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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: lachlan murdoch

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 Hill reports.

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.

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 Post reported. [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.

Lachlan Murdoch Suing Tiny Australian News Site Over 'Defamation'

Sydney (AFP) - A high-stakes defamation battle between News Corp co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch and small Australian news outlet Crikey will go to trial beginning March 27 in Sydney.

Rupert Murdoch's eldest son -- who is also chief executive of Fox News parent Fox Corporation -- is suing Crikey over an opinion piece that linked his family's media empire to the January 6, 2021 storming of the US Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

The media scion's lawyers claimed their client was defamed over a dozen times in the article, which accused "the Murdochs and their slew of poisonous Fox News commentators" of being "unindicted co-conspirators" in the Capitol riot.

On Friday, Murdoch's barrister -- top defamation litigator Sue Chrysanthou -- pushed in the preliminary hearing for the earliest possible trial date, arguing Crikey had been "directing ridicule and hatred" towards her client.

Crikey was "publicly claiming martyrdom", she told the largely administrative case management hearing, pointing to the outlet running billboard advertisements about the case and fundraising online for its defense.

In the past month, Crikey's GoFundMe campaign has raised nearly S$333,000, and garnered support from two former Australian Prime Ministers, Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull.

"Lachlan Murdoch owns boats that are worth more than Crikey," Turnbull commented alongside his $3,400 donation.

A Very Public Fight

The legal scuffle over the opinion piece burst into international headlines last month, when Crikey ran an advertisement in The New York Times daring Murdoch to sue.

The often pugilistic website said it welcomed the opportunity to "test this important issue of freedom of public interest journalism in a courtroom".

Murdoch filed his lawsuit the next day.

The tussle pits an upstart website, with subscriber numbers in the low tens of thousands, against one of the world's largest media empires.

Defamation expert David Rolph from the University of Sydney told AFP that Murdoch's case could be the first test of recent attempts to reform Australia's notoriously tough defamation laws.

Australia has gained a reputation as "the defamation capital of the world" after a slew of lawsuits launched by high-profile figures, including actors and politicians.

Crikey's defense, filed with the Federal Court Tuesday, denied it defamed Murdoch and flagged it would lean on two new defenses created by the reforms.

"One is a serious harm threshold... the plaintiff now has to prove that they not only suffered some harm to reputation, but that it was serious harm to reputation," Rolph explained.

Crikey will also seek to argue that the opinion piece, by writer Bernard Keane, was in the public interest.

"I suppose the difficulty here is that defense is entirely untested. This will be a test case of that," Rolph said.

'Fundamental Public Importance'

In a statement issued Thursday, Crikey chief executive Will Hayward said his company was fighting the case because "there is an issue of fundamental public importance at stake".

"We think it is important in an open, well-functioning society that the rich and powerful can be critiqued."

While Murdoch has stayed quiet since launching the case, his statement of claim accused Crikey of using the legal saga to drive subscriptions.

He has asked the court to permanently ban Crikey from publishing anything suggesting he "illegally conspired with Donald Trump" around the events of January 6.

The case will be heard by Justice Wigney, who has overseen several closely-watched defamation trials -- including actor Geoffrey Rush's successful suit against another Australian media outlet.

Wigney said Friday that before the trial begins, he would seek to have the parties enter mediation where "cool commercial minds may prevail".

New Poll Reveals Deadly Impact Of Fox’s Pandemic Disinformation

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

The Kaiser Family Foundation has a new poll out this week, also reported on by The Washington Post, showing the alarming extent to which COVID-19 misinformation has penetrated among American adults, but particularly Republicans and people who consume right-wing media. The really scary thing: A lot of people actually believe the things they see on Fox News and further right networks like Newsmax.

The poll found that Republicans' No. 1 most trusted source for information is Fox News. Furthermore, there is a strong correlation between trusting Fox News and believing one or more pieces of COVID-19 misinformation, with 36% of people who trust Fox believing or being unsure about four or more pieces of COVID-19 misinformation.

And while Kaiser made clear that it could not "disentangle" the complex issue of whether these news sources are causing their viewers to believe misinformation — or if instead people who are predisposed to such misinformation are flocking to Fox News and other right-wing media outlets — that kind of chicken-or-the-egg question does not simply acquit Fox from its responsibility for encouraging these apparently widespread misconceptions among its viewers.

Even if this is a vicious feedback loop between media outlets that push misinformation and an audience eager to hear it, Fox is still choosing to be part of the problem rather than the solution. The network is enthusiastically spreading misinformation — and looking to make a buck from it, since according to Fox insiders, the COVID-19 lies have been "great for ratings."

