Tag: lachlan murdoch
What To Do About Fox? Stop Treating It As A 'News' Organization

What To Do About Fox? Stop Treating It As A 'News' Organization

Ever since Fox News Channel launched in 1996 with a slogan that was an aggressive lie – “Fair and Balanced” – most viewers have understood that Rupert Murdoch and his lackey Roger Ailes created a propaganda operation, not a news channel.

And yet the latest revelations of deception, hypocrisy, and greed among the network’s management and “stars,” unbound by any journalistic principle, are nevertheless stunning. Perhaps we still expect a measure of self-respect even from our villains. But here we see an essential and sometimes noble democratic endeavor – delivering the news to a self-governing people – degraded beyond redemption.

There is no way to regain the trust so wantonly forfeited by Murdoch and his minions in misleading their audience about “fraud” in the 2020 election. No other media company is as culpable in relentlessly goading the attempted coup and insurrectionary violence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 – a deadly assault on the republic that Fox still insists on whitewashing, even after the humiliating exposure of its knowing promotion of the “Big Lie.”

The unavoidable question that Americans and their institutions now confront is how to excise this diseased organ from our body politic.

As Murdoch is the first to remind us, Fox News can shield itself behind the First Amendment, even as its operations undermine the United States and the Constitution itself. Fox is free to lie, if not to defame, and everyone else is free to ignore its spew. Outside the courts, where Dominion Voting Systems may soon impose a heavy price on the network’s chicanery, there are few means to punish or isolate the Murdoch outfit. For the most part, that’s a very good thing.

What we should have learned from the Dominion lawsuit and other glaring episodes, however, is that America needs to establish barriers against disinformation and propaganda masquerading as “news.” A free government may have a limited role here, focused on curbing the incursions of hostile foreign powers. But in a media universe where privately held entities predominate, it is those outlets that must establish the boundaries – and sanction the malefactors who grossly and repeatedly violate them.

In Washington, D.C., where the nation witnessed the terrible havoc wrought by Fox’s recklessness, there are a few organizations with the clout to whack the Murdochs and their enablers. The White House Correspondents Association, which credentials journalists who cover the president and administration, can expel Fox from its ranks (and deny access to its vaunted annual dinner). The Congressional Press Galleries, which perform the same function on Capitol Hill, can do likewise.

And so they should.

Beyond all the text messages exposing the snide duplicity of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and their bosses, the exhibits in the Dominion lawsuit prove beyond doubt that Fox is not a news organization at all, but a partisan propaganda machine with no allegiance to the ideals of a free press.

The documents show Murdoch handing over Biden campaign ads, not yet aired, to Jared Kushner for the benefit of the Trump campaign -- an unlawful in-kind donation that provides the basis for a complaint to the Federal Election Commission. They depict the contempt expressed by him, his son Lachlan, and Fox executives for honest reporting that might harm ratings. Indeed, the lawsuit unearthed countless instances of conscious mendacity in election coverage.

What those incriminating documents don’t show is any commitment at Fox to the “health of the republic,” to “excellence in journalism,” to “robust news coverage” or to any of the aspirations that the correspondent’s groups claim to hold dear. No, what they show is precisely and undeniably the opposite.

It is worth noting that on the board of the White House Correspondents Association sits Jacqui Heinrich, a star witness to those Fox abuses. When the Emmy-winning Heinrich tweeted a fact-checking correction to Trump’s lies about election fraud – and specifically noted the lies emanating from Hannity as well – she infuriated powerful figures at the network who could crush her.

“Please get her fired,” the bullying Carlson urged Hannity. “Seriously…What the [expletive]? I’m actually shocked. It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.”

Rather than brush off that bullying rant, Fox executives forced Heinrich to delete her tweet – which had unforgivably reported plain and vital facts: “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” (In an email to me after this column was published, Heinrich notes that she posted a second tweet correcting Trump that didn't include his tagging of her deceitful Fox colleagues, and later posted a couple more tweets correcting Trump election falsehoods.)

Heinrich got away without losing her job. At Fox, telling the truth is unacceptable and will likely get you fired, however – as Chris Stirewalt, the former Fox election analyst dumped for calling Arizona correctly on Election Night, discovered when Murdoch dumped him (and lied about the reason).

Whatever may happen if the Dominion lawsuit finally goes to trial, the nation’s leading journalists have the authority to register their disgust with Murdoch’s mockery of their vocation. To uphold their own professed standards, they have no other choice.


