murdoch opined. “If he becomes inevitable party would be mad not to unify.”
His absence has cost him headlines. But not fans. When he left, Murdoch had about 745,000 Twitter followers. After 53 days of silence he has 761,000.