Lachlan Murdoch on a green background

Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Lachlan Murdoch’s succession leaves him alone at the helm of a global empire. Here’s why that’s troubling.

On September 21, right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch announced that he will be stepping down from his top roles at Fox Corp. and News Corp., and that his son Lachlan will become the sole chairman of News Corp. and continue as Fox’s executive chairman and CEO. Lachlan has already had a major influence at Fox News, where he has held a leadership role since 2014. During Lachlan’s time as an 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.

  • Rupert Murdoch announces he’s stepping down

    • Rupert Murdoch will step down as chair at Fox Corp. and News Corp. in November, passing on sole chairmanship of News Corp. to his son Lachlan. Lachlan currently serves as executive chairman and CEO of Fox Corp. and will continue in that role. Lachlan was named nonexecutive chairman at News Corp. and 21st Century Fox in 2014. The Wall Street Journal reported that Lachlan “began his ascent in management in 2015, when his father stepped down as Fox’s CEO, appointing son James to that position while naming Lachlan co-executive chairman. James later departed the company.” [The Wall Street Journal, 9/21/23; Adweek, 3/26/14]
  • Under Lachlan, Fox personalities have spread white supremacist and anti-Black propaganda

  • Lachlan promoted and defended Tucker Carlson, Fox’s former chief white supremacist, numerous times before Carlson was ultimately taken off the air. But he was not alone in promoting white supremacy and anti-Black racism at the network.

    • While at Fox, Tucker Carlson was a prolific promoter of white supremacist themes, figures, and talking points. Carlson passionately defended the white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which has motivated mass shootings, and his monologues were celebrated by white nationalist figures. [Media Matters, 12/12/19, 10/28/18, 4/9/21, 7/1/21, 9/24/21, 4/24/23]
    • Under Lachlan’s leadership, Carlson became the face of Fox News following the 2020 election and expanded his role on Fox’s streaming service. Fox frequently injected Carlson’s commentary after the 2020 election into programs up and down the network lineup (including on the “news side”), airing clips from Carlson’s shows in at least 134 weekday segments on other programs between November 1, 2020, and May 3, 2021. In 2021, Carlson became the linchpin of Fox Nation, Fox’s streaming service, which aired him three times a week; the network spent more than nine and a half hours promoting his streaming show on other programs during the week it premiered. [Media Matters, 5/3/21, 5/2/22]
    • As Fox Corp. CEO, Lachlan dismissed calls from the ADL for Carlson to be fired after he promoted the white supremacist “replacement” conspiracy theory. After the Anti-Defamation League’s chief executive, Jonathan Greenblatt, called for Carlson to be fired, Murdoch “dismissed” the demand, “telling the organization in a letter that his company saw no problem with comments Carlson made about the racist ‘great replacement’ theory.” In the subsequent two months, Carlson went on to push the replacement conspiracy theory at least eight times. [Media Matters, 4/12/21, 6/8/21]
    • After Carlson created a firestorm by passionately invoking the “great replacement” conspiracy theory in 2021, Lachlan falsely claimed he had actually “decried and rejected” it. Lachlan wrote about the segment in question: “A full review of the guest interview indicates that Mr. Carlson decried and rejected replacement theory.” [Media Matters, 6/8/21]
    • Lachlan reassured Carlson of his support after the Fox host said in December 2018 that immigration “makes our own country poorer, and dirtier, and more divided.” According to reporting from The New York Times, Carlson “received personal text messages of support from Lachlan” while Carlson was being widely condemned for his comment. [Media Matters, 4/3/19]
    • After Carlson was fired in 2023, Lachlan said on an earnings call that “programming strategy at Fox News” would not change. He declared, “It's obviously a successful strategy and as always we are adjusting our programming and our lineup.” [Media Matters, 5/9/23]
    • Lachlan lied to Fox’s business partners and investors about the effects of advertiser boycotts of Carlson’s program. After Carlson’s abrupt departure from the network, The Wall Street Journal reported that Carlson’s prime-time program, which Murdoch had previously championed, was “repellent to blue-chip advertisers” and cost the network important revenue streams despite its popularity with viewers. This reporting contradicted claims from both Fox and Lachlan himself, who as recently as 2022 had proclaimed during a quarterly earnings call that “we are currently not seeing an adverse advertising impact on our business.” [Media Matters, 4/28/23]
    • Other prominent Fox stars including Laura Ingraham have been permitted under Lachlan to push anti-immigrant rhetoric. Ingraham minimized child detention centers during President Donald Trump’s administration and condemned “massive demographic changes.” [Media Matters, 12/21/18]
    • Fox correspondent Bill Melugin has become the network’s top anti-migrant reporter, and his coverage has been promoted and celebrated by white nationalists. In a period of a little over a year, Melugin appeared more than 400 times on Fox, including dozens of appearances on Carlson’s program, where he framed immigration issues in a sensationalistic way, adopting the opinions and concerns of restrictionist, anti-migrant activists. White nationalist and other extremist outlets such as VDARE and Infowars regularly promoted and praised his anti-immigration coverage. [Media Matters, 5/17/22, 12/20/22]
    • Fox host Jeanine Pirro gave a passionate argument in favor of allowing open Nazism and white supremacy across social media. During her commentary, Pirro conflated government free speech protections with content moderation on social media platforms. [Fox News, The Five, 12/1/22]
    • In 2023, Fox pushed anti-Black narratives every single day of Black History Month. Rather than using Black History Month to recognize the adversity faced by Black Americans and celebrate Black culture, Fox News, its website, its sister website Fox Business, and its online streaming platform Fox Nation spent the month of February peddling anti-Black narratives. [Media Matters, 2/17/23]
  • Fox's spread of 2020 election lies under Lachlan's leadership led to a historic $787.5 million defamation settlement

