NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump has taken some hits in the aftermath of the midterm elections, but the unkindest cuts may have come from a source that was once among his biggest backers — the media empire of magnate Rupert Murdoch.
The New York Post's front cover on Thursday put Trump's face over the drawing of a boy from a well-known nursery rhyme. The headline: “Trumpty Dumpty.”
“Don (who couldn't build a wall) had a great fall — can all of the GOP's men put the party back together again?” the newspaper wrote.
The Wall Street Journal's opinion section ran a sharp editorial headlined, “Trump is the Republican Party's Biggest Loser.” While Fox News' biggest stars were relatively quiet, the former president heard enough discouraging words to attack the network on social media.
Trump was blamed for supporting losing or underperforming candidates like Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Don Bolduc in New Hampshire and Blake Masters in Arizona that cost Republicans a chance to make big gains in the House and Senate, as many had predicted.
The Journal's editorial mentioned each of those names and more, saying that Trump had “a perfect record of electoral defeat” since his victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
“Democrats succeeded again in making Trump a central campaign issue, and Mr. Trump helped them do it,” the Journal said.
The newspaper on Thursday also ran a guest column touting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as an alternative to Trump for the 2024 presidential election, and an excerpt from former Vice President Mike Pence's new book headlined, “My last days with Donald Trump.”
On the Post's website, veteran columnist John Podhoretz dubbed the former president “Toxic Trump.”
Podhoretz wrote that Trump was “the political equivalent of a can of Raid” and “perhaps the most profound vote repellent in modern American history.”
The Post ran an editorial urging DeSantis run for president. A day earlier, the newspaper's cover featured a triumphant picture of DeSantis with the headline, “DeFuture.”
A spokesman for Murdoch's News Corp. said he had no comment on the editorial choices. It's not like the outlets have never criticized Trump, but the tone and timing were noteworthy.
Non-Murdoch affiliated conservative figures and outlets took some shots at Trump. The Washington Examiner wrote that Republicans needed to choose between electoral success or Trump, while American Thinker said Trump is devolving into a permanent liability, according to The Righting newsletter.
Some Fox News stars tread lightly into critical territory. Jesse Watters talked Wednesday of a 2024 presidential election rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden.
“Does Trump win?" Watters said. “I hope so. I love the guy. A week ago, I would have said slam dunk. But after how last night shook out, I don't know now. Democrats will walk over hot coals to vote against Trump, but will Republicans do that to vote against Joe Biden?”
Another Fox host, Laura Ingraham, didn't mention Trump's name but said the populist movement is about ideas, not one person.
“If the voters conclude that you're putting your own ego or your own grudges ahead of what's good for the country, they're going to look elsewhere,” she said.
Trump has all but promised that he would announce a 2024 candidacy as soon as next week. But his former White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said on Fox that no potential candidates should announce before the Dec. 6 runoff election for the U.S. Senate seat in Georgia. Dov Hikind, a “Fox & Friends” guest, said Trump should announce his support for DeSantis.
“Donald Trump, move on,” he said.
That appeared unlikely, given that Trump recently referred to the Florida governor as “Ron DeSanctimonious." He also posted Wednesday on Truth Social that he got more votes in Florida in 2020 than DeSantis did this week — even though they were running for different offices and not against each other.
A Trump representative did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
The former president posted that Fox News was “really gone,” and he disputed stories that he had backed losers. He was particularly critical of The New York Times for a story that said he was angry at his wife, Melania, and Fox News' Sean Hannity for pushing him to back Oz's Senate candidacy in Pennsylvania.
“I was not at all ANGRY,” he wrote. “Fake news!”
Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.
David Bauder, The Associated Press