Fox News Under Trump Played Down COVID-19 Deaths

The poll found that a whopping 84 percent of Republicans either believe or are unsure about whether the government has exaggerated the number of COVID-19 deaths. By contrast, researchers have said throughout the pandemic that the numbers are likely undercounted. But there is a reason so many Republican voters believe this: Right-wing media, especially Fox News, mounted a full-scale push to spread doubt about the COVID-19 death count during the first year of the pandemic— that is, while former President Donald Trump was in office.

Very early on during the pandemic, Fox senior political analyst Brit Hume claimed in April 2020 that "we're going to get a very large number of deaths" attributed to COVID-19, but which he said would not be an "accurate count" due to co-morbidities. Fox host Tucker Carlson replied, "There may be reasons that people seek an inaccurate death count, but we can address that later." At that point, the official death toll in the United States was only 13,000, but Fox news anchor Harris Faulkner also argued even that was too high a count: "How many of those people had other health risks at play, though? And maybe it wasn't, in fact, COVID-19 that caused their death."

As the death count kept climbing, network figures pushed a full propaganda campaign arguing that the numbers were too high, and siding with the Trump White House in "pushing back" against the official reports. Polling then showed that Fox viewers believed the conspiracy theory about supposedly inflated death tolls, even as public health experts argued that the official numbers were actually too low. By December 2020, Fox host Laura Ingraham argued that "the virus is a lot less lethal than previously thought," even as the official death count reached 300,000.

Fox News Under Biden Imagined Mass Vaccine Deaths

The poll also found that 28 percent of Republicans believe the government is hiding vaccine-related deaths — while another 16 percent have heard this claim but are unsure about it, and only 8% know it is false. And here, too, Fox News has done its part to spread the lie.

While Carlson and other Fox hosts set out to claim that COVID-19 deaths were being overcounted in 2020, they have set out to paint a frightening picture of the vaccines in 2021. Carlson claimed in May that nearly 4,000 people had died from the vaccine, and that "the actual number is almost certainly higher than that — perhaps vastly higher than that." Those claims had circulated online for months before Carlson picked them up, and the online chatter has only picked up since then.

The claims are based on the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a government-run public database where individuals can self-report side effects or other incidents following a vaccination. The problem, however, is that the information in VAERS is unvetted and does not always differentiate negative health events from their normal frequency in the population — or even confirm whether they happened at all. As Meredith Wadman of Science notes, "One of VAERS's strengths — its openness — is also a potential weakness in the politicized COVID-19 era."

Earlier this year, for example, a VAERS report that a two-year-old allegedly died after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine during clinical trials was later removed from the system for being "completely made up" — in fact, vaccine testing for children that young had not even begun at the time of the report.

Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch stood by Carlson's escalating series of claims. "He basically just went into the CDC data, right?" Murdoch said. "So there's nothing the CDC itself isn't saying." (In fact, a disclaimer on the VAERS site actually makes clear: "The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable.")

By now, Carlson's show and other Fox programming have used these claims in order to argue that the vaccine is deadlier than COVID-19 itself. Fox News could not possibly believe all of this at the company level, though — despite Lachlan Murdoch's public support for Carlson — because the company also practices a strict vaccination and testing mandate at its company offices, as well as at its upcoming corporate shareholder meeting.

Republicans Seek The Easy Drug — But Not Vaccines — With Fox's Help

The poll also found that 28 percent of Republicans believe that the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin is a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19, while another 17 perecent were familiar with the claim but unsure of its validity, and only six percent know it is false. Fox News has promoted ivermectin for about a year, in something of a sequel to the network's earlier promotion of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

Going by the same playbook, Fox hosts have denounced the "medical establishment" for purportedly lying about the drug because it is a "threat" to the adoption of the vaccines; claimed that researchers "will never develop a drug that is more effective than ivermectin"; and that it is a "miracle drug" with "little to no side effects."

Following a warning in August from the Food and Drug Administration, which highlighted the drug's "highly dangerous" side effects if taken to excess or in combination with other medications, the network has continued to advocate for the drug. One Fox guest imagined the rest of the media thinking, "If we could have just maybe stopped some people from taking ivermectin, maybe we can get more people to take the vaccine."

What this really did, though, was expose via psychological projection the entire right-wing influence operation to keep pushing any possible drug except the vaccines on their audiences.

