Lachlan Murdoch gave what The Washington Post described as a “fiery” speech last week that was nearly indistinguishable from the ravings of a Fox News host. But Murdoch is the billionaire at the head of the company who can’t be bothered to actually run it.
From The Washington Post:
In a speech in Sydney celebrating a new initiative at a conservative think tank, Lachlan Murdoch — now 50 and the co-chairman of the family’s News Corp., which owns the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, and chairman and CEO of Fox Corp. — took swipes at the “elites” who he believes disdain traditional values. He also blasted governments for imposing mandates and business shutdowns to control the pandemic and alleged conspiratorially that “practically all the media suppressed the discovery of Hunter Biden’s laptop.”
It was 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.
That’s not a huge surprise given that Lachlan Murdoch reportedly admires Tucker Carlson and cluelessly or dishonestly both defended Carlson spewing white supremacy’s “replacement theory,” and claimed to support the Anti-Defamation League at the same time. There’s no indication – yet – whether Lachlan Murdoch hates America and admires Vladimir Putin as much as F***y Tucky.
But you have to wonder how much Murdoch even knows what’s going on at his own network. More from the Post:
Lachlan Murdoch is seen as largely hands-off in his approach to Fox programming, and he works closely with his chief legal and policy officer, Viet Dinh, a Murdoch family friend. He has also repeatedly expressed his support for Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott.
That fits in with reporting by then-New York Times columnist Ben Smith. In March, 2020, Smith wrote:
Mr. Murdoch is likable and handsome. But even his allies told me they no longer think he has the political savvy or the operational skills his job demands.
Lachlan has delegated much of the running of the company to Viet Dinh, a high-powered Republican lawyer without much experience in the media business, people who work with them said. Mr. Dinh earned more than $24 million in salary and stock last year as the company’s chief legal officer.
People close to Lachlan Murdoch describe him as a laid-back executive who doesn’t spend his days watching Fox and is sometimes surprised to learn of a controversy it has generated.
In April, 2021, Smith followed up with an article subtitled, “Even before the company’s C.E.O., Lachlan Murdoch, moved to Australia, Viet Dinh was seen as Fox’s power center.” Of course, Murdoch and Fox insist he’s in charge.
Last month, Lachlan Murdoch moved his family to Sydney, Australia, an unlikely base for a company whose main assets are American. The move has intensified the perception — heightened when he stood by as Fox News hosts misinformed their audience about Covid-19 last year — that Mr. Murdoch does not have a tight grip on the reins. The company takes pains to rebut that perception: The Fox spokeswoman told me that Mr. Murdoch is so committed that he has adopted a nocturnal lifestyle, working midnight to 10 a.m. Sydney time. (She also said it would be “false and malicious” to suggest that Mr. Dinh is exercising operational control over Fox’s business units.) It’s such a disorienting situation that one senior Fox employee went so far as to call me last week to ask if I knew anything about succession plans. I promised I’d tell him if I figured it out.
But Mr. Dinh, 53, was ready to step in, and indeed has been seen internally as the company’s power center since before Mr. Murdoch headed across the globe.
That could also explain Murdoch’s ludicrous claim that Fox is “center right.”
Tucker Carlson’s January 6th “documentaries” may prove to have been a defining moment in Lachlan Murdoch’s so-called leadership. NPR’s David Folkenflik reported it caused “tumult” at the network. “Veteran figures on Fox's news side, including political anchors Baier and Chris Wallace, shared their objections with Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott and its president of news, Jay Wallace. Those objections rose to Lachlan Murdoch,” Folkenflik wrote. The Washington Post reported that Murdoch had been “troubled by the incendiary trailer for the series.” But not troubled enough to stop it from airing.
The result? The series was the final straw for conservative contributors Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes and they quit in protest. Since then, Wallace has jumped ship and has specifically cited the network’s questioning whether January 6th was really an insurrection as one reason he found it “unsustainable” to stay there.
Sure, Fox still has all its top-rated MAGA stars. But they are also the ones responsible for the multi-billion-dollar defamation suits brought by Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems over the network’s promotion of the Big Lie about the 2020 election. Ironically, star and Murdoch-pet Carlson may turn out to be the smoking gun that loses the lawsuits for the network.
In his 2020 article, Smith also wrote:
The Murdochs have always been hands-off leaders, and the peculiar challenge for generations of their public relations employees has been deciding whether to portray them as culpable or out-of-touch for various on-air debacles. But since the powerful Mr. Ailes was ousted amid a sexual harassment scandal in 2016, the network seems more and more like an asylum in the firm control of its inmates.
This is not a recipe for long-term success. But what will be the cost to the rest of us?
(Murdoch image via screen grab)