Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch lied during his remarks yesterday at the media research firm MoffettNathanson’s 8th Annual Media & Communications Summit, casting the streaming service Fox Nation as a lifestyle brand when in fact it’s a vehicle for Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s white supremacy. Murdoch also claimed the network stands by its reporting despite the fact that it has repeatedly undermined its own “news”-side coverage of the election, and he dodged questions about a clash over Fox’s opinion side despite reportedly intervening personally to defend Carlson’s white nationalist talking points in prime time.
This is the second time this week that Murdoch’s public strategizing ahead of the 2021 upfronts has obfuscated the crisis in which Fox finds itself as the network tries to sell advertising space for the upcoming broadcast calendar while continuing to push lies, bigotry, and misinformation.
While described as a lifestyle brand, Fox Nation is just another right-wing propaganda outlet
According to an audio recording and transcript posted to the event dashboard Aiera, Murdoch said Fox Nation is a “service really for a superfan” of Fox News that functions alongside the cable network “for added content, more and more lifestyle content.” These remarks, which echo the Fox PR blitz that ripped through the industry press on Tuesday, do not accurately reflect what Fox Nation offers. As my colleague John Whitehouse wrote earlier this week:
Fox executives portrayed Fox Nation as a haven of “feature documentaries, travel series and other lifestyle programming.” This is misleading. Data show that extremist and political programming led by former President Donald Trump and Fox host Tucker Carlson is actually driving growth of the platform. (And for the record, this “lifestyle” programming also includes things like extremist Fox host Jeanine Pirro visiting castles and Tomi Lahren offering daily political rantings; one attempt to start a lifestyle show on the platform had a QAnon conspiracy theorist as a host; and Fox parted ways with other Fox Nation hosts after they pushed deranged conspiracy theories about the pandemic.) By any measure, Fox Nation offers the same misinformation that you see on Fox News.
After Fox News repeatedly cast doubt on its own election call, Murdoch declares, “We’re confident in our reporting”
When asked about competing with other far-right propaganda networks like Newsmax and One America News, Murdoch laughably claimed that “opinion on our channel is center-right,” again echoing the network’s upfronts strategy. In reality, Fox News is home to America’s loudest white supremacist, Tucker Carlson, whose profile at the network only continues to grow. (Don't take our word for it: Just ask actual white supremacists.)
Murdoch declared that at Fox News, “We’re confident in our reporting.” Data disprove this -- for example, in the two weeks after it called the election correctly for President Joe Biden, Fox News cast doubt on the results nearly 800 times.
Murdoch’s remarks also come in the wake of an intellectual purge at the network that included laying off politics editor Chris Stirewalt, who worked on the Fox decision desk for the 2020 election and was in charge of “defending the network’s election night decisions that especially angered President Donald Trump and his allies.” Stirewalt’s exit was the second wave of layoffs targeting the network’s so-called “news” side; in September, Fox fired 25% of its “Brain Room” staff responsible for fact-checking the network’s coverage.
When asked about a clash between Fox’s “news” and opinion sides, Murdoch ducked the question because he’s a coward
When Michael Nathanson, co-founder of MoffettNathanson, asked Murdoch if there is “ever a line” that would prompt him “as an executive” to “weigh in on” a clash between the network’s “news” and opinion sides, Murdoch ducked the question and shoved the issue off to embattled Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, saying that “ultimately, she makes the programming decisions” to produce “the best television news and opinion anywhere.”
But Murdoch’s own recent actions contradict this. He intervened on behalf of Carlson as recently as last month, after the Anti-Defamation League’s chief executive, Jonathan Greenblatt called for the Fox prime-time host to be fired due to his endorsement of the white nationalist “replacement” conspiracy theory.
In a recent article about Carlson’s “untouchable” status at the network, former Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron told The Daily Beast that “ultimately benching anyone” is “probably up to the Murdochs.”
“The Murdochs love him,” another source said. “Like them, he is a rich, prep school kid born with a silver spoon who traffics in populism while living in an expensive ivory tower and never meeting in real life the people he gins up for ratings.” (Murdoch recently purchased a new yacht and a $28 million boat shed.)
If you sponsor Fox News, your brand is in danger
Advertisers should always assume that Murdoch is lying to them. Like his upfronts pitch, his comments at this high-profile industry conference are filled with lies. Media buyers who are considering purchasing ads on Fox News during the 2021 upfronts season should be aware that they are not getting the truth from the network’s top executive, and this risks exposing their brands to the network’s toxic extremism, bigotry, and lies.