Fox Shareholder Meeting: Vaccine Passports And Strict Pandemic Protocols

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

The Fox Corporation's upcoming annual shareholder meeting in Los Angeles will feature something that totally contradicts its own media outlets' right-wing editorial line: vaccination passports, mask requirements, and a variety of other COVID-19 safety measures as part of Fox's health and safety protocols.

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The Murdochs Love Tucker Carlson’s Vile Conspiracy Theories

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Tucker Carlson's Fox News show is a toxic combination of Infowars-style conspiracy theories and Stormfront-esque xenophobia because that's what network founder Rupert Murdoch, parent company CEO Lachlan Murdoch, and network CEO Suzanne Scott want in their 8 p.m. hour. Fox executives keep making excuses for Carlson's malignant commentary, he correctly interprets their defenses as a green light to be ever more extreme, and all the other stakeholders in the network are willing to go along with it.

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"Father Knows Best": A One-Act Play

"MEDICAL TYRANNY" reads the screaming headline in large red letters behind Tucker Carlson as he broadcasts his show on Fox News.

CARLSON: It's purely about obedience, it's hardly about medicine. More than 150 health care workers in that Houston hospital system were fired just because they wouldn't be vaccinated, so remember that the next time they tell you there's a health care shortage in this country. This is lunacy. We should not go along with it. It has nothing to do with medicine. It is a terrifying precedent that, if we let solidify, we will deeply, deeply regret. This is not about Covid, this is about the existence of rational decision-making in this country and personal autonomy. Most people are going along with this because they are afraid. A few brave souls are not.

He shuffles his papers and puts them aside.

CARLSON: Ta-ta-da, da, da, da da! That's all folks!

VOICE OF PRODUCER: Thanks, Tucker! Another wrap.

CARLSON: Just a couple more weeks from this studio for the season. Love this place. Wish I could spend all my time here. On Bryant Pond. Maine. Bliss. A studio of my own, next to a summer place of my own. All my own.

VOICE: Florida, Tucker.

CARLSON: The studio will be up and running at my Florida house when I get there in September. Live, from Gasparilla Island in Grande Boca! Maine man becomes Florida man!

VOICE: Are we ever going to see you in D.C. or New York again?

CARLSON: Now why would I do that? Would that be quote rational decision-making unquote? Sold the big Washington house for that reason. They'd make me go into the Fox studio on the Hill. Half the technicians aren't vaccinated. It's a leprosy ward. Covid has made all my home studios possible. Who knew before the pandemic you could do this? What a breakthrough! And it's completely safe and sound. I owe this whole setup to Covid. It's a godsend. Plus, a tax write-off.

VOICE: We're all vaccinated now and we even have vaccine passports to get in the building.

CARLSON: I don't trust it. Some of those guys, I know them, would fake the passports. I'm in my studios so long as Lachlan says so.

Carlson leaves his custom studio in the cottage on his property, walks a short distance to his house and as he enters his daughter Hopie greets him.

CARLSON: Hopie!

HOPIE: Daddy, my girlfriends love what you brought me from Hungary. The dolls, the nesting dolls. What do they call them?

CARLSON: Matryoshka dolls. The prime minister Viktor Orban, gave them to me as a gift. And I told him that it had your name on it.

HOPIE: First, there's Putin. Then when you open him, there's Orban. And when you open Orban, there's Donald Trump. And then when you open Trump—surprise!—there's you, Daddy! I love you as a little doll. How did they know to put you inside all of the others?

CARLSON: They made that one in my honor. There's only one of these. It was like a state visit. And during state visits the leaders give each other presents. They always gave Trump paintings of himself. And this was the special gift for me. Only more clever.

HOPIE: Hand painted. It's the old you. With a bow tie.

CARLSON: So, are you almost ready to go back to school? Got all your clothes picked out?

HOPIE: Yes, Daddy.

CARLSON: And your proof of vaccination? I read the student vaccine requirement. "All students who live, learn, or work in person at the University of Virginia during the 2021-2022 academic year must be fully vaccinated." Don't forget your vaccination card.

HOPIE: (Exasperated) Daddy!

CARLSON: I'm just worried about you. I want you to be safe.

Enter Susan Carlson, Tucker's wife and Hopie's mother.

SUSAN: Tucker, there were two calls while you were broadcasting. Lachlan Murdoch and Donald Trump.

CARLSON: Susie, please make sure Hopie has her vaccination card to take to school.

SUSAN: All under control, right Hopie? Come with me, let's pack some more and leave Daddy to make his calls. Tucker, Trump seemed pretty urgent.

CARLSON: I've got to call Lachlan.

Susan and Hopie exit. Carlson punches in a number on his phone.

CARLSON: Lachlan!

