James Murdoch claimed on Friday that U.S. news outlets will be faced with a ‘reckoning’ after last week’s deadly pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol.
In an interview with the Financial Times, the 48-year-old blamed ‘media property owners’ for unleashing ‘insidious and uncontrollable forces’ with their support of disinformation about the 2020 election.
James, the youngest son of billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, also claimed that media groups fueled the riot by leading ‘a substantial portion’ of the public to believe ‘a falsehood’ about the election.
‘The damage is profound,’ James said in Friday’s interview as he criticized media groups coverage of election fraud.
‘The sacking of the Capitol is proof positive that what we thought was dangerous is indeed very, very much so. Those outlets that propagate lies to their audience have unleashed insidious and uncontrollable forces that will be with us for years.’
He did not explicitly mention Fox News, whose board includes his father as chairman and older brother Lachlan as CEO, yet was clearly focused on the right-wing cable network that has been criticized for its coverage of President Trump’s election fraud claims.
James Murdoch, pictured left with his father Rupert, was formerly the Deputy Chief Operating Officer of News Corporation but he quit his father’s company over the summer
James quit his father’s media company News Corp. last summer, saying that he was ‘increasingly uncomfortable’ with News Corp and Fox ‘legitimizing disinformation’.
Yet, he had previously been in the running to take over from his father after remaining loyal and staying at his side through several scandals, as well as receiving $2billion in 2019 from a merger with Disney.
He left after becoming increasingly disillusioned, having being leapfrogged by brother Lachlan for promotion and also losing his job in the Disney merger.
James Murdoch quit his father’s media empire because it was ‘legitimizing disinformation’
In July 2020, James Murdoch handed in his resignation letter for his final board position within News Corp.
James’ letter ‘disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company’s news outlets’.
The 48-year-old told the New York Times that he ‘pulled the rip cord’ because he was ‘increasingly uncomfortable’ with News Corp and Fox ‘legitimizing disinformation’ and denying climate change.
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 had voiced criticism about Fox the previous year.
Yet prior to this, James had been in line to take over his father’s empire, battling it out with brother Lachlan
He was leapfrogged for promotion by Lachlan despite staying loyal to his father
Conservatives remained loyal to Fox News throughout Trump’s presidency, angered at the coverage on CNN and MSNBC over Trump’s first impeachment and the probe into Russian collusion.
Yet Fox has recently reckoned with a mass departure of viewers to emerging rivals Newsmax and One American News Network (OAN) as Trump fans were left angered by some of the network’s hosts breaking from their support of the president.
Newsmax and OAN have continued to claim Trump won the election if it were not for fraud, even as Murdoch’s outlets have called on the president to accept defeat.
James’s comments came as his father allegedly flew back to New York to shake up the network as Fox’s rating plummeted in the first two weeks of the year.
‘I hope that those people who didn’t think it was that dangerous now understand, and that they stop,’ James added in the Times interview, yet claimed he had not ‘seen any evidence of that yet’.
James and his wife, Kathryn Hufschmid, issued a further statement following the interview in which they accused ‘media property owners’ of chosing to spread ‘lies’.
‘Spreading disinformation — whether about the election, public health or climate change — has real world consequences,’ the statement read.
‘Many media property owners have as much responsibility for this as the elected officials who know the truth but choose instead to propagate lies.
‘We hope the awful scenes we have all been seeing will finally convince those enablers to repudiate the toxic politics they have promoted once and forever,’ it concluded.
Rupert Murdoch with his sons Lachlan Murdoch (left) and James Murdoch (right) in 2016
In his resignation letter, James cited ‘disagreements over certain editorial content’
James formerly served as the chief executive of 21st Century Fox from 2015 to 2019.
He is known as the more liberal Murdoch brother, while older brother Lachlan’s views seem to be more aligned with those of his conservative father.
James split from the company in a dramatic exit in July 2020 when he left the News Corps. board completely, citing in a letter ‘disagreements over certain editorial content’.
A spokesperson for him and his wife also told the Daily Beast in January 2020 – before his split from the empire – that the couple disagreed ‘with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage’ on climate change.
