Rupert Murdoch Empowering Son Lachlan, Who Turned Fox News Extreme Right
Lachlan Murdoch helped turn Fox News into a bastion of white supremacist talking points, election subversion, and anti-vaccine conspiracy theories while shredding its “news side” operation. Now he may be rewarded with even more power.
The eldest son of Rupert Murdoch has steadily accumulated influence within his father’s media empire since 2014, when he returned to the family business following a sojourn in Australia. He is now his father’s virtually unchallenged heir — having pushed aside the late Fox News co-founder Roger Ailes and his own brother, James — and reigns as the executive chairman and chief executive of Fox Corp., parent company of Fox News, and co-chairman of News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal and New York Post.
Rupert Murdoch has now reportedly proposed combining those two media companies into a single conglomerate. The move has baffled some media executives and financial analysts, who question its business logic. But it makes sense as an exercise in succession planning, one aimed at expanding Lachlan Murdoch’s responsibilities and securing his control of the firm after his father, age 91, passes on.
That should worry anyone who cares about the malevolent influence Fox has on the nation’s politics.
Lachlan Murdoch is viewed as far more personally conservative than his father, who at times prioritized the finances and political influence of his media outlets rather than their ideology. Speaking at an event to launch a right-wing think tank in Sydney earlier this year, the son offered “a monologue that could have fit in seamlessly with the lineup of right-wing commentary served up every night by Fox News’s prime-time opinion hosts — including an obscure jab at the 1619 Project,” The Washington Postreported. [Editor's note: Lachlan Murdoch is Australian and not an American citizen.]
Lachlan Murdoch’s malign influence over Fox News has been apparent since he took direct control over day-to-day operations at the right-wing propaganda network during the Trump administration.
Under Lachlan Murdoch’s leadership, Fox became the nation’s most prominent venue for white nationalist conspiracy theories. He made Tucker Carlson the face of the network and publicly defended the host’s “great replacement” screeds — amid a wave of killings by adherents spouting the same talking points. By the grace of Lachlan Murdoch, Carlson retains a massive platform which he uses to garner regular praise from white nationalists who celebrate his mainstreaming of their blood-soaked narratives. The Fox host is most recently notable for elevating and whitewashing the rantings of a devoted antisemite.
Under Lachlan Murdoch’s leadership, Fox became a clearinghouse for election fraud conspiracy theories following the 2020 election, helping to fuel the right-wing rage and subversion schemes which culminated in the January 6 insurrection. Rather than reflecting on the role his network had in the storming of the U.S. Capitol and changing its course, Lachlan Murdoch allowed it to become a major distributor of conspiracy theories about that attack on U.S. democracy.
Under Lachlan Murdoch’s leadership, Fox’s pandemic coverage consisted of downplaying the threat posed by the virus, touting the purportedly miraculous properties of drugs which are actually ineffective, and ultimately waging a sustained, Carlson-led effort to undermine the campaign to vaccinate Americans against it. Lachlan Murdoch publicly defended Carlson’s anti-vaccine propaganda even above the lives of his network’s viewers, who were vaccinated at lower rates than other cable news audiences — a likely factor in the higher COVID-19 death rates among Republicans.
And under Lachlan Murdoch’s leadership, Fox gutted its “news side” in favor of remaking the network as an even more egregiously partisan wrecking ball. The network conducted what insiders called a “purge” of the network’s “real journalists,” restaffed with GOP operatives, turned over some “news” hours to “opinion” hosts, and watched celebrated newsroom figures leave the network after losing power struggles with Carlson. It’s not difficult to imagine Lachlan Murdoch doing something similar to The Wall Street Journal if he is able to tighten his grip on News Corp.’s newspaper portfolio.
Lachlan Murdoch is “the most important actor” in Fox’s transformation from a right-wing network that supported the Republican Party to its current iteration as a slicker version of Alex Jones’ Infowars, Bloomberg’s Tim O’Brien noted earlier this year.
“Rupert Murdoch's son runs that network,” he explained. “The family controls the company. If they wanted that network to do something other than engage in propaganda and to delude people and to serve other goals, he could put anybody he wants in that anchor seat. Tucker Carlson exists because Lachlan Murdoch wants him to exist."
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.
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