James Murdoch has said he quit his father’s media empire because it was ‘legitimizing disinformation’ and slammed ‘crazy’ Trump for ‘infecting the US with cruelty’ and downplaying COVID-19.
The youngest son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his second wife Anna told the New York Times about his decision to break free from the family business, saying he ‘pulled the rip cord’ because he was ‘increasingly uncomfortable’ with News Corp and Fox ‘legitimizing disinformation’ and denying climate change.
In a major departure from his father’s Fox business which has long been an ally of the president, Murdoch also blasted Trump’s ‘craziness’ for denying the dangers of the pandemic and said ‘it’s no coincidence the number of hate crimes in this country are rising’ since he entered the White House.
Murdoch, 47, sensationally quit the board of News Corp at the end of July citing ‘disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company’s news outlets’.
News Corp is one of the two major media conglomerates owned by the Murdoch family, the other being Fox Corporation, which was established after The Walt Disney Company acquired the majority of 21st Century Fox last year.
The empire and the dramas going on among family members has been an inspiration for the popular TV show ‘Succession’.
James Murdoch (pictured) has said he quit his father’s media empire because it was ‘legitimizing disinformation’ and slammed ‘crazy’ Trump for ‘infecting the US with cruelty’ and downplaying COVID-19
Murdoch told the Times it was ‘not that hard a decision’ to stand down from News Corp because of major disagreements with his father and brother Lachlan over the running of the business.
He accused the news organization of ‘hid[ing] agendas’, ‘sow[ing] doubt’ and ‘obscur[ing] fact’ to its audience at a time when Trump has blasted other outlets for spreading so-called fake news while often heaping praise on conservative outlet Fox.
‘I reached the conclusion that you can venerate a contest of ideas, if you will, and we all do and that’s important,’ he told the Times.
‘But it shouldn’t be in a way that hides agendas. A contest of ideas shouldn’t be used to legitimize disinformation.
‘And I think it’s often taken advantage of. And I think at great news organizations, the mission really should be to introduce fact to disperse doubt – not to sow doubt, to obscure fact, if you will.’
Murdoch said he became ‘increasingly uncomfortable’ with the inner workings at the company and so ‘pulled the rip cord.’
‘I just felt increasingly uncomfortable with my position on the board having some disagreements over how certain decisions are being made,’ he said.
‘So it was actually not that hard a decision to remove myself and have a kind of cleaner slate.’
Murdoch said he felt he couldn’t change the company from the inside and so no longer wanted to be associated with it.
Lachlan, Rupert and James Murdoch (left to right) at Rupert’s 2016 wedding to Jerry Hall. James, 47, sensationally quit the board of News Corp at the end of July blaming ‘disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company’s news outlets’ as he clashed with his brother and father over the running of the business
Lachlan, Rupert and James Murdoch (left to right) in 2017. The youngest son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his second wife Anna told the New York Times he ‘pulled the rip cord’ from the family empire because he was ‘increasingly uncomfortable’ with News Corp and Fox ‘legitimizing disinformation’ and denying climate change
‘I think there’s only so much you can do if you’re not an executive, you’re on the board, you’re quite removed from a lot of the day-to-day decisions, obviously,’ he said.
‘And if you’re uncomfortable with those decisions, you have to take stock of whether or not you want to be associated and can you change it or not.
‘I decided that I could be much more effective outside.’
He added that he had ‘been arguing about politics since I was a teenager’ with his father.
Murdoch told the Times his new ventures include investing in start-ups created to combat fake news and the spread of disinformation.
He said fake news was ‘terrifying’ because it ‘undermine our ability to discern what’s true and what’s not’ and said the spread of disinformation ‘is only at the beginning as far as I can tell.’
In a major departure from his father’s Fox business which has long been an ally of the president, Murdoch also blasted Trump’s ‘craziness’ for downplaying COVID-19 and blamed him for the rise in hate crimes across America
Murdoch with his wife Kathryn in 2016. Kathryn also told the Times she was shocked that some people and organizations – including her husband’s family business – are still denying its existence in 2020
Rupert Murdoch and Trump in 2017. The president has a close relationship to Fox
THE MURDOCH FAMILY MEDIA EMPIRE
RUPERT MURDOCH, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN OF NEWS CORP
The Australian-born mogul began building his media empire in Australia by acquiring numerous publications in the 1950s, before entering the British newspaper market in 1969, and expanding to the US in 1974.
He founded News Corporation in 1980, which quickly evolved into one of the largest media groups in the world owning assets in print, news, and television.
In 2013, News Corporation split into two sister companies, News Corp and 21st Century Fox. The latter was later rebranded as Fox Corporation after the majority of its assets were sold to The Walt Disney Company in 2019.
Murdoch currently serves as the executive chairman of News Corp and the chairman of Fox Corporation. He is estimated to be worth $17billion.
LACHLAN MURDOCH, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN AND CEO OF FOX CORPORATION, CO-CHAIR OF NEWS CORP
Lachlan Murdoch, 48, the eldest of the Murdoch children, is the heir apparent to News Corp Executive Chairman Rupert and is co-chairman of News Corp. He was named executive chairman and CEO of Fox Corp in 2019, after 21st Century Fox was sold to Disney.
Before the sale, younger brother James had been the CEO of the company and Lachlan was executive chairman. Lachlan is also chairman of Australian entertainment company NOVA Entertainment, which operates a number of radio stations across the country.
