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Source: CNN

Rupert Murdoch might not be flexing for the cameras, but he did just quietly demonstrate the power he still wields inside the Republican Party.

The right-wing media mogul’s empire — which includes Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post — not-so-subtly backed Mike Johnson as Marjorie Taylor Greene waged an all-out assault against the House Speaker over his decision to pass an aid package for Ukraine. Murdoch’s powerful collection of outlets not only voiced support for Johnson, but leveled scathing attacks on Greene, with the Post even going as far as to blast her as “MOSCOW MARJORIE” on its cover.

But Murdoch was an anomaly, to a large degree, in the right-wing media universe. While his collection of outlets supported Johnson, the hardline faction of MAGA Media spent weeks assailing him. These outlets and personalities — including Tucker Carlson, Steve Bannon, Charlie Kirk, Breitbart, The Gateway Pundit, and others — portrayed Johnson to their audiences as a squishy Republican who had betrayed the conservative movement and was instead doing the bidding of the Democratic Party.

The barrage of missiles fired squarely at Johnson, however, failed to deliver a fatal blow against the House Speaker on Wednesday, with the House swiftly voting to kill her resolution to oust Johnson from his leadership post. The end to the embarrassing debacle came after she failed to win over the support of Donald Trump and other GOP allies, coupled with the fact that Democrats provided support for Johnson.

On Fox News, the vote was treated with such dismissal that the network offered only passing coverage as members voted in real-time. In contrast, CNN and MSNBC offered far more robust live coverage.

The episode, however, was instructive when examining the centers of power within the GOP, underscoring the enormous influence that Murdoch still wields over the party. While Murdoch’s power has waned in recent years, his empire continues to serve as the source of gravity in the right-wing media universe. Without Murdoch Media joining the chorus and denouncing Johnson, Greene’s efforts failed to gain enough momentum to actually jeopardize Johnson’s leadership.

The course of events could have played out far differently if Murdoch had chosen to go the other direction. If Murdoch allowed or instructed Fox News to pour gasoline on the Johnson criticism, the speaker would have had a far larger fire on his hands. Instead of it being confined to Carlson’s unhinged vlogs and Bannon’s podcast rants, it would have spread to the mainstream swath of the GOP and likely put his leadership in serious peril. Further, if Fox News had played up the attacks, it would have incentivized other Republicans to join in on the efforts.

Most importantly, it could have very well affected how Trump ultimately chose to respond to the situation. Instead of voicing support for Johnson, it is not difficult to see a world in which Trump, influenced by Fox News, turned on the House speaker and gave the green light for other Republicans to do the same.

But none of that ever happened. Instead, Murdoch — invisibly — helped Johnson escape what could have been a dire situation. The 93-year-old billionaire was arguably Johnson’s most important, yet least-talked about, ally.

After all, elsewhere in right-wing media, Johnson was portrayed as a turncoat. And without Murdoch Media acting as an effective Iron Dome around Johnson, preventing the ugly attacks from penetrating inside the heart of the GOP, he would have almost certainly faced a serious threat to his power.

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