Fox News
March 25, 2020

Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch was supposed to celebrate his 89th birthday on March 11 with a lavish party at his California estate. But on March 8, with the COVID-19 coronavirus spreading, "the Murdoch family called off a planned party out of concern for the patriarch's health," Ben Smith reports at The New York Times. Lachlan Murdoch, the 48-year-old son nominally in charge of Fox News, "knew the virus was coming" by January, because "he'd been getting regular updates from the family's political allies and journalists in his father's native Australia," Smith reported.

But "if you were watching some of the commentators on Fox News and Fox Business in the first 10 days of March, you wouldn't have been too worried about the coronavirus," Smith notes: "It would be no worse than the flu, and the real story was the 'coronavirus impeachment scam.'" Two things changed the network's prime-time downplaying of the pandemic — Fox Business host Trish Regan took things too far, and President Trump started warning about the coronavirus publicly on March 11. The Washington Post rounded up some before-and-after commentary:

Smith described a "glaring" gap between how seriously "the elite, globally minded family owners of Fox" took the COVID-19 pandemic and the big shrugs from "many of their nominal stars." But Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott also responded quickly and decisively inside the network's Manhattan headquarters starting in late February, as the apostate Republican Lincoln Project highlighted in its own rebuke of the conservative pro-Trump media's coronavirus coverage.

On Tuesday, with a sixth Fox News staffer testing positive for COVID-19, Scott noted in an internal memo that "the vast majority of our workforce is now telecommuting" and ordered a halt to all in-studio bookings and contributor appearances. Smith asked Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Public Health Institute, if he believed people will die because of Fox's coverage in those critical two weeks, and he said yes, this "very specific type of misinformation" has been "very harmful." A Fox News spokeswoman accused the Times of "politicizing this serious threat" by "cherry-picking" clips from "our opinion programs." Peter Weber

July 19, 2018

Disney is very, very close to securing its purchase of 21st Century Fox.

Comcast and Disney have gone back and forth over purchasing Rupert Murdoch's empire since November, but Disney always appeared to have the lead. Now, Comcast is officially dropping its $65 billion bid, practically ensuring victory for Disney, The Associated Press reports.

Rumors of Disney purchasing Fox first sprouted in November, and Comcast joined the fray soon after. In December, Disney placed a $52.4 billion bid for Fox's TV and film studios, as well as its cable TV channels. Comcast countered with $65 billion in cash in June, but Disney posted a $71.3 billion offer in cash and stock later that month. Fox touted Disney's higher chance for U.S. regulatory approval at the time.

That big Disney deal appears to be the winner after Comcast dropped out of the running Thursday, CNN says. It helps that a Disney-Fox merger got U.S. Justice Department approval after the $71.3 billion offer, provided Disney doesn't keep Fox's sports networks. (Disney already owns the ESPN networks.)

A successful Comcast bid would have made it one of the most indebted companies in the world, per CNN. But that doesn't seem to bother the media giant, as it's still bidding against Fox for U.K.-based Sky News. Comcast seems more likely to win that battle, as British regulators hinted in February that a deal with Fox wouldn't get government approval.

Fox's shareholders officially vote to accept the Disney deal on July 27, which includes the 20th Century Fox film studio and cable channels such as FX, per AP. Fox News, Fox Sports, and local TV stations will be spun off into a new company. Kathryn Krawczyk

June 27, 2018

Disney has cleared another major hurdle in its quest to buy 21st Century Fox.

The Department of Justice on Wednesday okayed Disney's $71 billion offer for Fox, provided Disney divests from Fox's regional sports networks, The New York Times reports. Fox already preferred Disney's massive bid to Comcast's because it presented fewer regulatory concerns, and said so when Disney made the offer last week.

Comcast made its $65 billion cash-only bid two weeks ago in response to a $52.4 billion all-stock Disney offer made in December. That led Disney to bump its offer to the current $71.3 billion in cash and stock. Regardless of the price tag, Fox publicly rebuffed the "higher regulatory risk" associated with Comcast's bid, per USA Today. A Disney-Fox deal seemed promising, given the recently DOJ-approved AT&T-Time Warner union.

