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James Murdoch says he quit father’s news empire because it legitimises ‘disinformation’

‘Great news organisations … should introduce fact to disperse doubt’

Oliver O'Connell
Sunday 11 October 2020 08:07 BST
James Murdoch is critical of Murdoch press

James Murdoch quit the board of News Corp because of disagreements over how decisions were made, arguing that great news organisations should “not sow doubt, to obscure fact”.

In an interview with the New York Times, Mr Murdoch expanded on the statement he gave when he left his father Rupert Murdoch’s company earlier this year, expressing his discomfort with the toxicity of Fox News and other media outlets owned by the company.

In July he said he was leaving “due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions”.

Mr Murdoch said: “I reached the conclusion that you can venerate a contest of ideas, if you will, and we all do, and that’s important. But it shouldn’t be in a way that hides agendas.

“A contest of ideas shouldn’t be used to legitimise disinformation. And I think it’s often taken advantage of. And I think at great news organisations, the mission really should be to introduce fact to disperse doubt — not to sow doubt, to obscure fact, if you will.”

Mr Murdoch explained that he felt increasingly uncomfortable with his position on the board and that it was “not that hard a decision to remove myself and have a kind of cleaner slate”.

Both Mr Murdoch, and his older brother Lachlan, had shown contempt for Roger Ailes during his stewardship of Fox News, but he was unable to reshape the focus and direction of the network after Mr Ailes’s departure in 2016.

“I think there’s only so much you can do if you’re not an executive, you’re on the board, you’re quite removed from a lot of the day-to-day decisions, obviously,” he said. “And if you’re uncomfortable with those decisions, you have to take stock of whether or not you want to be associated and can you change it or not. I decided that I could be much more effective outside.”

Both Mr Murdoch and his wife, Kathryn, have in the past expressed frustration over News Corp titles’s coverage of the Trump administration and climate change. 

Their foundation, Quadrivium, supports voter participation, democracy reform, and climate change projects.

The Times reports that in the 2020 election cycle he has donated to Pete Buttigieg and has given $1.23m (£940,000) to Joe Biden, whom he intends to vote for in next month.

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