Murdochs May Scapegoat Top Executives But Texts Show Guilt In Fox Scandal

Two recently released filings from Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against Fox News reveal that Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and CEO Lachlan Murdoch were both actively involved in the network’s coverage during the 2020 presidential cycle and held sway in Fox’s guests and staff decisions — revelations that shine a more intense spotlight on the father-son duo as their network faces lawsuits for knowingly pushing lies about election fraud.

The filings, released to the public in February, are part of a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit Dominion filed against Fox in March 2021 after the network spent months pushing the lie that there were irregularities in its voting machines, which rigged the 2020 election in favor of now-President Joe Biden. Dominion’s lawyers started deposing Fox News figures around August 2022, and these filings contain the biggest disclosure of evidence in the case so far, including texts, emails, and statements. They show Fox employees and executives knew there was no evidence of election fraud and Fox personalities and guests were lying about Dominion; that Rupert Murdoch provided then-President Donald Trump’s adviser Jared Kushner with “confidential information” about the Biden campaign’s political ads and strategies; and that Fox executives and prime-time hosts attacked Fox reporters who tried to fact-check the 2020 election lies.

These revelations can put Fox in even more legal jeopardy than it is already in, and there’s speculation that Rupert Murdoch may scapegoat Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott, who oversees both Fox News and Fox Business, though Fox later “put out word that she was not in danger.” As CNN’s Oliver Darcy pointed out, multiple scandals in the Murdoch media empire over the past decade have ended with Rupert deciding “to sever ties with top personnel,” and the Dominion revelations could bring a similar outcome. From Darcy’s article:

There is no shortage of evidence to support the notion Scott is on the chopping block. Most notably, during his deposition, Murdoch sought to distance himself from decision making at Fox News. Instead, he pointed to Scott: “I appointed Ms. Scott to the job … and I delegate everything to her,” he said. In doing so, Murdoch made the case that Scott is in charge of the network — and if there was wrongdoing, it rests on her shoulders. Of course, astute media observers know that Murdoch is the person actually calling the shots. But it’s not hard to see how the company could advance this narrative.

As Darcy suggests and the filings clearly show, the responsibility of Fox’s coverage pushing baseless allegations of election fraud should ultimately lie with the Murdochs, as they were both actively involved in how Fox was covering the 2020 election. Both Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch were in regular contact with Scott (with Lachlan conversing with her daily), had strategic discussions about the direction of Fox’s coverage, and gave her feedback about what was airing on the networks and guidance on the tone and focus of the reporting — especially that in favor of the Republican Party and Trump. They also influenced which guests would appear on the air and weighed in on personnel decisions at the network. In fact, during his deposition, Lachlan Murdoch couldn’t remember a single time when the network did not follow his suggestions. The filings also reveal there were multiple instances where the Murdochs could have intervened to set the record straight on the election, but chose not to:

The Murdochs’ involvement in strategy decisions on Fox’s coverage, including its focus and tone

  • Around November 8, 2020, when Fox was facing mounting criticism from mainstream media over its election coverage, Scott had a “long talk” with the Murdochs about “mounting viewer backlash to Fox, how to win back viewers (including by not booking Democratic guests), and ‘the direction that Fox should take.’” In his deposition, “Rupert conceded that in that conversation, they also spoke about ‘the future of Fox going forward.’”
  • Rupert Murdoch also confirmed in his deposition that in the same conversation with Scott and Lachlan, “they discussed how Fox should react to the fact that Trump was not conceding” and made the decision “to allow these ‘wild claims’ on air.”
  • Lachlan Murdoch admitted that between November 2020 and January 2021, he weighed in on the “specific direction on both the tone and narrative of Fox’s news coverage.”
  • Lachlan Murdoch also admitted in his testimony that “he can and did share his views on what guests should or should not” appear on Fox. According to the second filing, Fox’s on-air talent and executives “affirmatively reached out to Lachlan to take his temperature on whether or not to have a particular guest on their program. … [He] even provided suggestions of specific questions to ask a particular guest.”
  • On November 14, 2020, Lachlan Murdoch texted Scott while watching the network’s coverage of a rally in support of Trump, giving her notes on how that coverage should be. “Lachlan even communicated with Scott about what was being said in the ‘ticker’ at the bottom of the FNN screen,” writing, “Just FYI to discuss tomorrow, the ticker at bottom of screen is all wrong. Way too wordy and long. And anti trump whenever possible.”
  • After then-Fox anchor Shepard Smith debunked the “Trump administration’s ‘lies’ on air,” Rupert Murdoch emailed Scott and Fox News Media President Jay Wallace saying it was “over the top” and writing, “Need to chat to him.”

