Tony Abbott with Fox logo overlay

Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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Fox's newly nominated board member, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, has a history of espousing problematic views

A day after Fox’s Rupert Murdoch announced that he was stepping down as co-chairman of Fox Corp., leaving his son Lachlan as sole chairman, a regulatory filing showed that the media conglomerate has nominated former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to its board of directors. Abbott is a climate denialist who has a history of making sexist, anti-LGBTQ, and xenophobic comments, and critics say that this move signifies Lachlan is doubling down on Fox’s commitment to extremism.

  • Tony Abbott’s nomination to Fox’s board of directors signals the dangerous direction Lachlan Murdoch is taking Fox

    • On September 22, Fox shared that Abbott and Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson have been nominated to its board of directors. The nominations will be considered at the 2023 Fox Corporation Annual Meeting later this year. If elected, Abbott and Johnson would replace two members exiting the board: Anne Dias, who expressed concerns over Fox’s handling of the insurrection to the Murdochs and emailed Lachlan to “take a stance,” and business executive Jacques Nasser. [PR Newswire, 9/22/23; Los Angeles Times, 9/22/23
    • Lachlan has already maintained a major influence at Fox News, where he has held a leadership role since 2014. During Lachlan’s tenure as a Fox executive, “Fox has embraced white supremacist propaganda, made its toxic (and now former) star Tucker Carlson the face of the network, and pushed dangerous election lies and conspiracy theories, which fueled the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.” [Media Matters, 9/21/23
    • Abbott, previously a journalist for the Murdoch-owned newspaper The Australian, was elected to Australia’s prime ministership in 2013 thanks to, in part, heavy manipulation from Rupert and his media empire. Rupert endorsed Abbott on the campaign trail, posting at the time, “Conviction politicians hard to find anywhere. Australia’s Tony Abbott rare exception.” Rupert then weaponized his media empire to influence the election by decamping a writer from the New York Post “halfway around the world to inject some of the metropolitan tabloid's hard edge into his Oz publications” and to attack sitting Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. [Media Matters, 9/06/13; Twitter/X, 8/19/13
    • “Tony Abbott is ideal for Fox board, whose core product is grievance and division,” wrote Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer for Australia-based outlet Crikey. Keane and Dyer argued that although Abbott “may have zero experience as a funds manager, no understanding of communications and be a demonstratedly incompetent executive,” he is “arguably a far better fit with the Fox board” because he can sell Fox’s “core product: white grievance and victimhood, and racial and political division.” [Crikey, 9/25/23
    • Politics professor Chris Wallace told The Guardian that Abbott’s nomination “confirms fears that decisions under the Lachlan Murdoch-helmed News Corp will be at least as noxiously right-wing as under Rupert - and possibly worse.” [The Guardian, 9/23/23]
  • Abbott is notorious for downplaying the climate crisis and attacking climate action policies

    • Abbott has said that the science behind the climate crisis is “absolute crap” and that climate change is “probably doing good.” In a 2017 speech delivered to the climate skeptic think tank Global Warming Policy Foundation, Abbott also mocked climate change science by comparing policies to combat climate change to “primitive people once killing goats to appease the volcano gods.” As of 2023, Abbott has joined the board of Global Warming Policy Foundation. [The Guardian, 9/23/23; The Guardian 10/9/17]
    • In his campaign for premiership, Abbott promised to dismantle the Labor Party’s fight against climate change, stating that “the carbon tax will be gone.” Following the election, the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal used his victory to warn American politicians to “beware the faddish politics of climate change.” The paper praised Abbott for successfully making the carbon tax a “political liability” and suggested that Republicans in the U.S. do the same. [ABC News Australia, 9/7/13; Media Matters, 9/9/13; The Wall Street Journal, 9/8/13]
    • While in office, Abbott successfully repealed Australia’s carbon tax after rallying heavily against it. The retreat from Australia’s historic move to reduce greenhouse gas emissions signaled a victory for the climate change denial movement, including Rupert Murdoch, whose media empire “did everything in its power to elect Abbott” and “to attack the tax.”  [Media Matters, 7/24/14]
    • During the devastating 2020 Australian bushfires, Abbott said the world is in “the grip of a climate cult.” His comments mirrored News Corp. coverage of the fires which refused to acknowledge the role of climate change in the acceleration of the fires. One Sky News host even claimed, “There is no doubt ... that two decades-plus of climate change activism is making them worse.” Another called the “big global warming scare” a “con.” [Independent, 1/3/20; Media Matters, 1/6/20]
  • Abbott’s sexist remarks have earned him a reputation as a misogynist

    • While on the campaign trail, Tony Abbott described Liberal MP candidate Fiona Scott as having “sex appeal.” When asked to describe Scott’s traits in comparison to a former Liberal MP for the seat, Abbott also said that she was “young” and “feisty.” [The Guardian, 8/13/13]
    • In his attempt to explain the price of electricity to a female audience, Abbott said, “What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up.” [Pink News, 9/4/20]
    • Abbott said that women, including his daughters, should treat their virginities as a “precious gift.” Abbot made the comment while talking to Australian Women’s Weekly on the topic of sex before marriage. [Herald Sun, 1/26/10]
    • When a woman shared her experience as a sex worker on a radio show with Abbott, footage showed Abbott winking in response. The incident apparently happened during Abbott’s first year as prime minister. During his appearance on a radio show, “a chronically ill grandmother who had to live on $400 a fortnight” said she worked “on an adult sex line to make ends meet, now that’s the only way I can do it.” In response, as footage showed, Abbott winked. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 5/21/14]
    • In her famous 2012 speech on misogyny, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called Abbott out for his sexism, stating that “I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man… not now, not ever.” Following opposition leader Abbott’s public name-calling and shaming of Gillard, she decried a history of sexism from Abbott, his party, and the system that defined her career. [The Guardian, 9/23/23; 2/6/20]
  • Abbott’s history of homophobic remarks and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric has come under scrutiny on several occassions

    • In a piece he wrote for The Sydney Morning Herald, Abbott asserted that same-sex marriage would “fundamentally change society.” While claiming that he is supposedly against discrimination, Abbott paradoxically argued that reserving marriage for a man and a woman is important to “maintain cultural and intellectual integrity.”  [The Sydney Morning Herald, 9/13/17]
    • When challenged by high school students about his opposition to same-sex marriage, Abbott said “I’m all in favor of people having loving, permanent relationships, but I guess it’s a definitional thing.” During a visit of high school students to Australia’s parliament in 2014, the prime minister was confronted with the question. Abbott’s reply was met by pushback from another student saying, “It’s sad to think that they can’t get married because they’re attracted to the same sex.” [Insider, 3/15/14]
    • Ahead of a referendum on marriage equality, Abbott said same-sex marriage is a matter of “political correctness.” In 2017, the federal government under Malcom Turnbull agreed to hold a “$122 million non-compulsory, non-binding plebiscite on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.” Abbott urged Australians to vote no.  [Sunday Morning Herald, 8/9/17]
    • Abbott argued that “it is not homophobic to maintain that, ideally, children should have both a mother and a father.” As a part of his attempt to win the referendum vote against marriage equality, Abbott opposed the existence of same-sex couples with children. [The Spectator, 9/6/20]
    • Abbott also attributed same-sex marriage to the decline of the marriage rate, citing New Zealand -- where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2013 -- as an example. Then-Sydney councilor and Abbott’s sister Christine Forster accused her brother of misrepresenting the data, pointing out that the negative trend extended back to 1999. [Pink News, 9/4/20]
  • Throughout the pandemic, Abbott attacked public health precautions and restrictions as “hysteria” and suggested that elderly coronavirus victims should be left to die naturally

    • Abbott exaggerated the cost of Australia’s lockdown, saying the government’s response was an “overreaction” and that the country had “forgotten the inevitability of death.” Abbott wrote in The Australian: “It often seemed an over-reaction from people who'd forgotten the inevitability of death and the importance of living each day to the full.” [Daily Mail UK, 10/9/21]
    • Abbott attacked what he called the coronavirus “hysteria” and “health despotism” that informed public health policy. In a video for conservative think tank Institute of Public Affairs, he stated that it was possible that “freedom and self-reliance can evaporate” as a result of measures taken by the Australian government to prevent the spread of coronavirus. [The Guardian, 1/25/21]
    • Abbott suggested some elderly coronavirus victims should be left to die naturally. In a speech given in September 2020, he argued, “Governments have approached the pandemic like trauma doctors instead of thinking like health economists trained to pose uncomfortable questions about a level of deaths we might have to live with." [SBS News, 9/2/20]
  • Abbott has also frequently pushed xenophobic rhetoric against minority and indigenous communities

    • Abbott’s controversial comments have also included comparing efforts to reduce numbers of asylum seekers to a “war.” [Sky News, 9/5/20]
    • Abbott also stated that the West should be “ready to proclaim the clear superiority of our culture to one that justifies killing people in the name of God.” Soon after he was ousted from the office, Abbott wrote an op-ed in Sydney Daily Telegraph, saying, “We can't remain in denial about the massive problem within Islam.” [DW, 9/12/2015]
    • In an attempt to justify the shutdown of Aboriginal communities, Abbott claimed that taxpayers cannot be expected to “subsidize [their] lifestyle choices.” Abbott’s assertion that indigenous communities living on their traditional lands is a “lifestyle choice” neglected the extreme social devastation and displacement that would arise as a result of the proposed closure. [The Guardian, 3/12/15]