More evidence has emerged of just how close the Rupert Murdoch media empires are with Donald Trump. It appears Trump and the White House used the News Corp-owned Wall Street Journal to try to soften the impact of the leak of the short form of Trump’s 2005 tax return to MSNBC host Rachael Maddow (a noted Trump critic).

Maddow had tweeted she had gotten hold of the 2005 return a couple of hours before her program aired on MSNBC at 9pm Tuesday, New York time. The tax return documents were given to MSNBC by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston, who also published in his DCreport.org. But before then the Journal had been given information by the White House to try to kill off the shock of the leak.

Deadline.com reported:

“The White House attempted to take some of the wind out of Maddow’s sails, giving the information in the document to Wall Street Journal in advance of her broadcast. WSJ reported President Donald Trump reported $150 million in income in one year and paid $38 million in taxes.

“There was already evidence that Trump had a significant income tax liability in 2005, WSJ reported, noting that in 2005 he donated a conservation easement, which is a pledge not to build houses, on his golf course in Bedminster, N.J. That donation was worth $39.1 million, WSJ reported, citing local records, and adding that Trump would have been unlikely to make that donation without knowing he had income that it could offset.”

This will only increase the lingering concerns at the Journal about how the paper is running dead on Trump compared with the way the rival New York Times and Washington Post are leading the charge by print (helped by the very aggressive CNN, which is matching its print peers in breaking stories).

These concerns surfaced in the so-called town hall meeting that the Journal’s editor-in-chief, Gerard Baker, held with staff just over a month ago. Baker was forced to call the meeting after his deputy, Rebecca Blumenstein, resigned suddenly and took a senior role at The New York Times, a move said to be linked to concerns of the closeness of the paper to Trump.

During the town hall meeting in February, Baker reportedly argued that the Journal’s role wa not to be “oppositional,” as some news organisations appeared to be, but to provide objective coverage. He said the paper shouldn’t be “dragged into the political fight”.

Now the Trump White House has used the Journal in a spin attempt on Trump’s tax returns. if that isn’t being “dragged into the political fight”, what is? — Glenn Dyer

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW