As its global media empire ignores devastating bushfires in Australia, the Murdoch family has come under fire from an insider critic: Rupert’s son James. A spokesperson for James and his wife Kathryn expressed to The Daily Beast “their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage” of issues related to climate change. The couple, who have previously made their knowledge of the climate crisis public and committed millions of dollars to fight it, noted they are “particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence” that increased temperatures have contributed to the severity of the fires. The Murdochs’ News Corp. accounts for 60% of daily newspaper sales in Australia, where the family first began building its massive media conglomerate decades ago.
The epidemic of climate denial at Fox News and News Corp. outlets is a global problem. Personalities on their payroll across the world have promoted dangerous conspiracy theories and false punditry obfuscating the role of climate change in the devastating bushfires.
Two weeks into the new year, Fox News has already advanced anti-science talking points multiple times. On the January 13 edition of Fox News’ The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld blamed the media for the Australian wildfires, saying reporters are “chasing memes instead of actually fact-checking” and said they should instead “be questioning why there are so many arsonists.” The role of arsonists in the Australian bushfires has been greatly exaggerated and, according to climate expert Will Steffen, “The evidence is overwhelming that climate change is playing a prominent role” in the bushfires.
The Daily Beast’s story on James and Kathryn Murdoch’s public criticisms of News Corp. and Fox News’ climate denial noted that a regular guest on Fox host Laura Ingraham’s prime-time show has also hyped the false arson story. On January 7, Fox’s Sean Hannity also promoted disinformation on the role of arsonists in spreading the bushfires. Fox Nation’s Tomi Lahren claimed, “The fact of the matter is this: Australia has an arson problem you can’t pin on global warming, climate change, or whatever title you’re giving your environmental boogeyman these days.”
Even though 2020 just started, Fox News personalities are already working overtime to poison the climate change discourse in media this year. Fox’s Mark Levin yelled that “climate change is BS” and politicians who rightly recognize the threat “are praying to idols” because “you never heard about climate change 10 years ago” (this is false). On January 10, Ingraham bizarrely dismissed the problem of receding glaciers, saying, “The glaciers in the Rocky Mountains receded, which is why we have the Rocky Mountains.” In response, regular guest Raymond Arroyo said, “It’s called nature. It happens.”
Fox host Mark Levin also has been screaming about climate change:
Murdoch-owned media properties have promoted climate denial well beyond Fox News, and his Australian media empire has turned a blind eye to the climate crisis. The family’s national newspaper The Australian has hyped the story about the role of arsonists in spreading the bushfires. Conservative pundits on Sky News Australia have also used the ongoing fire season to push climate misinformation and denial, including Chris Kenny, Peta Credlin, and habitual climate denier Andrew Bolt. In the past, newspapers owned by News Corp. have been criticized for their role in spreading climate denial.
James Murdoch remains financially and legally involved in both News Corp., where he sits on the board of directors, and the Fox Corporation, the parent company of Fox News. (His father reportedly “had made sure that none of his children would be able to sell their voting shares to an outsider” after he tried to cash out in 2018 following 21st Century Fox’s merger with Disney and a massive restructuring of assets.) His criticisms are just the latest installment of a decades-long power struggle within the family to shape the media empire’s political influence according to each man’s ideological vision. But because James was effectively forced out of the business after the Disney merger, he’s been relegated to lobbing criticisms from the sidelines as Rupert and rumored climate denier Lachlan Murdoch hold the reins.