LACHLAN: Tucker, so glad you called.

CARLSON: Everything cool down under?

LACHLAN: Swimming with the sharks at Bondi Beach, mate. Just checking in on my numero uno. The show on "Medical Tyranny," brilliant, mate. And brilliant about how we're going to be "invaded" by Afghan refugees. Turned that invasion bit inside out. We're being invaded! Heh, heh.

CARLSON: Heh, heh.

LACHLAN: The numbers remain spectacular, mate. Sky high. I'll take that instead of the woop woop to outer space with Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos. Now, about this Covid stuff, mate…

CARLSON: (Slightly anxious) I should stick with it, don't you think?

LACHLAN: You said there's no new variant killing people, zero chance. You said, Fauci is taking away our liberty, forcing people to take medicine they don't want. You said, college kids shouldn't get the shot, a bigger risk for them than Covid.

CARLSON: Is that a problem?

LACHLAN: It's a bloody beauty. No drama. Good on ya. Put another on the barbie. Keep going to never never. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Flat out. That's not me blowing smoke up your ass. The numbers never lie. You're Braveheart.

CARLSON: I'll ramp it up on Fauciism. How's Rupert? Where is he these days, London, Sydney, New York?

LACHLAN: When the Delta variant hit, Dad got the booster and went back to Bel Air in L.A., like he did in the first wave after he got an early shot. It's a world in itself there. The house is on the Moraga Vineyards, fourteen acres in the middle of Bel Air, up in the Santa Monica Mountains. Once owned by Victor Fleming, directed Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Now who's the wizard from Oz? Makes ace wine. I'll ship you a case or two. Red or white?

CARLSON: Mix it up.

LACHLAN: Two cases of each. Make it three.

CARLSON: Send it to the Florida address.

LACHLAN: And I'm sending you a doctor to give you a booster to go along with the cabernet. Don't say no. You don't have a choice. The wine and the doctor will be there to meet you. Keep it going, mate.

CARLSON: Best to your father.

LACHLAN: Your biggest fan. Catch you later.

Carlson punches another number in his phone.

CARLSON: Mr. President?

TRUMP: Watched your show. Love "Medical Tyranny." How are the numbers? Still a winner, Tucker?

CARLSON: Top of the line, Mr. President.

TRUMP: I was just on Fox Business, told them that the booster sounded like a money-making operation for Pfizer and that the whole thing is just crazy. Why would you need another one? It's the Trump vaccine. It's good for life. I could see the dollar signs in their eyes—of that guy that runs Pfizer. You know, the guy that announced the day after the election that he had the vaccine. But we knew that, and I knew that, and the people knew that. A money-making operation, that's what it is. Yeah, a money-making operation.

CARLSON: You would know.

TRUMP: Who else would know better?

CARLSON: Great work, keep it up. So, what should I know, Mr. President?

TRUMP: I had Dr. Ronny come to Bedminster. Lined up everyone—Ivanka, Jared, Don, Jr., Eric, Lara---bing, bing, bing, bing. Everyone gets the booster. Oh, and that annoying Kimberley. Ivanka didn't want to tell her Dr. Ronny was there. Let her die out on the 9th hole.

CARLSON: Mr. President, what you said about the booster is perfect about the elites against the people.

TRUMP: Before I tell you what I think you should be saying, I want to tell you that you have to get the booster. You're vaccinated, Tucker, not like some poor schmuck, like the guy who wanted a shot when they were putting the ventilator on his face? He's begging, give me the shot and they're telling him it's too late, and they clamp on the ventilator. Please, please, the shot…

CARLSON: Pfizer, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Two shots, but maybe not enough. Booster. Take no chances. Take it and run. You're too valuable. You can knock that Pfizer CEO around like I did. It's a charm. My PAC fundraising, off the charts. You want me to send Dr. Ronny?

CARLSON: That's not necessary, Mr. President. I'm using the Murdoch doctor.

TRUMP: But promise me you'll get it.

CARLSON: I promise.

TRUMP: Father knows best.


Sidney Blumenthal, former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, has published three books of a projected five-volume political life of Abraham Lincoln: A Self-Made Man, Wrestling With His Angel ,and All the Powers of Earth. His play This Town, about a scandalous White House dog, was produced in 1995 by LA TheatreWorks. This is the tenth in his "Trump Cycle" series of one-act plays published in The National Memo, including The Pardon, Epstein's Ghost, Ivanka's Choice, Sunset Boulevard, The Exclusive, The Role Model, A Modest Proposal, The Exit Interview, and The Hitler Gospel.