Rupert Murdoch 'called Donald Trump a f****** idiot', claims new book

Mythili Sampathkumar

According to a new book about the administration of Donald Trump, longtime friend and NewsCorp executive Rupert Murdoch called the President a “f****** idiot.”

Michael Wolff’s book is called Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House and details a myriad of behind-the-scenes stories regarding the current White House and America’s controversial leader from Election Night 2016 until this past October.

Mr Murdoch reportedly made the comment during a phone call on 16 December 2016, about one month before Mr Trump took office.

Those on the call were discussing Mr Trump’s strategy towards H1B visa holders, a special category that allows select immigrants to stay in the country largely working in the technology sector and Silicon Valley.

Mr Murdoch allegedly suggested that it might be difficult to reconcile the administration’s stance on building a roughly 2,000-mile long wall along the US-Mexico border with a favourable, more open stance towards H1B-based immigration.

“But Trump seemed unconcerned, assuring Murdoch, ‘We’ll figure it out.’ ‘What a fucking idiot,’ said Murdoch, shrugging, as he got off the phone,” wrote Mr Wolff in the book.

However, there is evidence that Mr Trump may have taken Mr Murdoch’s words of advice.

In April 2017, the administration stopped expedited processing for H1B visas for an extra fee, meaning all applications take between three and six months rather than the option of 15 days.

The requirements for those applying for work as computer programmers also became more stringent.

According to a leaked internal memo of the Department of Homeland Security appeared to point to a new proposal - asking those seeking H1B visa extensions while they wait for residency green cards to leave the country until their applications have been approved.

The Australian tycoon chairs NewsCorp, the parent company of the tabloid New York Post and conservative news outlet Fox News - a favourite of Mr Trump.

Decades earlier the New York Post “made” Mr Trump. He went from a local real estate developer to a multi-millionaire gossip column staple in the 1980s largely due to the paper.

As recently as April 2017 the pair would speak on a weekly basis about “strategy,” sources close to both men told the New York Times.

The newspaper had reported that that the relationship between Mr Trump and “Mr. Murdoch is deeper and more enduring than most in [Mr Trump’s] life, and the two commiserate”

Neither Henry Holt & Co. publishers nor News Corp have responded to a request for comment as yet.

Mr Wolff gathered the reporting in the book by spending time with the transition team and at the White House over 18 months with the freedom to record conversations.

He conducted 200 interviews including Mr Trump and took, according to him, “something like a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing” to do so. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, however, that Mr Wolff never "sat down" with the President.

"There was one brief conversation that had nothing to do originally with the book. It was around...five to seven minutes in total since the President has taken office and that is the only interaction that he has had," Ms Sanders said during a news conference.

She also noted that "the book has a lot of things...that are untrue. You have many people that have had quotes sourced to them come out publicly and say they're not true."

Mr Wolff characterised himself as “more of a constant interloper than an invited guest.”

As New York Magazine reported: “There were no ground rules placed on his access, and he was required to make no promises about how he would report on what he witnessed.”

Mr Wolff’s book, which also reveals a controversy between former White House adviser Steve Bannon and the President, is set to be out on 9 January.