Rupert Murdoch, who remains atop his powerful global media empire with an individual net worth of some $8 billion, at the ripe young age of 92, has presumably countenanced that juncture in life when even the most cynical moguls must soften their tenor and acquiesce to the fact that legacy management outweighs some battles. Faced last month with an overwhelming body of evidence indicating that he and others at Fox News gave copious airtime to the espousal of batshit lies about voter fraud—absurd allegations that suits and hosts, alike, knew were false—Murdoch came clean, and then some.
Yes, several of the network’s hosts and guests had endorsed Trump’s false narrative about a stolen 2020 election, Murdoch acknowledged under oath last month, according to the newly revealed testimony. And, yes, he could have stopped the lies from airing, but didn’t. And yes, he did it for business reasons.
Murdoch’s shockingly candid deposition hardly guarantees that Dominion Voting Systems will succeed in its effort to prove Fox liable for defamation, but it certainly improves their position. Fox has long argued, not unreasonably, that it was justified in airing White House officials’ claims about voter fraud because the claims of those officials were inherently newsworthy, no matter how batshit crazy. The correspondence revealed last month between Fox News executives, producers, and talent provided ample evidence that the network was well aware that these officials were hawking false claims about election fraud, and they let them hawk away regardless. But Murdoch’s testimony goes further, providing an acknowledgment from the chairman himself that he didn’t act to stop the baseless claims, and that at least four of his hosts endorsed those claims (Lou Dobbs “a lot,” Sean Hannity “a bit”). The most pressing question, of course, is what happens next—for Fox, for C.E.O. Suzanne Scott, and for the Murdochs.