Twitter, DeSantis and Tucker Carlson
Reshuffling the Media Deck
Whatever Elon Musk’s strange vision for Twitter was, something is happening there. Whether the man is a mad genius or a crazy lucky opportunist is debatable, but something is going on that little slice of hell. And it is no longer clear that Musk has actually put a match to the $44 billion he put into the platform.
I suppose that it is too much to ask for a little dignity in presidential politics these days, but Florida governor Ron DeSantis is announcing his bid for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination will happen on Twitter in a conversation with Musk, who has exhibited his political acumen by saying that he’d like someone “fairly normal” for president.
This may turn out to be a watershed event for the Fox Network which has taken a beating since it canned Tucker Carlson a month ago in the wake of texts reveled in the $757 Dominion Voting Systems defamation settlement. Carlson may or may not hate Trump, but it seems clear that he’s not a reliable journalist. What Fox had to do in the fall-out of Tucker calling Trump, more or less, a disaster was to decide which of the two generated the most viewers: They decided that it was Trump, and Tucker got the axe.
The cable network might have miscalculated. Tucker Carlson is now in talks with Elon Musk to bring aversion of his show to Twitter as it’s user bas is approaching parity with cable television subscribers. On the other side of the calculation, Donald Trump’s Town Hall meeting was on CNN – although no one seems to be able to articulate why that network gave the man a platform the day after he was found liable for sexual abuse and libel to the tune $5mm. You have to give this to Trump, though, he always delivers: He used CNN to libel E. Jean Carrol, again. And got himself yet another lawsuit.
What the two biggest out-front egos at Fox will never admit, and the quants who run the network number probably can’t see, is that the two need each other. Carlson was the fellow who could go on television looking like William F. Buckley and make Trump seem less crazy. He was able to distill the unhinged rantings into something a fellow with a decent golf handicap could buy into, provided he did want to think too hard about it. Then came those texts and, despite himself, Carlson admitted that there was no upside to Trump who, being pretty thin-skinned, is unlikely to forgive.
Now Twitter, DeSantis and Tucker Carlson have been thrown together. Carlson will likely take up the banner of Ron DeSantis for his millions of fans. CNN, while better at dealing with enormous egos than Fox News, may have met it match with Trump – putting him back in bed with an uneasy Fox as it tries to engineer a turn-around. No mean feat, as cable television subscribers are falling across the board. The QED being that all of this will likely grow DeSantis’s market share while shrinking Trump’s – but will it be enough to put DeSantis ahead for the nomination?
DeSantis is popular with GOP donors, so is Tim Scott of South Carolina and, if the chatter is to be believed, Glenn Youngkin of Virgina who is still a firm “maybe.” But the purpose of all those donors is, more or less, to by airtime. And with Trump’s court date for the Stormy Daniel’s affair slated for March, right as the primaries hot up, he may get all the media he needs, along with a bloody shirt to wave. The foolishness boils down to a very stale story of a sleazy real-estate mogul having a sleazy affair with a sleazy porn star with some dubious misdemeanor injected into it for life support. It may not be a progressive witch hunt, but it looks enough like one for the charge to stick. Let’s call Stormy a media advantage for Team Trump.
More damaging is the E. Jean Carrol civil case – not because he was found liable for sexual abuse, but because that deposition was a bonanza for truly damaging sound bites. Yes, Virginia, the rich and powerful can grab you by your lady’s bits. Trump practically produced the center-piece of the Biden television campaign pro bono. True, it won’t affect his True Believers, but without Carlson to thrown a blue blazer and a rep tie on the story, we might see exactly how small that very loud core is.