Fox News CEO Roger Ailes has become a bit of a crimp in the Murdoch family’s harmony. The New York Times is reporting that Matthew Freud, the husband of Rupert Murdoch’s daughter, Elisabeth, is not particularly fond of his in-laws.
Freud: I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’s horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to.
Uh oh. That’s gotta make for some awkward holiday gatherings. Freud’s complaint isn’t a trivial personal incompatibility. He is aiming straight at the heart of a news enterprise’s most cherished asset: its journalistic standards. The charge of “horrendous and sustained disregard” is hardly an incidental difference of opinion. And the fact that there are others who share his shame doesn’t smooth things out for Ailes.
Freud is married to Elisabeth Murdoch, who left the family business to run her own UK-based enterprise, Shine Limited. Shine also has interests in the U.S., including Reveille, the company that produces “The Office” and “Ugly Betty.” Elisabeth was an enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama and held a fundraiser for him in London. That contrasts significantly with the views of Ailes, whom the Times says threatened to quit if Murdoch permitted his New York Post to endorse Obama for president.
The Times notes that Ailes also played a part in Lachlan Murdoch’s decision to leave his father’s company in 2004 and return to Australia. Up until then Lachlan was considered Rupert’s heir apparent. The article goes on to hype Ailes’ mythic reputation as a political strategist and media guru. But what it doesn’t say is that while being successful at lining the pockets of the principles, Fox News was also killing the Republican Party.
It’s good to know that there are some reasonable members of the Murdoch clan who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions. It makes for some interesting speculation about the future of News Corp. when the Murdoch progeny assume control. While son James is still a high-ranking executive running Papa’s European satellite operations, siblings Elisabeth and Lachlan will inherit equal voting shares from their father’s estate.
Should any of this make Ailes nervous? Well, would you want to keep a division head that made you “ashamed and sickened” if you inherited a multinational media empire? Would you allow your news network to continue to have a “horrendous and sustained disregard” for journalistic standards? Would Ailes even want to remain at Fox with Obama supporters as his new bosses? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
[Update] News Corp responds: “Matthew Freud’s opinions are his own and in no way reflect the views of Rupert Murdoch, who is proud of Roger Ailes and Fox News.”
Rupert Murdoch’s pride in Ailes irrevocably ties him to the insults, lies, and journalistic disrepute that is the hallmark of Ailes and his stars like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly. Murdoch again chooses to align himself with the dregs of the television idiocracy. That will be his legacy.