James Murdoch ― son of conservative media titan Rupert Murdoch, whose sprawling empire includes The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and Fox News ― is proving that not everyone in the family wants to ascend that particular throne.
In a New Yorker interview published Monday, the younger Murdoch spoke out against authoritarian regimes and disinformation campaigns, decrying societal divisions in a quote that writer Jane Mayer described as sounding “an awful lot like a person describing Fox News.”
“The connective tissue of our society is being manipulated to make us fight with each other, making us the worst versions of ourselves,” Murdoch said.
“There are views I really disagree with on Fox,” he added. But he said he wouldn’t cast his world view “as some reaction to that.”
In March, James Murdoch exited his role as CEO of 21st Century Fox when Disney did a $71.3 billion buyout of its film and TV assets. Brother Lachlan Murdoch was selected by their father to helm what remained of the new Fox Corporation, leaving James Murdoch on the outside.
Unlike his younger brother, Lachlan Murdoch has defended Fox News, whose primetime hosts often praise President Donald Trump with propagandistic coverage while occasionally spewing white nationalist rhetoric.
Asked during last year’s New York Times DealBook conference whether he was embarrassed by the network’s style, Lachlan Murdoch argued that it filled a void in American media.
“No, I’m not embarrassed by what they do at all,” he said. “You have to understand that Fox News is the only mass media company in America, in this country, with conservative opinion, with strong conservative opinion in prime time.”
Meanwhile, James Murdoch’s differences with his family have become increasingly evident, most recently in his donations to Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and John Hickenlooper (who has since dropped out of the race).
He continues to lead Quadrivium, a foundation he and wife Kathryn Murdoch founded in 2014, which is taking on a range of initiatives addressing climate change, ocean health and U.S. democratic principles.
Murdoch has also been named a board member of the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank that is collaborating with his foundation on a project called “Countering High-Tech Illiberalism.” According to the center’s website, the initiative will explore how digital technologies are “used to polarize and pervert the politics of democratic societies” and seek to “develop the policy and technology innovations necessary to secure a freer and more open future.”