Rupert Murdoch Retires, But His Destructive Legacy Remains
During Rupert Murdoch’s 25-year tenure as the head of Fox News Channel, he created a right-wing misinformation machine, subsidized by cable customers, that played an essential role in former President Donald Trump’s rise to power and subsequent attempts to stay in power by stealing the 2020 election. The network has divided not just Americans, but also their families, with the anger and bigotry stoked by Fox destroying relationships among loved ones.
Rupert Murdoch announced he was stepping down after over 25 years at the helm of Fox Corp.
- Rupert Murdoch announced in September that he would step down as the chairman of Fox Corp. and News Corp. in November, leaving his son Lachlan Murdoch as chairman and CEO. Rupert Murdoch launched the Fox News cable channel with political strategist Roger Ailes in 1996, creating a hallmark for conservative TV commentary. [The Associated Press, 9/21/23; The New York Times, 9/21/23]
During his tenure, Murdoch created a right-wing misinformation machine that helped bring Trump to power and supported his lies
- Rupert Murdoch amassed a fortune by building Fox News into a right-wing misinformation machine that played an essential role in the rise of former President Donald Trump and his deadly attempts to steal the 2020 election. As Media Matters senior fellow Matt Gertz wrote, “The network’s noxious mix of right-wing propaganda, bigotry, lies and demagoguery attracted the largest audience in cable news while shaping the Republican Party’s base in its image.” [Media Matters, 1/6/21; MSNBC, 9/21/23]
- Murdoch admitted that he let Fox News personalities push election conspiracy theories, despite knowing that they were bogus. Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against the network revealed that even though Rupert Murdoch thought Fox was “uniquely positioned to state the message that the election was not stolen,” he agreed the profit motive was the deciding factor: “It is not red or blue, it is green.” [Media Matters, 2/27/23]
- The network also pumped coronavirus conspiracy theories out of its airwaves as the country struggled to respond to a deadly pandemic. In just 2020, the first year of the pandemic, the network promoted COVID-19 misinformation over 13,000 times on its weekday programs. [Media Matters, 12/30/20, 12/30/20]
Fox has divided the country, including many family relationships
- Writer Megan Garber explained in The Atlantic in 2020 that Fox had developed its own language, and that “at this point, some Americans speak English; others speak Fox.” She added: “The result is disorientation. The result is mass suspicion. … Fox has helped to create a nation of people who share everything but the ability to talk with one another.” [The Atlantic, 9/16/20]
- Journalist Luke O’Neil collected stories, including his own, of “families torn apart by toxic cable news” and published them in The Guardian and New York magazine. [The Guardian, 4/12/19; New York magazine, 4/9/19]
- One person told O’Neil: “I hate what Fox News has done to almost everyone in my family. It’s absolute poison and the only thing I think is worse is that there are people who think that destroying the morals and conscience of multiple generations is worth a few more bucks. I absolutely refuse to believe that people like [Fox host Sean] Hannity don’t know what they are doing.”
- Another person told O’Neil: “I called at Thanksgiving to say hi, which was when my dad called Obama the N-word during the call, apropos of nothing.” They lamented that they “pretty much don’t go home any more” because their “family and friends all have broken Fox brain,” adding, “I’m not totally sure when it started since I haven’t lived at home since 2002. It slowly built, but the rift probably started around 2008, when I was volunteering for Obama. It got the most heated when my mom went to a Trump rally in Phoenix ahead of the 2016 election.”
- O’Neil: “Dozens … talked about the sad lonely twilight of their parents’ or grandparents’ lives, having been spurned by, or having disowned much of their families over political disagreements.” O’Neil wrote: “Whatever the actual direction of causality, there are many, many Americans who blame Fox News for changes in their loved ones, and many people out there who feel as though their friends and family members have been lost to a 24/7 stream of right-wing propaganda.”
- Edward Lyngar in Salon: “We’re losing people like my father to the despair of Fox News, and it’s all by design.” Lyngar wrote that his father “is a kind and generous man and a good father, but over the past five or 10 years, he’s become so conservative that I can’t even find a label for it. What has changed? He consumes a daily diet of nothing except Fox News.” [Salon, 2/27/14]
- A Boston Globe article recounted documentary filmmaker Jen Senko’s story of her dad’s Fox-induced “descent into anger.” Senko told the Globe: “He became a person we hated being around and we didn’t know. … It was a really horrible period of time for us. … It was a nightmare, both my brothers blocked him, I blocked him.” According to the report, “Senko’s stomach clenched every time she thought of visiting. Her dad was angry all the time. And Senko knew exactly what was to blame: The steady drip-feed of outrage he listened to every day.” [The Boston Globe, 5/1/19]
Cable customers are subsidizing Fox’s misinformation, with some objecting because of how it has harmed their families
- Cable companies' customers are being forced to subsidize Fox’s lies. Cable companies pay channels' “carriage fees” to carry their channel, and Fox charges a higher amount than all other networks aside from EPSN, which is then passed on to customers. “These carriage fees are now so valuable to Fox that reporting from Media Matters has found that Fox would still have a profit margin of more than 35% even if it sold no advertising,” The Guardian wrote. [The Guardian, 8/15/23]
- Over 165,000 individuals have signed the #NoFoxFee campaign, demanding that their cable providers stop forcing consumers to subsidize Fox News’ lies. Some of them have also left public notes on how consuming Fox News has changed their families. [Common Cause, accessed 11/16/23]
- A #NoFoxFee petition signer wrote that her brother and sister-in-law have “totally bought into the lies and misinformation” they see on Fox. The signer added: “We can no longer talk about current events” and that their relatives think “all other news sources were lying to them” as a result of watching Fox News, saying that makes them feel “very estranged from them.”
- Another signer wrote: “I no longer have relationships with my mother or sisters because they have become radicalized to become fascist sympathizers by their viewing of cable Fox ‘News.’”
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.