Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images; Drew Angerer/fake images/fake images
Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch praised Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott on Thursday, even as the network faces a legal reckoning for lies it repeatedly broadcast after the 2020 presidential election.
“The channel’s position is very strong and it’s doing very well,” Murdoch told an industry conference hosted by Morgan Stanley. “That’s a credit to Suzanne Scott and her entire team there. They’ve done a tremendous job running the business and building this business.”
He cited the company’s expansion into weather and on-demand news, saying that Fox News attracted a diverse audience because its programming appealed to their values.
“They see Fox News not just as a news channel, but really as a channel that speaks to middle class America and respects the values of middle America as a media business that is more relevant to them.” , said.
“This is a tough business to run,” Murdoch added. “And I think, you know, Suzanne Scott has done a tremendous job.”
Lawsuit raises questions about Suzanne Scott’s future
However, Scott’s leadership at Fox News is at the center of a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by a voting technology company called Dominion Voting Systems. The company accuses Fox of deliberately broadcasting lies that its technology shifted votes for then-President Donald Trump to Joe Biden in an attempt to lure back Trump loyalists who make up much of its core audience. Many of them sought out right-wing alt networks after Fox correctly named Biden’s swing state of Arizona before other news outlets.
Legal evidence made public in recent weeks shows Scott upset over the loss of viewers and discussing what to do about it with Murdoch and his father, Rupert Murdoch, the majority owner.
In legal depositions, both Murdochs claimed that while they had regular, even daily, conversations with Scott about news coverage and would offer suggestions, she calls the shots at Fox News.
Emails and text messages in the weeks after that election suggest a more nuanced process.
For example, on November 14, 2020, Lachlan Murdoch sent Scott a message of dismay about how Fox News reporters were covering a Trump rally.
“Journalists need 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 big celebration of the president. Etc.”
Murdoch went on to call one reporter, Leland Vittert, “smug and nasty.”
Scott said that she agreed and was “calling now.”
About 40 minutes later, Murdoch thanked him, noting that Vittert “seems to have calmed down.”
Scott replied, “Yeah, we’ve got them all online!”
On Thursday, Ben Swinburne, who heads Morgan Stanley’s US media research, asked Murdoch about the lawsuit.
“A news organization has an obligation, and is an obligation, to report news fully, wholesomely, and without fear or favoritism,” Murdoch said. “And that’s what Fox News has always done, and that’s what Fox News will always do.”
The widespread attention to the case, he said, was not about the law or journalism, but about politics.
“Unfortunately, that is more reflective of this kind of polarized society that we live in today,” he said.
The case will go to trial in April in Delaware.