The Justice Department's approval had one condition, per the Times: Because Disney owns ESPN, it will have to divest from Fox's 22 regional sports networks. Comcast could still put in another offer, but the company's already-massive debt and Fox's willingness to work with Disney could steer it away.

If the Disney-Fox merger continues as planned, Disney will acquire the 20th Century Fox film and TV studio, Fox's cable channels, and U.K.-based Sky News. Fox News, Fox Sports, and other local TV channels will unite under a new company umbrella. Kathryn Krawczyk

June 20, 2018

President Trump held yet another campaign rally Wednesday night, this time in Duluth, Minnesota, and most cable news executives apparently found it not newsworthy enough to broadcast live more than two years before Trump can seek re-election. Fox News broadcast the rally, however, and don't you forget it.

In his speech, Trump focused a lot on immigration, only briefly mentioning that he reversed course on separating families at the border, but also attacked the media and FBI, accused Hillary Clinton of committing "numerous" "crimes," and reminisced fondly about the "great meeting" he had with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, saying they "had great chemistry" and predicting Kim "will turn that country into a great successful country."

Trump also touched on the 2020 race. "You know, I hate to bring this up, but we came this close to winning the state of Minnesota," he said. "And in 2 1/2 years, it's going to be really easy, I think." And he pooh-poohed the political and media "elites," kind of. "The elite! Why are they elite?" Trump mused. "I have a much better apartment than they do. I'm smarter than they are. I'm richer than they are. I became president and they didn't." Which, the last part at least, is indisputably true. Peter Weber

December 18, 2017

Last week, Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch brushed off the sexual misconduct cases that ended the careers of the network's top star, Bill O'Reilly, and its top executive, Roger Ailes, telling Britain's Sky News that "it's all nonsense" and "isolated incidents," suggesting the sexual abuse claims were "largely political because we are conservative." CNN's Brian Stelter played Murdoch's comments on Sunday, then gave the floor to former Fox News contributor Tamara Holder, who said Murdoch's statements freed her of the silence imposed under her $2.5 million settlement with Fox News.

Fox News will probably sue her, but "I legally have a right to respond if I am disparaged or defamed," Holder said. "What Mr. Murdoch said, in my opinion as a lawyer, not as a victim or a survivor, is that this gives me a legal right to respond," both for herself and the other victims who can't come forward. "If this is political, then let's take these cases to trial," she added. "Let's open it up. You're the ones who wanted to settle. You're the ones who wanted us to be quiet."

Part of the settlement was a lifetime ban from even applying to work for a 21st Century Fox company, Holder said. "Fox News ruined people's lives," she said. Murdoch "ruined my life. I don't have a job in TV anymore because the place he has secured down like Fort Knox allowed abusive predators to prey on women who just wanted to work." Without naming names, she gave some details of her sexual assault, and criticized Murdoch's characterization of what went on at his company. "He said there were cases that amounted to flirting. Let me be clear. I had a man pull out his penis in his office and shove my head on it — that was not flirting, that was criminal."

"It's just pain on top of pain on top of pain," Holder said. Peter Weber

May 18, 2017

Fox News founder Roger Ailes died Thursday at the age of 77. While he was ousted as CEO of the network last year over mounting sexual harassment allegations, the mark he left on cable news and the conservative movement as a whole are undeniable.

But Ailes reportedly looked down his nose at the people he catered to, Joan Walsh writes for The Nation, recalling her only meeting with Ailes in 2000:

"I created a TV network for people 55 to dead," Ailes boasted to us. "Nobody believed it could be done, but I did it. It's for guys who sit on their couch with the remote all day and night." That seemed a condescending way to talk about his audience — not to mention, much of the Republican base — but it was fascinating anyway.

"And they don't want to see anyone like you," he continued, looking directly at me. I wasn't sure whether he meant a liberal, or a brunette newswoman in a dark pantsuit. "They don't want to see you — they don't even want to know that you exist!" And he was obliging them: He'd created a world where women were blonde and wore short tight skirts, men were in charge, and articulate, principled, complicated liberals — especially women — didn't exist. [The Nation]

Read Walsh's full account at The Nation and read about Ailes' legacy and cable news revolution here at The Week. Jeva Lange

May 15, 2017

It has been 10 months since Fox News forced out CEO Roger Ailes after dozens of women accused him of sexual harassment — and other than paying $45 million in harassment settlements, firing star Bill O'Reilly, pushing out co-president Bill Shine, losing Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren, and staring down a widening federal investigation, surprisingly little has changed at Fox News, says Gabriel Sherman at New York. Ailes and O'Reilly deny the harassment claims, and O'Reilly told Glenn Beck on Friday that his firing was "a hit" by an "organized left-wing cabal," and he's "going to take action — mostly legal action."