Coverage directives to support Trump and the GOP, especially during the election cycle

  • The second filing shows Rupert Murdoch had conversations with Scott “about the ‘importance of giving exposure to Republicans in close Senate races.’”
  • In October 2020, then-Fox Business host Lou Dobbs attacked Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who was running for reelection, saying that he didn’t know “why anyone in the great state of South Carolina would ever vote for Lindsey Graham” and that Graham had “betrayed President Trump at almost every turn.” Rupert Murdoch wrote to Scott suggesting the network have some positive coverage for Graham: “You probably know about the Lou Dobbs outburst against Lindsey Graham. Could Sean [Hannity] say something supportive? … We cannot lose the Senate if at all possible.” Scott followed-up to note that she “addressed the Dobbs outburst.”
  • In mid-November 2020, Rupert Murdoch emailed Scott, “We should concentrate on Georgia, helping any way we can. … Everything at stake here.” At the time, the closely contested Senate race in Georgia had gone into runoff.
  • When the Trump administration presented a new tax bill, according to the filing, “Rupert told Scott ‘we must tell our viewers again and again what they will get.’”
  • During the 2020 campaign, “when New York Post editor Col Allan told Rupert that Biden’s only hope for election was ‘to stay in his basement and not face serious questions,’ Rupert responded, ‘Just made sure Fox banging on about these issues. If the audience talks the theme will spread.’”
  • In November 2020, Lachlan Murdoch was watching Fox cover a rally in support of Trump and told Scott that “news guys have to be careful how they cover” it, adding, “So far some of the side comments are slightly anti, and they shouldn’t be. The narrative should be this is a huge celebration of the president.” Scott replied, “Yes thanks.”
  • Lachlan Murdoch also criticized then-Fox reporter Leland Vittert who was covering the rally for coming across as “[s]mug and obnoxious.” Scott said “she was ‘calling now’ to direct Vittert’s producer to fix the issue.” The filing shows that Fox executive David Clark got that feedback and texted Vittert to tell him to cut it out. Vittert stopped appearing on the network in January 2021 and in April that year Fox announced it had “parted ways” with him.
  • Around the same time, Lachlan Murdoch also told Scott that Fox “should do a ton of pro-Trump legacy specials on Fox Nation.”
  • Rupert Murdoch directed Scott and Wallace to get network figures to attack coal mogul Don Blankenship during a GOP primary after Trump asked for help. From the second filing: “He told Scott and Wallace when Donald Trump appealed for help defeating Don Blankenship in the West Virginia Senate race, ‘Anything during day helpful but Sean [Hannity] and Laura [Ingraham] dumping on him hard might save the day.’”

Personnel and guest decisions

  • Rupert Murdoch was involved in firing Dobbs, as he said in his deposition, “I suggested, or urged, and we were in recognition that we had a problem, that he would be fired” because Dobbs “was an extremist.”
  • Rupert Murdoch was also involved in the firing of Bill Sammon, Fox’s senior vice president who had editorial oversight of the network’s Decision Desk when it became the first outlet to call Arizona for Biden. The filings suggest that Rupert pushed Sammon’s firing to send a message to the Trump campaign that Fox was still aligned with it: “Thus, despite the call’s accuracy, Rupert suggested, ‘Maybe best to let Bill go right away,’ which would ‘be a big message with Trump people.’ … Sammon was indeed ‘told the inevitable’ that day (November 20, 2020).”
  • In October 2020, Rupert Murdoch suggested the network bring on Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, “and two days later Hanson appeared on Fox News.”
  • Next month, Rupert Murdoch mentioned to Scott that the network should hire Michael Flynn, a QAnon influencer and Trump’s first national security adviser, as a contributor. The filing shows that Flynn appeared as a contributor on Fox host Maria Bartiromo’s show just “a week later.”
  • In December that year, Rupert Murdoch told Scott that “people are trying to steal” the New York Post’s Miranda Devine, saying, “It would be great if you signed her as a contributor.” Scott replied, “ok will work on this.” By the next month, Devine was listed as a Fox News contributor on the channel’s site.
  • Rupert Murdoch also pulled sway on which guests Fox shouldn’t host, including former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and former Fox host Megyn Kelly.
  • Rupert Murdoch apparently also sent emails to Scott about the ratings of Fox’s show The Five, suggesting writers and hosts.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Lachlan Murdoch

They Knew It Was A Lie: Fox News Purposely Pushed Deception On 2020 Voting

A recent filing in the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News reveals how much the network knew it was pushing false claims to its viewers in the aftermath of the 2020 election by suggesting that Dominion’s voting machines were involved in voter fraud.

