November 27, 2021

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Rupert Murdoch is letting his media empire spread January 6 and election conspiracy theories

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The conservative media mogul hasn’t weighed in directly on the conspiracy that the 2020 election was stolen or the insurrection that took place at the US Capitol earlier this year, and his spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday morning when asked that very question.

But if you were to judge Murdoch by the content featured in his most prominent media organizations this week, you would be forgiven if you were to arrive at the conclusion that he subscribes to such conspiratorial views.

And Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host who is easily the most influential personality in Murdoch’s media empire and who espouses fringe views, teased later on Wednesday night a three-part special promoting 1/6 trutherism.

The trailer for the special promoted by Carlson, which is titled “Patriot Purge” and will air on the network’s Fox Nation streaming platform, featured rhetoric that is difficult to discern from the standard fare seen on conspiracy-ridden outlets such as InfoWars. It included a mention of a “false flag,” or the idea that the attack was an inside job planned by the government, and the idea that the government has effectively declared war on Trump supporters.

Wall Street Journal reporters object while opinion section prints Trump's letter to the editor

A spokesperson for Fox News didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did a spokesperson for parent company Fox Corporation when asked if either chief executive Lachlan Murdoch or board member Paul Ryan, the former House speaker who has spoken out about the attack on the US Capitol, had a comment.

Defenders of Murdoch’s media empire might point out that the mogul employs others who clearly don’t share such views. Employees at The Journal have privately spoken out against publishing Trump’s letter. Over at Fox News, Geraldo Rivera tweeted on Thursday morning that theories about the insurrection having been a “false flag” attack are “bullshit.”

And both The Journal’s journalists and Fox News’ conservative news anchors have reported that Biden won the election and that Trump supporters attacked the US Capitol on January 6.

But those voices pale in comparison to those like Carlson’s.

Carlson, the top-rated host on the channel who draws about three-million nightly viewers, wields significant influence at both the network and within the Republican Party. Outside Trump, he is arguably the most powerful figure in the GOP.

Screenshot from Tucker Carlson's special promoting 1/6 trutherism.
Through its programming decisions, Fox News has elevated Carlson as the face of the right-wing channel, despite the host’s history of using his platform to push white nationalist talking points and anti-vaccine rhetoric. In addition to his 8pm prime time show, Carlson has a documentary series and a day time talk show on Fox Nation. Carlson’s documentary specials receive considerable promotion and his commentary has often been featured throughout the day on different shows on Fox News.

Those programming decisions are ones that are apparently agreeable to Murdoch. If they were not, he could easily reverse them. The same goes with The Journal’s decision to publish Trump’s letter promoting the Big Lie. He could have stopped it if he wanted.

In fact, Murdoch is known for being hands on, especially with regards to the opinion arms of his media organizations, which he has often used to advance his personal viewpoints.

This context makes Murdoch’s decision to at least implicitly green-light content promoting 1/6 trutherism and election denialism so intriguing. If he wanted to put an end to it, he very well could. But he is not — and that is notable.

2021-10-28 13:59:08

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