Many of us on the left have long harbored a fantasy about Fox News, and for a moment this week it seemed it just might come true.
The fantasy goes something like this: Media mogul Rupert Murdoch will one day hand real control of his empire to his somewhat more liberal (or at least not rabidly conservative) sons. Then, for reasons personal and/or political, they will demote, defang, or dump Fox News chief Roger Ailes, master conjurer of right-wing resentment and generalissimo of the Republican Party. Without the brilliant bad boy at the helm, we’ll come to know a kinder, gentler Fox, conservative but conscientious, tabloid but truer to the facts. All that Fox talent, on air and off, will drop their daily rage performances or self-deport.
I know, I know, that’s not going to happen. But with headlines this week, like “Roger Ailes Burned By Murdoch Sons In Fox News Power Shift” or “Fox News as we know it may be screwed,” you couldn’t help but hope.
What triggered such dreams was the announcement last week that, effective July 1, the 84-year-old Rupert will step down as CEO of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, and hand the reins to his son James, 42. His oldest son, Lachlan, 43, will also be promoted, to executive co-chair of the company, a title he’ll share with Rupert himself. Some sort of succession plan has long been expected, so on its own, none of this was earth shattering.
But then, on June 11, Fox Business Network reported that, the brothers’ ascension notwithstanding, Roger Ailes will be “reporting directly to Rupert Murdoch.”
“This was, apparently, news to Rupert,” veteran Ailes-watcher Gabriel Sherman writes in New York magazine. Because five days later, a 21st Century Fox spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter that no, like everyone else, “Roger will report to Lachlan and James but will continue his unique and long-standing relationship with Rupert.” (In yet another example of how willful thinking shapes Fox fact-checking, the “news” that Ailes would report directly to Rupert was planted by Ailes himself, according to Sherman’s source.)