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Lachlan Murdoch’s praise of Fox News CEO comes amid questions about fallout from libel scandal

As a mountain of evidence behind Fox News’ decision-making in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation case against the network becomes public, speculation has intensified about who might take the blame.

Fox Corp. Chief Executive Officer and CEO Lachlan Murdoch tried to stifle the talks Thursday by praising Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, a target of much of the theorizing, and dismissing the Dominion case as an attack. politically motivated against the company.

“I think a lot of the noise you hear about this case is not really about the law or journalism,” Murdoch said at the 2023 Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference in San Francisco. “And it’s really about politics, and that unfortunately reflects more of this kind of polarized society that we live in today.”

Dominion’s $1.6 billion lawsuit alleging Fox News deliberately lied about former President Trump’s 2020 voter fraud claims to boost its ratings. Dominion bore the brunt of the falsehoods, with accusations that its machines rigged votes to favor President Biden and that the company was founded in Venezuela to help Hugo Chávez.

Fox News has said that Trump’s claims, even if false, were newsworthy and that his coverage was protected by the First Amendment.

Legal experts have said Dominion is presenting some of the strongest evidence they have ever seen in a defamation case. Dominion must prove that Fox News acted malice by recklessly ignoring the truth when reporting on Trump’s claims against the Denver-based voting machine maker.

Lachlan Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch attend the US Open at the USTA Tennis Center in 2018.

(Adrian Edwards/GC Images)

Although Lachlan Murdoch was not asked directly about Scott’s condition, he praised her twice at the Morgan Stanley event when speaking about the overall performance of Fox News, which is the dominant number one ratings among news outlets by wire.

“It’s a credit to Suzanne Scott and her entire team,” Murdoch said. “They have done a tremendous job running the business and building this business. … This is a tough business to run. And I think, you know, Suzanne Scott has done a tremendous job.”

Murdoch’s comments on the case were the first he had made publicly after a tsunami of bad publicity that has engulfed Fox News since the release of deposition testimony and other evidence filed in court.

Testimony from Lachlan Murdoch and his father, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, came as a surprise as both downplayed their direct involvement in decision-making at Fox News and emphasized that Scott is in charge of the network.

The revelations immediately sparked speculation from media analysts and journalists that they were distancing themselves from Scott.

But Scott has also been portrayed as someone who doesn’t have a hands-on stake in all the decisions being made at the network.

“I don’t decide what’s on Fox News,” Scott said in his deposition testimony. “I trust that with editorial leadership teams and the people who make those decisions about what’s in their shows. … I take a 50,000 foot view of all businesses and don’t get granularly involved in managing programs on the network.”

Scott also did not contradict the Murdochs’ argument. She said that while she seriously considers any input she receives from them, they don’t force her to make any network-related decisions.

Fox News has a history of turning the wagons around when the company is under fire.

In 2016, network personalities including Maria Bartiromo and Martha MacCallum came together to publicly support Fox News founder Roger Ailes when sexual harassment allegations against him first surfaced. Ailes was fired once the evidence in an internal investigation became insurmountable.

There was also speculation that Scott’s status was in doubt as of early 2021, as ratings declined in the months after Trump’s election loss. But the Murdochs rewarded her with a new contract, and Fox News regained its dominant competitive position in the cable news market, in part by adding more conservative commentary to its daily lineup.

Scott has worked at Fox News for 26 years, starting as an executive assistant when the network launched in 1996. He rose to the top job at Fox News in 2018 and is credited with improving the culture at the company after the harassment by Ailes. scandal.