In an interview with his Sky News TV on Thursday, media mogul Rupert Murdoch dismissed reports about sexual harassment at Fox News as “largely political because we’re conservative.”
When Sky News’ Ian King asked Murdoch if he thought the accusations have hurt Fox, Murdoch, who is executive co-chairman of 21st Century Fox, responded: “It’s all nonsense.”
Murdoch did say there was “sort of” a problem with former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes — whom 10 women accused of harassment, costing Murdoch’s company $45 million to settle lawsuits related to the complaints.
“There was a problem with our chief executive, sort of, over the year — isolated incidents,” said Murdoch. “As soon as we investigated it, he was out of the place in hours, well, three or four days. And there has been nothing else since then.”
In fact, according to reports, it was one of Murdoch’s sons, James Murdoch, who wanted to boot Ailes immediately, against the wishes of his father and brother Lachlan. Ailes stepped down in July 2016 with a $40 million exit package.
Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s firing in April over sexual harassment accusations provoking a $32 million settlement apparently slipped Murdoch’s mind in the Sky News interview. Host Eric Bolling was also ousted in late September for sending unsolicited, explicit photos to more than a dozen of his current and former colleagues.
CNN has reported that insurers will pay 21st Century Fox almost $90 million to cover the cost of settlements related to sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
In his interview, however, Murdoch was focused on the competition. “All the liberals are going down the drain. NBC is in deep trouble. CBS, their stars,” he said. NBC fired “Today” show host Matt Lauer last month after his history of sexual misconduct was made public, and CBS fired Charlie Rose over allegations of sexual misconduct.
Murdoch is running into problems with sexual harassment in the U.K. as well. In September, Britain put off 21st Century Fox’s $15 billion planned full takeover of Sky TV because of concerns over Fox’s “genuine commitment to broadcasting standards.” That decision followed British legislators’ calls to examine accusations of sexual harassment at Fox.
Murdoch’s interview focused on Disney’s deal to buy Fox News’ parent, 21st Century Fox, for $52.4 billion. But the Fox Broadcasting Company, including Fox News, won’t be part of the deal.
Asked if he was worried about running into trouble with antitrust laws in the U.S., Murdoch said he “shouldn’t have any problem at all … in Washington.”
U.S. President Donald Trump called Murdoch on Thursday to congratulate him after the Disney deal was announced. The Justice Department, meanwhile, is suing to block AT&T’s merger with Time Warner, which owns CNN, one of Trump’s favorite media targets. Bloomberg reported last month that Murdoch called AT&T’s CEO twice over the last few months to inquire if CNN would be up for sale.
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