The comments were made as wildfires ripped through Murdoch’s native Australia.
‘Kathryn and James’s views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known.
‘They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary,’ their statement read.
The ‘denials’ were in reference to allegations arsonists and not climate change were to blame for the destructive wildfires.
At the time, his comments were perceived as ‘unprecedented’ and sparked speculation of a feud within the family since he rarely spoke publicly about his role in the business.
He also told the New Yorker in 2019: ‘There are views I really disagree with on Fox.’
Despite his family’s conservative-leaning media outlets, James and his wife have recently made significant donations to Democrats, including former presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg and President-elect Joe Biden.
He, along with Rupert Murdoch’s five other children, received up to $2billion in 2019 from the break-up of the family’s media empire and the sale of its entertainment businesses to Walt Disney.
Yet the merger left him out of work and appeared to cause friction between father and son.
‘There are periods of time when we do not,’ James told the New Yorker of speaking with his former boss after the deal.
Rumors of a family rift have swirled over the years after eldest son Lachlan (pictured with James, father Rupert and mom Anna in 1987) became heir apparent of his dad’s media empire
In 2020, James, and his wife Kathryn (pictured together above) spoke out against the family business for promoting climate change ‘denials’ during the Australian bushfire crisis
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, 49, the eldest of the Murdoch sons, 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, 48, 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, 63, 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, run 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 20 and 18, are Rupert’s daughters from his third marriage to Wendi Deng.
In 2019, James was reportedly looking to set up a $1billion new project including a liberal news outlet, in stark contrast to his father’s Fox News.
In March 2020, it was further suggested he pumped money into start-ups looking to combat fake news.
His firm Lupa Systems was said to have teamed up with Betaworks to create a ‘more sustainable news ecosystem’.
Rupert designed his companies to benefit his family, making certain that he and his children always had control, meaning that his children and generations to follow would be taken care of financially.
One thing Murdoch has not left his children with however is a plan for the future of his media empire, refusing to officially name an heir despite making no secret of his preferred child.
It is not his oldest child Prudence or the next in line Elisabeth, who has found incredible success outside the family business in emerging media markets.
It is not James, the son who has 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.
It is Lachlan, Murdoch’s older son, who is the ‘golden child’ according to multiple sources.
The family company and its future were the focus of a New York Times piece in 2019 that provided an in depth look at the mogul’s two sons while completely ignoring the lives and accomplishments of his four daughters.
By some accounts, Murdoch’s heirs are now battling behind the scenes for control of the empire, with the two top contenders at the time appearing to be his sons James and Lachlan before James’ split.
The brothers have had a tumultuous relationship over the years which had become more frayed than ever of recent after Lachlan was promoted over his younger brother by their father, despite James’ loyalty to the family company.
The media mogul is the father of six children, who range in age from 63 to 19. The oldest is Prudence, who is Murdoch’s only child with his first wife, Australian model Patricia Booker.
She has held various positions in her father’s companies but now lives in Australia where she is largely focused on raising her three children.
Prue, as she is called by her family, has made it clear she is not interested in taking the reins and did not even attend college after graduating from Dalton in New York.
That does not mean she would oppose seeing her second husband, Alasdair MacLeod, move up the ranks at News Corp – despite her protests about him working with her father, or her offspring – who are Murdoch’s three oldest grandchildren – landing nice roles at the company.
The battle to take over their father’s media empire was originally set between Elisabeth, 52, Lachlan, 49, and James, all three of whom worth in the media.
Lachlan has since emerged as the frontrunner when James removed himself.
The relationship between Lachlan and his father has run hot and cold over the years, but that all changed back in 2014 when Murdoch’s older son returned to New York to work for News Corp. Now, he is the Chairman and CEO of the Fox Corporation.
James, the youngest of the three, was the most loyal, staying by his father’s side and joining News Corp shortly after he dropped out of Harvard.
That devotion was tested however when Murdoch elected to promote Lachlan over James after he return to work in the US following an extended stint in Australia.
The brothers already strained relationship only got worse when Lachlan informed James of this decision over lunch.
