A few weeks after Senator Marco Rubio joined a bipartisan push for an immigration overhaul in 2013, he arrived alongside Senator Chuck Schumer at the executive dining room of News Corporation’s Manhattan headquarters for dinner.
Their mission was to persuade Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the media empire, and Roger Ailes, the chairman and chief executive of its Fox News division, to keep the network’s on-air personalities from savaging the legislation and give it a fighting chance at survival.
Mr. Murdoch, an advocate of immigration reform, and Mr. Ailes, his top lieutenant and the most powerful man in conservative television, agreed at the Jan. 17, 2013, meeting to give the senators some breathing room.
But the media executives, highly attuned to the intensifying anger in the Republican grass roots, warned that the senators also needed to make their case to Rush Limbaugh, the king of conservative talk radio, who held enormous sway with the party’s largely anti-immigrant base. So the senators supporting the legislation turned to Mr. Rubio, the Florida Republican, to reach out to Mr. Limbaugh.
I have no independent knowledge of whether this story in the New York Times is true, but if it is — and “if” is always the operative word during Disinformation Season, aka campaign season — it ought to give every potential Rubio supporter pause. The infamous “Gang of Eight” — the high-water mark of the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party — both brought the junior senator from Florida to national prominence and, in the eyes of many conservatives, simultaneously ended any chance he had to become a GOP leader. Rubio stood revealed as a shallow, self-aggrandizing opportunist, only interested in two things: amnesty, and himself. Nothing since has changed that verdict.
Fox’s ratings remain strong, but its standing among Republican viewers, influenced by Mr. Trump’s offensive, has dropped to a three-year low,according to YouGov BrandIndex. And Mr. Rubio’s opponents, for whom Mr. Schumer, a Democrat from New York, has become the ultimate villain, continue to depict the Florida Republican as a duplicitous establishment insider.
“If you look at the ‘Gang of Eight,’ one individual on this stage broke his promise to the men and women who elected him and wrote the amnesty bill,” Senator Ted Cruz said of Mr. Rubio during Thursday’s Republican debate. And as Mr. Rubio defended himself, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, posted “MARCO ‘AMNESTY’ RUBIO” on Twitter.
The so-called Gang of Eight was four Democrats and four Republicans, including Mr. Rubio, who drafted an immigration bill in 2013. It passed the Senate but was stymied by conservative opposition in the House.
Details of the dinner, and a previous one in 2011, were provided to The New York Times by an attendee of one of the meetings and two people with knowledge of what was discussed at both get-togethers. None of the attendees agreed to be identified for this article because the conversations were supposed to be confidential.
The senators were especially eager to try to neutralize conservative media, which proved lethal to a big push for immigration changes in 2007… Mr. Rubio also reached out to other conservative power brokers, including the radio hosts Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham, telling them that the legislation did not amount to amnesty. The Fox anchors Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly became more supportive.
At the time, The Washington Post reported that Mr. Rubio’s advisers were monitoring to the minute how much time the hosts devoted to immigration, and that “they are heartened that the volume is much diminished.”
Ever get the feeling you’re being rolled?