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What to remember from Rupert Murdoch’s exit

One of the most important figures in modern politics is stepping down. Rupert Murdoch announced Thursday that he would hand over the reins of his media empire to his son Lachlan Murdoch.

It’s the end of an era, not only in American media but also in American politics, where Murdoch, aged 92, dominated the conservative movement for decades.

This is largely due to the programming of Fox News, the go-to place for distilling the direction of – and deliberately helping – the American right and the Republican Party. But Murdoch’s empire also wielded influence through publications such as the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.

Below are some policy takeaways.

1. Murdoch bows to another alternative “political narrative”

Murdoch’s letter announcing his departure includes a brief assessment of the political landscape.

“The elites openly disdain those who are not members of their rarefied class,” he writes. “Most media outlets are in cahoots with these elites, peddling political narratives rather than seeking the truth. »

This comment could certainly be called cynical, or at least ignorant, given everything we learned this year in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News, which ultimately led to a historic settlement of 787, 5 million dollars.

Indeed, ample evidence made it clear that Fox was going to great lengths to toe the line of the most powerful man in the world, Donald Trump. Fox promoted a political narrative about a stolen 2020 election that many within Murdoch’s organization understood to be baseless or false, because the network feared that failing to do so would alienate Trump and lose his supporters as viewers.

And among those offering such sentiments was Murdoch.

In a deposition, Murdoch agreed with the statement that several prominent hosts had “at times endorsed this false notion of a stolen election.”

Documents show that Murdoch and others were deeply concerned that Fox’s decision desk on election night called Arizona for Joe Biden. Murdoch remarked at one point that Fox calling the entire election for Biden after others at least “saves us from a Trump outburst!” »

When Trump began claiming the election was stolen, Murdoch warned in an email to the Fox News CEO: “We do not want to upset Trump further. »

He also appears to allude to the idea that Fox and the Republican Party should be on the same page. “Trump will eventually concede and we should focus on Georgia (Senate runoffs), helping in any way we can,” he said.

Asked about the “upsetting” email in his deposition, Murdoch explained of Trump: “He had a very large audience, and they were probably mostly Fox viewers, so that would have been stupid. »

These are not the words of a news organization that covers the news without fear or favor. And the trial’s revelations confirmed many suspicions about the value Fox placed on peddling its own political narratives rather than seeking the truth.

2. A catalog of great political moments

The Dominion trial might have been the clearest example of how Murdoch and his multinational media empire were thrust into the US spotlight. But this is not the only example of the influence of the Murdoch empire. (See this long article from the New York Times Magazine.)

  • Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch (D) once remarked that Murdoch’s support and favorable New York Post coverage during the 1977 mayoral primary “made the difference between winning and losing, and I am very grateful for that.” Murdoch is widely credited with playing a similar role in the rise of future Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R).
  • Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign also credited Murdoch and the Post for delivering New York to Reagan’s campaign, Times magazine reported.
  • In the 2000s, Murdoch grew closer to Hillary Clinton when it looked like she might be destined for the White House.
  • In the 2010s, Murdoch became a prominent supporter of the ultimately unsuccessful campaign for comprehensive immigration reform. He testified before Congress and wrote an op-ed in his Wall Street Journal.
  • In 2015, during Barack Obama’s presidency, Murdoch tweeted about then-Republican candidate Ben Carson: “What about a real black president who can properly address the racial divide?” He later apologized.
  • Fox took a skeptical view of Trump early in the 2016 Republican primaries, best evidenced by Trump’s clash with then-Fox host Megyn Kelly during a republican debate. But as Trump took control of the contest, his media coverage shifted in his direction, cementing a mutually beneficial relationship.

The most notable event, of course, was the creation of Fox News in 1996. As the 2019 Times magazine article recounts:

If Murdoch’s newspapers were a brutal instrument, Fox’s influence was in some ways more subtle, but also much deeper: hour after hour, day after day, it shaped the reality of the millions of Americans who considered it their home. main source of information. A 2007 study found that the network’s introduction on a particular cable system pushed local voters to the right: the Fox News effect, as it was dubbed. In a 2014 Pew Research poll, a majority of self-described conservatives said it was the only news network they trusted. Murdoch’s office, above the Fox newsroom in Midtown Manhattan, has become a must-see stop on the calendar of any serious Republican presidential candidate.

3. The ignominious timing, after 40 years

If you haven’t noticed, Murdoch’s departure is largely overshadowed by the events of his final months in office. And that makes the timing inauspicious.

The Washington Post reported that the $787.5 million Dominion settlement was the largest publicly released defamation settlement in American history.

And Fox only got to this point after enduring months of embarrassing revelations. The preliminary investigation into this matter exposed the transactional conceit that seemed to underlie the entire agenda-setting operation. Not only did the channel broadcast things that people were more familiar with and did so to align with the president and his party in the interests of his economic model, but it also suggested a relationship in which Murdoch and his media empire were submitted to Trump.

Where has Murdoch’s long-standing reputation as a kingmaker gone? To this day, Trump reinforces this subjugation by continually suggesting that his supporters might abandon Fox if she doesn’t play along with him.

Donald Trump’s relationship with Fox News becomes more complex

Fox has long maintained that aside from its prime-time conservative opinion hosts, it is a serious and objective journalism organization. “Fair and balanced” has been its slogan for years, seeking to appeal to conservative viewers frustrated by the perceived liberal bias of the mainstream media.

As fanciful as this posture is, it was only seriously and objectively undermined in the final months before Murdoch left office – in a way that will forever taint what he built.

4. Clues about the sequel with Lachlan Murdoch

A valid question is what comes next. Rupert Murdoch suggests he will remain involved as chairman emeritus of the boards of Fox and News Corp., but that day-to-day affairs will be handled by Lachlan.

For a while, it was unclear who would succeed Rupert Murdoch. As Lachlan Murdoch draws closer to his father’s style and conservatism, his younger, more moderate brother, James, has also featured in the conversation. It’s the long-running drama that appears to form the basis of the plot behind the popular HBO series “Succession.”

The rise of Lachlan Murdoch may provide the greatest political continuity, as Dominion documents and his public comments suggest.

The documents describe the son joining his father in early November 2020 to warn against booking shows by two prominent Democrats who had exposed the stolen election narrative on Fox’s airwaves.

Most strikingly, Lachlan Murdoch, in mid-November of that year, objected to skeptical coverage of a Trump rally by the organization’s “journalists” and encouraged them to celebrate Trump instead. It should be emphasized that this was the news agency and not its opinion leaders.

“Journalists need to be careful how they cover this rally,” he wrote on November 14. “Some of the side comments so far are slightly anti, and they shouldn’t be. The narrative should be that this is a big celebration of the president. Etc.”

Lachlan Murdoch also recently suggested that the departure of Tucker Carlson, a particularly conspiratorial and extremist host, after the Dominion settlement did not mean a new strategy for Fox.

“There is no change to our programming strategy at Fox News,” he said in May.


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