By Oliver Darcy, CNN
New York (CNN) — Rupert Murdoch, the powerful right-wing media mogul who built and oversaw one of the world’s most influential news empires, announced Thursday that he will step down as chairman of his companies, Fox Corporation and News Corp.
“For my entire professional life, I have been engaged daily with news and ideas, and that will not change,” Murdoch, 92, wrote in a memo to employees. “But the time is right for me to take on different roles, knowing that we have truly talented teams.”
As the leader of Fox and News Corporation, which publishes influential broadsheets such as The Wall Street Journal and tabloid New York Post, Murdoch has for decades commanded considerable influence in the Republican Party, matched by only a select few.
Murdoch’s decision to step down as chairman of his companies will send shockwaves through the media industry and leave ripples rushing through the political waters as well, just as the 2024 presidential race heats up.
Lachlan Murdoch steps in
Stepping into his shoes, Murdoch’s eldest son, Lachlan, who already serves as chief executive of Fox Corporation, will become sole chairman of both companies.
Murdoch described Lachlan as “a passionate, principled leader.” It’s unclear if Fox’s direction will change under Lachlan, but Rupert signaled that Lachlan will maintain the right-wing editorial bent his media companies are known for.
“My father firmly believed in freedom, and Lachlan is absolutely committed to the cause,” Murdoch told employees in his memo. “Self- serving bureaucracies are seeking to silence those who would question their provenance and purpose. Elites have open contempt for those who are not members of their rarefied class. Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth.”
Rupert Murdoch, who assured staffers he is in “robust health,” said that in his new role as chairman emeritus he would still be “involved every day in the contest of ideas.”
However, Lachlan Murdoch has privately criticized Trump, saying that he disagrees with much of the way the former President behaves, sources told CNN. Murdoch has gone so far as to tell people that he believes if Trump were to run again, it would be bad for the country.
A storied, controversial career
Murdoch’s foray into the media business began in the 1950s with a small Australian newspaper chain, later becoming a major Hollywood executive in 1985 when he purchased Twentieth Century Fox from oilman Marvin Davis for $600 million. In 1986, Murdoch got into the television business after he purchased several US television stations and created Fox Broadcasting.
Fox News launched in 1996 as a conservative startup competitor to CNN. It eventually became the top cable news channel in America by playing into conservative narratives.
The channel, however, veered from its roots in conservative news as former President Donald Trump ascended to power in the Republican Party in 2015, becoming an unabashed home of right-wing propaganda aimed at propping up the scandal-ridden White House.
In recent years, under Murdoch, Fox News has advanced baseless conspiracy theories, including the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2020 presidential election.
The lies Fox News pushed about the election spawned two massive defamation lawsuits from voting technology companies Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic.
Fox earlier this year settled the Dominion lawsuit for a historic $787.5 million. The Smartmatic lawsuit, however, continues to make its way through the court system.
Fox News announced Murdoch’s retirement on its air Thursday morning, with anchor Bill Hemmer praising the network’s founder.
“Rupert Murdoch created all of this and so much more across America and the globe,” Hemmer said. “His life’s work has left an indelible imprint on the global media landscape. His contributions are both innumerable and extraordinary and we thank him for letting us be a part of it all.”
“Without him, we would not be here,” anchor Dana Perino added.
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