In March 2021, Dominion filed a defamation suit against Fox for the false claims the network pushed after the election. Those false claims were extensive: In the two-week period after Fox News declared Joe Biden the president-elect, the network questioned the results of the election or pushed conspiracy theories about it almost 800 times, including by using Dominion as a scapegoat. Fox became an outlet that aired Trump campaign lies about Dominion voting machines getting hacked without any evidence.

For Dominion to prove defamation, the company must show that Fox acted with “actual malice,” meaning that Fox knew the allegations made about Dominion were false or that Fox acted in reckless disregard for the truth. On February 16, Dominion’s brief calling for a summary judgment in its favor was released to the public. As Dominion detailed in the filing, “literally dozens of people with editorial responsibility—from the top of the organization to the producers of specific shows to the hosts themselves—acted with actual malice.” Indeed, the filing shows “lies in twenty accused statements across six different shows with the active involvement of numerous Fox Executives.”

Here are some of the damning quotes from the filing showing how much Fox’s executives and employees knew they were lying about Dominion or the election at the time:

  • Fox star Tucker Carlson to his producer Alex Pfeiffer about Sidney Powell, one of Trump's campaign lawyers: “Powell is lying.” [11/16/20]
  • Host Laura Ingraham to Carlson and fellow host Sean Hannity: “Sidney Powell is a bit nuts. Sorry but she is.” [11/15/20]
  • Carlson to Ingraham: “Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane.” Ingraham replied: “Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy.” Carlson replied: “It’s unbelievably offensive to me. Our viewers are good people and they believe it.” [11/19/20]
  • Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch: “Really crazy stuff.” [11/19/20]
  • Murdoch after watching Giuliani and Powell on November 19, 2020: “Terrible stuff damaging everybody, I fear.” Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott replied, “Yes Sean [Hannity] and even [Jeanine] Pirro agrees.” [11/19/20]
  • Fox reporter Lucas Tomlinson to anchor Bret Baier: “It’s dangerously insane these conspiracy theories.” [12/1/2020]
  • Fox Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt on whether the allegation that Dominion rigged the election was true: “No reasonable person would have thought that.”
  • Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott responded “Yes, I believe that,” to the question “You believe, since at least the time that Fox News called the election on November 7th, that Joe Biden was legitimately elected the President of the United States, correct?”
  • As the filing outlined, Carlson texted a redacted name “that it was ‘shockingly reckless’ to claim that Dominion rigged the election ‘[i]f there’s no one inside the company willing to talk, or internal Dominion documents or copies of the software showing that they did it’ and ‘as you know there isn’t.’” [11/21/20]
  • Fox’s internal “fact checks” about Dominion allegations reported they were “incorrect” and “not evidence of widespread fraud.” [11/13/20; 11/20/20]
  • After canceling Pirro’s November 7 show, Fox executive David Clark told Executive Vice President of Primetime Programming Meade Cooper: “Her guests are all going to say the election is being stolen and if she pushes back at all it will just be token.”
  • Ingraham’s producer Tommy Firth texted Fox executive Ron Mitchell: “This dominion shit is going to give me a fucking aneurysm—as many times as I’ve told Laura it’s bs, she sees shit posters and trump tweeting about it.” [11/8/20]
  • Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott to Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch: “Viewers going through the 5 stages of grief. It’s a question of trust—the AZ [call] was damaging but we will highlight our stars and plant flags letting the viewers know we hear them and respect them.” Murdoch replied: “Yes. But needs constant rebuilding without any missteps.” Scott responded: “Yes today is day one and it’s a process.” [11/9/20]
  • Fox News Washington, D.C., Managing Editor Bill Sammon to Fox Political Editor Chris Stirewalt on the network’s coverage of “supposed election fraud”: “It’s remarkable how weak ratings make[] good journalists do bad things.” [12/2/20]
  • Carlson to Ingraham: Powell’s “a nut, as you said at the outset. It totally wrecked my weekend. Wow... I had to try to make the WH disavow her, which they obviously should have done long before.” Ingraham responded to Carlson: “No serious lawyer could believe what they were saying.” [11/22/20]
  • Rupert Murdoch told Scott to read a Wall Street Journal piece about Newsmax, telling her: “These people should be watched, if skeptically. Trump will concede eventually and we should concentrate on Georgia, helping any way we can. We don’t want to antagonize Trump further, but Giuliani taken with a large grain of salt. Everything at stake here.” [11/16/20]
  • Scott: “Privately, I had a number of conversations with Sean where he wanted the President to accept the results.”
  • After White House correspondent Kristen Fisher fact-checked Giuliani and Powell’s press conference, she received a call from her boss, Bryan Boughton, in which he “emphasized that higher-ups at Fox News were also unhappy with it,” and said that Fisher “needed to do a better job of…—this is a quote—‘respecting our audience.’” [11/19/20]
  • Fox Corp. Senior Vice President Raj Shah wrote: “shit is so crazy right now. so many people openly denying the obvious that Powell is clearly full of it.” Carlson’s producer Alex Pfeiffer replied: “She is a fucking nutcase.” [11/22/20]
  • Rupert Murdoch told Suzanne Scott, “It’s been suggested our prime time three should independently or together say something like ‘the election is over and Joe Biden won,’” and that such a statement “would go a long way to stop the Trump myth that the election [was] stolen.” [1/5/21]
  • Carlson complained to Hannity about Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich, who “was ‘fact checking’ a tweet by Trump that mentioned Dominion—and specifically mentioned Hannity’s and Dobbs’ broadcasts that evening discussing Dominion” Carlson reportedly wrote: “Please get her fired. Seriously....What the fuck? I’m actually shocked...It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.” [11/12/20]
  • According to the filing, “Ingraham herself testified that she has no basis to believe Dominion committed election fraud by rigging the 2020 Presidential Election or that it is owned by a company founded in Venezuela to rig elections for Hugo Chavez (and agreed its ownership is ‘readily ascertainable’).”
  • Anchor Dana Perino also called the voter fraud allegations “total bs,” “insane,” and “nonsense.”
  • Powell sent an email to Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo about voter fraud claims that “Powell had received from a ‘source’ which the author herself describes as ‘pretty wackadoodle.’” According to the filing, “Bartiromo agreed at her deposition that this email was ‘nonsense’ … and inherently unreliable.”
  • As the filing laid out:
Each circumstantial factor cuts strongly in Dominion’s favor. But here, the words of multiple Fox employees provide overwhelming direct evidence of actual malice. In addition to the evidence cited above, the excerpts below feature just some of the additional examples showing Fox employees knew at the time that these claims—and the guests promoting them—were:
  • “ludicrous” –Tucker Carlson [11/20/20]
  • “totally off the rails” –Tucker Carlson [12/24/20]
  • “F’ing lunatics” –Sean Hannity [12/22/20]
  • “nuts” –Dana Perino [11/16/20]
  • “complete bs” –Producer John Fawcett to Lou Dobbs [11/27/20]
  • “kooky” –Maria Bartiromo, regarding email received from Powell [11/07/20]
  • “MIND BLOWINGLY NUTS” –Raj Shah, Fox Corporation SVP [11/21/20]

