Yesterday Lachlan Murdoch, the erstwhile scion of the Fox media empire, weighed in with a show of support for embattled Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott.
"The position of the channel is very strong and doing very well," Murdoch said at an industry conference hosted by Morgan Stanley. "It's a credit to Suzanne Scott and all of her team there. They've done a tremendous job at running the business and building this business."
He cited the company's expansion into weather and on-demand news, and asserted Fox News attracted a diverse audience because its programming appealed to their values.
"They see Fox News as not just a news channel, but really a channel that speaks, to sort of, middle America and respects the values of middle America as a media business that is most relevant to them," he said.
"This is hard business to run," Murdoch added. "And I think, you know, Suzanne Scott has done a tremendous job."
"A news organization has an obligation — and it is an obligation — to report news fulsomely, wholesomely and without fear or favor," Murdoch said. "And that's what Fox News has always done, and that's what Fox News will always do."
All well and good. Not sure about fulsomeness being part of a news reporting equation but I can let that lie. But let's look at the reasons Scott is being attacked and take a moment to pause and consider.
On election night, Fox accurately called the Arizona election results for Biden. This sent the Fox management into a panic, worrying about losing viewership and market share to even "righter" wing news sources. Emails have surfaced in the Dominion lawsuit that show that Fox commentators knew that the claims of fraud were erroneous but continued to peddle their nonsense and spout that the election was stolen for weeks and months after.
The network's top primetime stars — Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity — texted contemptuously of the claims in group chats, but also denounced colleagues pointing that out publicly or on television.
Ingraham called Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell "a bit nuts." Carlson, who famously demanded evidence from Powell on the air, privately used a vulgar epithet for women to describe her. A top network programming executive wrote privately that he did not believe the shows of Carlson, Hannity and Jeanine Pirro were credible sources of news.
Even so, top executives strategized about how to make it up to their viewers — among Trump's strongest supporters — after Fox News' election-night team correctly called the pivotal state of Arizona for Democratic nominee Joe Biden before other networks. A sense of desperation pervades the private notes from Fox's top stars, reflecting an obsession with collapsing ratings.
"It's remarkable how weak ratings make ... good journalists do bad things," Bill Sammon, at the time the network's Washington managing editor, privately wrote on Dec. 2, 2020. Network executives above him stewed over the hit to Fox News' brand among its viewers. Yet there was little apparent concern, other than some inquiries from Fox Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch, over the journalistic values of fairness and accuracy.
This goes directly to the heart of the matter. Fox was more interested in protecting its brand than in the truth. Could there be a more cardinal sin in journalism?
Lachlan, the devil's spawn, was apparently now involved in the deceit up to his neck.
For example, on Nov. 14, 2020, Lachlan Murdoch sent Scott a message of dismay over how Fox News reporters were covering a Trump rally.
"News guys have to be careful how they cover this rally," he wrote. "So far some of the side comments are slightly anti, and they shouldn't be. The narrative should be this is a huge celebration of the president. Etc"
I have never seen a news organization craft and manipulate a narrative like Fox does, at least since I saw the fictional movie, Wag the dog. Fox was worried about pissing off the viewership that they had been spoon feeding all this malarkey that they knew and privately admitted was false. Get the yokels stirred up and angry and never mind the false narrative.
Because they make a pile of loot on the red state and MAGA base. Truth be damned.
Rupert Murdoch could make suggestions, but they went only so far. The day before the January 6 riot, he told Scott, “It’s been suggested our prime time three should independently or together say something like ‘the election is over and Joe Biden won,’” adding that such a statement “would go a long way to stop the Trump myth that the election stolen.” Scott forwarded Murdoch’s email to a subordinate while carefully dodging his suggestion: “I told Rupert that privately they are all there—we need to be careful about using the shows and pissing off the viewers but they know how to navigate.”
Their behavior is cynical, destructive, unethical and beyond contempt. Fox knew the truth, but manipulated the news and its viewership for the filthy lucre.
Maybe, the Fox executives mused, they should abandon the sophisticated new election-projecting system in which Fox had invested millions of dollars and revert to the slower, less accurate model. Or maybe they should base calls not solely on numbers but on how viewers might react. Or maybe they should delay calls, even if they were right, to keep the audience in suspense and boost viewership.
“Listen, it’s one of the sad realities: If we hadn’t called Arizona, those three or four days following Election Day, our ratings would have been bigger,” Ms. Scott said. “The mystery would have been still hanging out there.”
If this was ancient Athens or even Plymouth, all the Murdochs, Scotts, Ingrahams, Carlsons and Hannity's of this world would be ostracized to some barren island or standing in the street in stocks and being administered public whippings. They have promulgated a grave injustice. And their viewership is too stupid or ignorant to care or see how they have been manipulated. Without fear or favor? Right.
Fox recently gave Scott a fat new contract, the perfect company girl.