Lachlan Murdoch, once the ambivalent Fox heir, makes his point clear

Placeholder while loading article actions

Lachlan Murdoch’s first big media moment was also his first public humiliation.

It was 2005, and Rupert Murdoch’s oldest son was on the cover of New York magazine as “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Be King.” The flat article described how the former media mogul undermined his intended successor by instead siding with a beloved top executive, Fox News co-founder Roger Ailes, on key programming decisions. Nursing his wounds, Lachlan, then 34, abruptly resigned his role in the family-controlled news empire and fled New York with his wife and child for their native Australia, which he called their “spiritual home”.

It was a move that cemented a public image of the tanned, tattooed surfer as an ambivalent heir. And even as he returned to the family business, nearly a decade later, and rose through the ranks again, the image remained of a passive Gen-Xer who kept his politics quiet and his ambitions subordinate to those of the swaggering conservative billionaire father. who aspired to influence power at the highest global level.

In a speech in Sydney celebrating a new initiative at a conservative think tank, Lachlan Murdoch – now 50 and co-chairman of News Corp. family, owner of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, and chairman and CEO of Fox Corp. – attacked the “elites” who, according to him, despise traditional values. He also criticized governments for imposing mandates and business closures to control the pandemic and conspiratorially alleged that “virtually all media suppressed the discovery of Hunter Biden’s laptop.”

It was a monologue that could have fit neatly into the range of right-wing commentary served up each night by Fox News’ prime-time opinion hosts — including an obscure jab at the 1619 project.

The New York Times won a Pulitzer for one of the project’s essays, which exposed the legacy of slavery. But it became a regular punching bag in the right-wing media, and Murdoch accused the project of stoking partisan divisions by “recasting[ing] American exceptionalism as racist from the start.

How the 1619 Project took over 2020

And he echoed the culture war battles raging over cable news about school curricula by painting a dire picture of what he sees happening in Australia.

“How can we expect people to uphold this nation’s values, interests and sovereignty,” Murdoch asked, “if we teach our children only our faults and none of our virtues?

The speech was something of a tipping point for longtime observers of the Murdoch empire, who once assumed that 91-year-old Rupert’s children – notably Lachlan and his younger brother James – could have a moderating influence on the media properties that promoted the rise of former President Donald Trump.

Instead, James ended up leaving the company, as he became increasingly public about his discomfort with the right-wing approach of the family business, donating substantial funds to fight climate change, promote scientific understanding and support pro-democracy initiatives.

The Murdoch family discord is being played out publicly

Lachlan, meanwhile, sent another powerful signal about his leanings even before his March 29 speech when he attended a book party last month celebrating former Trump attorney general William P. Barr.

The son never enjoyed the close relationship with Trump his father once had, and Trump continued to complain to Fox News visitors for his alleged disloyalty by accurately predicting on election night 2020 that Trump would lose the key state. from Arizona.

More than 10 months after leaving office, former President Donald Trump maintains a powerful grip on the Republican Party. (Video: Zach Purser Brown/The Washington Post)

But Barr is close with Rupert Murdoch, and he also reported a hug from Lachlan at the party – thanking him by name for traveling from California for the event, and adding that it was Lachlan and his dad who did it. encouraged him to write the book at a time when Barr was hesitant.

(In the book, Barr praised much of Trump’s agenda, but criticized the former president for refusing to accept his electoral defeat. Asked to elaborate on the Murdochs’ support for his book, Barr, reached by phone, said: want to get into this.”)

Later, Lachlan Murdoch worked the dining room at DC’s upscale Tosca restaurant, filled with Trump allies such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and the Senses. Lindsey O. Graham (SC) and Tom Cotton (Ark.).

Young Murdoch’s personal ideology has been the subject of much curiosity as his influence grew in his father’s empire – and Fox’s programming leaned more towards opinion than direct news, and beyond standard Republican sensitivities toward a stronger allegiance to Trumpism.

Murdoch was troubled last fall by trailers for Tucker Carlson’s primetime Fox Nation special that floated specious theories that the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol was a work inside the government to target Trump supporters, according to people who spoke with him. (Two prominent Fox contributors left the network to protest the airing of unsubstantiated claims, and after leaving Fox for CNN, veteran anchor Chris Wallace expressed discomfort with Fox’s programming drift.)

Yet Carlson’s special aired on Fox Nation, the network’s streaming service nonetheless. And Murdoch has also repeatedly expressed his pride in Fox’s programming. He last year declared the network “the loyal opposition” to a Biden administration.

It’s an apparent level of comfort with controversy that a former contestant considers a family trait.

“I never thought that Rupert Murdoch cared too much about the content of his [media outlets] provided they don’t go against the political and geopolitical grain of the moment,” said Jeremy Deedes, the former CEO of the Telegraph Media Group, which was involved in a bitter newspaper war with the Times of London. by Rupert Murdoch decades ago.

And despite Fox’s occasional derision of Trump’s election grievances — and its short-lived attempts to boost small, upstart conservative channels — the network remains a crucial part of the GOP firmament.

“Fox is still the most important space for Republican members of Congress, and it’s true whether you’re talking 10 a.m. with Bill Hemmer, or Dana Perino, or evening opinion shows,” said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist. “That’s where their constituents are.”

Lachlan Murdoch is seen as largely hands-off in his approach to Fox programming, and he works closely with its legal and policy director, Viet Dinh, a friend of the Murdoch family. He has also repeatedly expressed his support for Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott.

For his speech in Sydney, to help launch the Center for Australian Lifestyle at the right-wing Institute of Public Affairs, Murdoch hid his tattoo under a dark suit. He had flown to Sydney in his $90million private jet and told colleagues he planned to stay in town for several weeks – part of his new routine, since his family moved on again. rooted in Australia last year, frustrated with LA’s liberal politics as well as its covid restrictions.

“Accepting government interventions and absorbing record financial hardship were literally indisputable burdens risking fines or jail time,” he complained in his speech. “Everything is done in a snap with few checks and balances, and we are still counting the costs. Alcoholism, domestic violence and suicide are also on the rise during the pandemic. Why did we accept this? never happen again.

In classic Fox style, he spent a lot of time bashing rival media outlets, especially the Australian Broadcasting Corp. The reality couldn’t be more different,” Murdoch said.

And in closing, he urged his fellow Australians to ‘make sure we get back all the rights we thought we had’. It was a signing worthy of cable news.

Comments are closed.