James even briefly quit the company, but then ultimately decided to return before then exiting for good.
Murdoch’s youngest children are Grace, 20, and Chloe, 18, the New York-based daughters born to Murdoch’s third wife Wendi Deng.
The ambitions of the two teenagers are unknown, but their fiercely intelligent mother has no doubt seen to it that the two get not one bit less than their older half-siblings.
James’ comments on Friday come as Fox executives are said to be fearful a shake-up is on the cards as Rupert Murdoch heads back to the US thanks to the COVID-19 vaccine.
The media mogul, who will turn 90 in March, got the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine in recent days from the UK’s NHS, sources told The Daily Beast, allowing him to travel back to the country.
Murdoch is a US citizen and was born in Australia but has been isolated with his fourth wife Jerry Hall at his home in England since the summer.
He received the first dose at a local clinic in Henley on December 16 where he sang the praises of NHS staff and scientists and said he ‘strongly encouraged’ others to get the shot.
Sources said he was waiting for the second dose before heading back across the pond, where rumors are circling that positions of some top executives are on the line after ratings have slumped in recent months.
The News Corp. boss has reportedly taken a more hands-on role at the right-wing network in recent days alongside his son Lachlan.
Top of the priority list is to tackle the decline in ratings seen since Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election in November, insiders said.
Multiple insiders told The Daily Beast Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and President Jay Wallace are both fighting to keep their jobs after taking the lion’s share of the blame for the figures.
Multiple insiders told The Daily Beast Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott (pictured left) and President Jay Wallace (pictured right) are both fighting to keep their jobs after taking the lion’s share of the blame for the ratings as Rupert Murdoch returns to the U.S.
Fox has denied there is any truth to the rumors, issuing a statement that reads: ‘Your premise is wrong. It is wishful thinking by our competitors.’
Sources said Murdoch and Lachlan are ‘disenchanted’ with the pair.
‘Fox News has been absent a leader with the exception of [Fox Corporation’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer] Viet Dinh running the operation between the network and the White House,’ one insider said.
‘Rupert re-taking the reins is a sign of the gross mismanagement to date.’
Rupert Murdoch is heading back to the US thanks to the COVID-19 vaccine
Murdoch has already made his return known with the announcement of a significant revamp of Fox’s daytime scheduling Monday.
‘I mean Rupert got involved with the shuffling of the lineup so that’s never a good sign for someone in charge,’ a current Fox staffer told The Daily Beast.
‘What is the point of having a manager running your business if you have to run the business yourself?’
Sources said Wallace’s job is also rumored to be on the line after the network was first to call Arizona for Joe Biden on election night.
The state was won by the Democrat but the call was deemed premature by many and sparked outrage from Trump who allegedly personally called Murdoch in a fit of rage.
Sources said the move damaged ratings with Trump supporters switching to the right-wing, pro-Trump Newsmax.
A press release from December reported that, in 2020, Fox News Channel made history by becoming the first network to surpass 3.5 million viewers in primetime for an entire year.
But latest figures from Nielsen show that, since December 28, Fox News’ total viewership is down 15 percent compared to the same time last year.
By contrast, CNN viewership is up 150 percent and MSNBC 89 percent.
Latest figures from Nielsen show that, since December 28, Fox News’ total viewership is down 15 percent compared to the same time last year
While James’ comments did not explicitly call out Fox News, which his father helped found in 1996, others have been more forthright in their criticism after several hosts continued to back Trump with his unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud.
In December 2020, Fox was forced to air a news package that debunked election fraud claims made by three of its own hosts after an electronic voting company threatened legal action against the network.
The package featured voting technology expert Eddie Perez, who said that he had ‘not seen any evidence’ that Smartmatic software was used to ‘delete, change, alter anything related to vote tabulation’.
The news package was shared just after Smartmatic was targeted by allies of Trump who claimed that the company helped flip the 2020 election for Joe Biden. Smartmatic responded with the threat of legal action.
News Corp. is currently run by CEO Robert Thomson and owns U.S outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones, and The New York Post.
It 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.