JAMES MURDOCH, FORMER BOARD MEMBER OF NEWS CORP
The younger son of Rupert Murdoch, James, 47, had been on the board of News Corp since 2013. He and brother Lachlan had shared power at 21st Century Fox, but the sale of much of the Fox entertainment business to Disney in 2019 saw James depart as CEO.
Since then, he has worked at the helm of investment fund Lupa Systems.
James is considered more liberal than his older brother who is CEO of Fox Corp, home to conservative news network Fox News, the Fox broadcast and sports networks and local TV stations.
James has been critical of News Corp’s editorial decisions and has said he disagreed with Fox News coverage. He resigned from the board on July 31, 2020.
PRUDENCE MURDOCH, NON-EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBER OF NEWS CORP
Prudence Murdoch, 62, is the eldest child of Rupert Murdoch through his first marriage with Patricia Booker.
She formerly worked as journalist for now-defunct British tabloid, News of the World, which was owned by her father.
Prudence was once described in the media as the ‘only one of [Murdoch’s] children not directly competing for his business affections.’
ELISABETH MURDOCH, MEDIA EXECUTIVE AND FORMER CHAIRPERSON OF SHINE GROUP
Elisabeth is Rupert Murdoch’s daughter from his second marriage with Anna Maria Torv. Born in Sydney, she moved to London in 1990s where she worked on the operations side of BSkyB, ran by her father.
She founded UK-based TV programming company Shine Limited in 2001, which was sold to News Corp ten years later.
She currently serves as executive chairman of production company Sister.
GRACE AND CHLOE MURDOCH
The sisters, aged 19 and 17, are Rupert’s daughters from his third marriage to Wendi Deng.
He is also funding a research program to study how society is being manipulated by technology including through the use of mass surveillance and 5G.
As well as spreading ‘disinformation’ Murdoch revealed other major disagreements including his father’s unwillingness to replace Roger Ailes with former CBS News president David Rhodes in 2016, after Ailes faced multiple accusations of sexual harassment at Fox.
The Harvard dropout also cited the vast differences in opinion around climate change.
Murdoch, who announced he would make Sky carbon neutral in 2006, told the Times climate change is ‘a crisis’.
‘Climate is also a public health crisis,’ he said when asked about coronavirus.
His wife Kathryn also told the Times she was shocked that some people and organizations – including her husband’s family’s business – are still denying its existence in 2020.
‘I never thought that we would actually be at the point where we would have climate change effects and people would still be denying it,’ she said.
The couple have long championed sustainability but the disparities with News Corp really came to a head in January when they said they were ‘frustrated’ when Fox peddled a theory that climate change was not to blame for the Australian wildfires that destroyed more than 46 million acres nationwide.
Murdoch also sought to dispel rumors that he had wanted to take over the helm at Disney after pushing for News Corp to reach a deal with the entertainment giant.
‘I decided pretty soon after we closed it that I didn’t want to stay on in the business,’ he said.
He added: ‘We never really even took talks very far at all about going to Disney because I informed them, because they were really trying to figure, “OK, what does the structure look like? Et cetera.” I called Bob [Iger] and said, “Look, you need to design that without me.”‘
Murdoch went on to slam Trump calling his administration ‘dangerous’ and blaming him for a spike in hate crime across America.
‘I’m just concerned that the leadership that we have, to me, just seems characterized by callousness and a level of cruelty that I think is really dangerous and then it infects the population,’ he said.
‘It’s not a coincidence that the number of hate crimes in this country are rising over the last three years for the first time in a long time.’
He blasted Trump’s handling of coronavirus saying his likening of the virus to the flu ‘from day 1’ is ‘craziness.’
Trump has repeatedly downplayed the severity of the virus and refused to wear a mask for several months as cases soared nationwide and health experts urged Americans to wear face coverings to slow the spread.
The president tested positive for the virus last week and was hospitalized for four days and given experimental drugs for treatment after his condition deteriorated.
However, he has now left the hospital and returned to his stance downplaying the virus, telling people to ‘not fear’ the virus that has killed more than 200,000 Americans and claiming he is ‘cured’.
Murdoch also showed disapproval for Fox’s very close relationship with the president.
When asked about Sean Hannity comparing Trump’s actions during the pandemic to the leadership of President Roosevelt and his ‘we have nothing to fear but fear itself’ speech in 1933, he said ‘it’s a little much’.
Murdoch threw his support behind Joe Biden saying ‘hell yes’ when asked if he will be voting for the Democratic candidate in November’s election.
He donated to Pete Buttigieg in the primary has given $1.23 million to Biden’s campaign.
James previously served as the CEO of 21st Century Fox but stepped down following the sale.
Since then, he has worked at the helm of the investment fund Lupa Systems.
Rupert Murdoch designed his companies to benefit his family, making certain that he and his children always had control.
But the media tycoon has not left his children with a plan for the future of his media empire, refusing to officially name an heir despite making no secret of his preferred child – Lachlan.
Lachlan, Murdoch’s older son, is the ‘golden child’ according to multiple sources – not his oldest child Prudence or the next in line Elisabeth, who has found incredible success outside the family business in emerging media markets.
James, who stood by his side for decades and weathered the fallout from the 2011 hacking scandal at News of the World and the 2016 sexual assault scandal at Fox News, is also not the firm favorite.
The media mogul is the father of six children, who range in age from 61 to 16.
News Corp also publishes major papers in Australia and the UK and owns the HarperCollins book publisher.