The Capitol Hill riot could not have occurred without the “hatred, division and madness” fomented by Fox News and owner Rupert Murdoch must be held accountable, a former Australian Prime Minister charges.
“True to their tradition of wielding power without responsibility, the Murdochs, pere et fils, have not commented on the sacking of the Capitol by a mob of Donald Trump supporters, writes former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
“Yet this catastrophe could not have occurred without the hatred, division and madness Murdoch’s media have promoted for years within the United States and beyond.”
Turnbull, who knows both Trump and Murdoch personally, made the remarks in an extraordinary commentary appearing today (Jan. 12) in the Australian web magazine Crickey.
“Until a few weeks ago Fox News’ relationship with Trump was like that of a state-owned broadcaster in a dictatorship: flattering the great leader, supporting his friends, denouncing his enemies, covering up his failures,” Turnbull writes.
“Fox News has promoted and exacerbated America’s deep social and racial divisions, supporting Trump’s exploitation of them at every turn.”
“Murdoch did not directly dispatch the mob as Trump did, but his media, more than any other, amplified the narratives of hatred, division and denial that made the mob possible.”
Turnbull’s remarks are the strongest condemnation yet of Fox News and its coterie of talking heads, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Lou Dobbs and others.
The time has come to hold powerful people in the media responsible for the damage they have created or enabled. This doesn’t mean newspapers or broadcasters should be censored, but it does mean that the public and media who report the news accurately and fairly should hold the propagandists to account.
It means businesses that advertise with Murdoch should be asked to explain how they justify supporting platforms that have done so much damage to democracy. It means journalists who do their masters’ bidding should be asked to explain how they justify their complicit collaboration with such destructive political propaganda.— Malcolm Turnbull, former Australian Prime Minister
When Russia interfered in the 2016 election, the Kremlin’s goal was to foment division between Americans, mostly on racial lines, and to undermine trust in the US electoral system.
“Those objectives have been achieved, spectacularly, but it’s hard to give the Russians much credit for it,” Turnbull writes.
“The heavy lifting was done by Americans — Murdoch above all, followed by other right-wing media and of course the craziness on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms favored by the lunatic right, like Parler and Gab.”
When the COVID-19 swept into the country, exposing Trump’s incompetence and efforts to cover up the seriousness of the virus, Fox was in the forefront of denying the reality of the pandemic.
When Trump was swept out of office in the November election, Fox was, once again, in the forefront supporting Trump in his claims of election fraud, undermining Americans’ faith in their electoral system.
“I have been with Trump and Murdoch and the power relationship was all too obvious. Trump was deferential, almost obsequious, to Murdoch,” Turnbull writes.
“In fact, when Trump and I first met he wanted Murdoch to join our bilateral discussion. I told him I wouldn’t do that — something Murdoch did not appreciate, no doubt.”
The Murdochs have said they are simply running a business; it’s just giving the market what it wants. That is no defense.
“When a drug company poisons its customers, it is no defense to say that the poisoning was unintended — that the directors just wanted to boost their earnings.”
Turnbull served as Australian prime minister from 2015 to 2018, and was leader of the Liberal Party. He knows Murdoch and his empire well.
Murdoch got his start in Australia as a newspaper publisher in his father’s company, before emigrating to the United States.
He became a U.S. citizen in 1985 so he could buy television stations.
Today, through his company News Corp, he is the owner of hundreds of local, national, and international publishing outlets.
They include in the UK (The Sun and The Times), in Australia (The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun and The Australian), and in the United States (The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post).
Murdoch, at 89, is still active in is company, but has gradually been ceding responsibility to his sons. But the family has been rife with division over its conservative editorial slant.
James Murdoch resigned from the News Corp board of directors this past July “due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions.”
Lachlan Murdoch is currently considered the heir-apparent. Under his influence, Fox News has moderated its hard-right editorial slant, but still acts as an effective megaphone for Trump.
Fox faced a backlash after it called Arizona for Joe Biden during the election and was denounced by Trump.
Since then, rival right-wing cable outlets, Newsmax and OANN, have tried to move in on its audience.