But "while the growing chorus of allegations from former employees are making Rupert Murdoch's cable news network sound more like a malevolent bachelor party in Las Vegas," says Ben Schreckinger at Politico, "what happens at Fox News is not staying at Fox News," with the damage "increasingly spilling outside its walls and creating ramifications for local and national political figures." Most immediately, the scandal is hurting the political ambitions of New York mayoral candidate Richard "Bo" Dietl — a private investigator who has acknowledged investigating O'Reilly accuser Andrea Mackris and Ailes accuser Gretchen Carlson — and aspiring Virginia politician Pete Snyder, accused of running a "sock-puppet" operation.

Less immediately affected are two of President Trump's top advisers, White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and longtime confidante Roger Stone, a veteran political dirty trickster. Stone "was paid for off-air work that included keeping tabs on [New York's] Sherman and publicly criticizing Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy," Politico says, citing "three people familiar with the arrangement." The negative articles he wrote about Sherman were reportedly at the behest of Fox News. (Stone said Sherman and Ailes are "both friends of mine" and he was intervening to "try to keep the two of them from killing each other.")

Bannon also coordinated with Fox News to publish negative articles about Sherman, when Sherman was publishing a book about Ailes, Politico says, citing "three people familiar with the situation." At a meeting with Ailes and others at Fox News in 2014, Bannon reportedly advocated "all out war" against Sherman, and Bannon's Breitbart News later published many critical articles on Sherman. "There is no indication that Bannon was paid to do this, though at the time he enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with Fox, which promoted his conservative documentaries," Schreckinger says. You can read more at Politico. Peter Weber

May 5, 2017

Two top aides to ousted Fox News chief Roger Ailes have been subpoenaed and met with federal prosecutors in New York, as a federal investigation into Fox News' handling of sexual abuse settlements expands into a look at alleged intimidation tactics against perceived threats, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported Thursday night. Both men — former CFO Mark Kranz, who resigned last year, and former public relations chief Brian Lewis, fired in 2013 — have reportedly been granted immunity from prosecution. The investigation is being conducted by two prosecutors in the securities fraud unit at the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan and criminal investigators from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, a federal law enforcement agency that helps tackle white-collar crime.

The federal investigators have also interviewed at least two women who have accused Ailes of sexual harassment, on-air contributor Julie Roginsky and former director of corporate events Lauri Lunh, The Wall Street Journal reports. Along with investigating whether the settlements paid to accusers violated securities laws, the feds are looking into Ailes' use of a private investigator, Bo Dietl, to dig into the background of women accusing Ailes and ousted Fox News star Bill O'Reilly of sexual harassment. Ailes and O'Reilly deny the harassment accusations.

Separately, a former Fox News Radio reporter, Jessica Golloher, sued Fox News on Thursday for gender discrimination, saying that she was told her position was being eliminated less than 24 hours after reporting the years of alleged discrimination to human resources, as encouraged last month. The suit says Golloher was told her duties were being reassigned to freelancers, but that's "entirely pretextual, as it is apparent that Fox will replace Ms. Golloher." Fox News says her suit is "without merit."

Finally, one of O'Reilly's accusers, Wendy Walsh, and lawyer Lisa Bloom are meeting in London on Monday with British regulators at the Office of Communications (Ofcom), which is considering the move by 21st Century Fox — the parent company of Fox News, controlled by Rupert Murdoch — to purchase the rest of satellite TV broadcaster Sky. Buying Sky is a long-time goal of Murdoch, and Bloom wrote Ofcom last month, saying "the similarities between the current harassment scandal and the [2011] phone-hacking scandal reveal the company's approach to business and management — a lack of oversight, intervention, and decency." Peter Weber

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