Fox knew that it was pushing lies about Dominion and the election, and the network continued to smear the company and spread conspiracy theories anyway.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Deposition Looms For Lachlan Murdoch In Dominion Defamation Lawsuit

Deposition Looms For Lachlan Murdoch In Dominion Defamation Lawsuit

Lachlan Murdoch, the executive chairman and CEO of Fox News‘ parent company, Fox Corporation, is set to be deposed next week in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit. Dominion Voting Systems, which manufactures voting machines, claims the eldest Murdoch son and his father, Rupert Murdoch, bear responsibility for Fox News promoting pro-Trump false election fraud claims it says has caused its company harm.

The younger Murdoch is “scheduled to face questions from Dominion’s lawyers on Monday in Los Angeles, according to multiple reports, and will be the highest-ranking official at Fox to be deposed by Dominion,” The Hillreports.

Fox News propagandists Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson have already faced Dominion’s attorneys.

After a federal judge in June ruled the case could move forward, Law & Crime explained, “Dominion’s lawsuit contends that Rupert and his son Lachlan Murdoch personally caused Fox News to broadcast false claims about their role in the 2020 election, even though the Murdochs knew former President Donald Trump’s election fraud narrative was false.”

Rupert Murdoch reportedly spoke with Donald Trump just days after the 2020 presidential election to tell him he had lost.

Judge Eric M. Davis ruled there is “a reasonable inference that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch either knew Dominion had not manipulated the election or at least recklessly disregarded the truth when they allegedly caused Fox News to propagate its claims about Dominion.”

“Dominion has successfully brought home actual malice to the individuals at Fox Corporation who it claims to be responsible for the broadcasts,” Judge Davis added, according to Law & Crime.

A federal judge has rejected Fox News’ First Amendment defense. The case is expected to reach a jury trial early next year.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.