    • Under Lachlan’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 Fox News had played in the storming of the U.S. Capitol and changing the network’s course, Lachlan allowed it to become a major distributor of conspiracy theories about that attack on U.S. democracy. [Media Matters, 10/17/22]
    • In the 14 days after Fox declared Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election, the network cast doubt on or pushed conspiracy theories about the election results at least 774 times. While many of the network’s lies targeted Dominion Voting Systems, ultimately resulting in a record $787.5 million defamation settlement, Fox News also targeted Smartmatic, with a separate $2.7 billion defamation suit still pending. [Media Matters, 1/14/21, 5/2/23]
    • Lachlan admitted in his testimony during Dominion’s lawsuit against Fox that he weighed in on the “specific direction on both the tone and narrative of Fox’s news coverage” between November 2020 and January 2021. Lachlan also admitted that “he can and did share his views on what guests should or should not” appear on Fox. According to a filing, Fox’s on-air talent and executives “affirmatively reached out to Lachlan to take his temperature on whether or not to have a particular guest on their program. … [He] even provided suggestions of specific questions to ask a particular guest.” [Media Matters, 3/6/23]
    • Also in November 2020, Lachlan directed Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott to “do a ton of pro-Trump legacy specials on Fox Nation.” He had also been in contact with Scott and Fox News President Jay Wallace about whether to retract Fox’s decision to call the Arizona election results in favor of Biden. [Media Matters, 3/6/23, Twitter/X, 9/21/23]
    • Pro-Trump editorial instructions from Lachlan show that the network was attempting to remain on the outgoing president’s good side — and refrain from losing its audience to competitor Newsmax — even as the network knew the election results showing Biden’s victory were legitimate. As a result, there was some inconsistency in the network’s approach to Trump’s extralegal attempts to stay in power, a balancing act reflected in anchor Leland Vittert’s coverage of a November 14, 2020, “Stop the Steal” rally. [Media Matters, 3/1/23]
    • Lachlan was critical of then-Fox anchor Leland Vittert’s critical coverage of the Trump administration’s election lies in late 2020, calling his coverage “smug and obnoxious.” Vittert stopped appearing on air in January 2021, and by that April, Fox announced it had “parted ways” with him. [Media Matters, 3/6/23]
    • After the network's settlement with Dominion was announced, Lachlan stated on a Fox Corp. earnings call that “we’re proud of our Fox News team, the exceptional quality of their journalism, and their stewardship of the Fox News brand.” Despite Rupert Murdoch’s admission that Fox knew that election fraud conspiracy theories were all lies that it spread for profit, Lachlan maintained that “the settlement in no way alters Fox’s commitment to the highest journalistic standards across our company or our passion for unabashedly reporting the news of the day.” [Media Matters, 5/9/23, 2/27/23]