Fair and Balanced? Murdoch’s private messages show Fox News was instructed to help Republicans

New York

“We report. You decide.”

That was the longtime slogan of Fox News. But a deposition and private messages made public in recent weeks has exposed that even Rupert Murdoch doesn’t treat Fox News like an actual news organization.

The revelation is part of several legal filings from Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the right-wing talk channel, uncovering numerous instances in which the Fox Corporation chairman brazenly directed the network’s leadership to help the Republican Party.

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. Sign up for the daily digest chronicling the evolving media landscape here.

Taken as a whole, the statements show that Murdoch apparently views Fox News more like an extension of the GOP than a credible news organization with a mission of informing viewers and allowing them to arrive at their own decisions.

The legal filings are littered with examples of Murdoch tipping the scales:

► Murdoch gave Jared Kushner “confidential information” about then-candidate Joe Biden’s ads “along with debate strategy” in 2020, a filing said, offering Donald Trump’s son-in-law “a preview of Biden’s ads before they were public.”

► Murdoch asked Fox News chief executive Suzanne Scott to have Sean Hannity say “something supportive” about Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham ahead of the 2020 election. Murdoch explained, “We cannot lose the Senate if at all possible.”

► Following Trump’s loss, Murdoch told Scott to “concentrate on Georgia” when the state was holding a high-stakes special election that would decide the balance of power in the US Senate, instructing her to be “helping any way we can.”

► When Trump appealed for help defeating Republican West Virginia Senate candidate Don Blankenship, Murdoch told Scott and Fox News president Jay Wallace, “Anything during day helpful but Sean [Hannity] and Laura [Ingraham] dumping on him hard might save the day.”

► When then-New York Post editor Col Allan told Murdoch that Biden’s only hope for winning the election was “to stay in his basement and not face serious questions,” Murdoch responded, “Just made sure Fox banging on about these issues. If the audience talks the theme will spread.”

Taken in isolation, any one of these actions would be considered a major scandal at an actual news organization. There would be investigations and likely disciplinary measures would ensue. But at Fox News, that’s not the case. That’s almost certainly because the leadership does not view the channel in the same way that it is marketed to viewers and advertisers.

And Murdoch isn’t the only person in leadership who seemingly doesn’t view Fox News as a straight-shooting news organization (which, to be clear, it most definitely is not). In the Dominion filings, former House Speaker turned Fox Corporation board member Paul Ryan wrote the Murdochs, “[T]he sooner we can put down the echoes of falsehoods from our side, the faster we can get onto principled loyal opposition.”

Notice the words Ryan used there: “Loyal opposition.” That’s what Ryan thinks Fox News should apparently be, in its best form.

Critics have long accused Fox News of being the “opposition” to Democratic officeholders and candidates. Honest observers have known for quite some time that that is the case. It’s just striking to hear Fox leadership like Ryan talk openly behind the scenes about what the company is at its core.

Fox News has accused Dominion of having “cherry picked” statements to unfairly malign the network. But it’s hard to see how, under any circumstances, these instructions to a supposed network news chief would be appropriate.

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