21st Century Fox Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch said Americans “have to be more tolerant of each other’s views” during a wide-ranging interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times’ DealBook conference on Thursday.
Murdoch, who will oversee New Fox once Disney officially acquires 21st Century Fox assets, addressed criticism that Fox News has received from people who don’t agree with the politics of the network’s opinion hosts.
“Fox News is the only mass media company in America… with conservative opinions. It’s the only one,” Murdoch said. “Frankly, I feel in this country we all have to be more tolerant of each other’s views… we’ve come to this point where we are more and more intolerant of each other, and frankly, that has to change.”
Murdoch said Fox News programs its content “to everyone,” catering to viewers from “California and New York but also, everywhere in between.”
Murdoch explained that many detractors of Fox News see only small, often-out-of-context viral clips from the network’s opinion shows that air in the morning and during primetime– but the audience tuning in for straight news is significantly larger.
“Frankly, our biggest critics of Fox News are not watching Fox News. They’re picking up pieces from Twitter… social media and elsewhere,” he said.
Murdoch pointed to Chris Wallace, Shepard Smith and Martha MacCallum as hard-news anchors who help make up the majority of the network’s programming — explaining that opinion hosts make up only a few hours of content per day on the 24/7 network.
“Far more people watching the news hours than the opinion hours,” Murdoch said.
Ross Sorkin asked Murdoch how he feels about President Trump “liking” the network, but the 21st Century Fox executive chairman didn’t necessarily agree.
“I think he dislikes us less than everyone else,” Murdoch said. “If you look at Shepard Smith, if you look at Chris Wallace, Geraldo was on ‘Fox & Friends’ this morning criticizing the president… there is a huge number of hours per day… that do not agree with Trump.”
Ross Sorkin then brought up whether or not Fox News is responsible for recent bombs sent to Democratic leaders after Cesar Sayoc – who has a lengthy rap sheet – was arrested as the suspected bomber.
“I don’t take responsibility for a criminal who was a criminal before Fox News even started,” he said. “I think it’s unfair to make that criticism.”
Murdoch reminded the audience that several non-political media businesses also are under the New Fox umbrella, such as Fox Sports 1. Ross Sorkin pondered if Murdoch considered the “optics” when he hired former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks to run communications for the new company. The media mogul explained he simply was putting the “absolute best” team in place.
“[Hicks] is an incredible executive with incredible experience,” he said. “No connection to the White House.”
Murdoch explained that New Fox – which is largely an American company – is built to thrive on live events but he plans to invest “aggressively” when it comes to adding entertainment content to the brand.
“We will buy other things,” he said. ”We will be acquisitive and we intend to grow.”
While Murdoch hopes to build New Fox, he said he wouldn’t be shocked if his father eventually sold the Wall Street Journal – because nothing would surprise him after 21st Century Fox assets were sold to Disney.
“Who knows?” he said.
The extensive chat then shifted to Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News star who is currently negotiating her exit from NBC News after a disastrous stint ended with her show being canceled over comments about whether or not “blackface” is racist. While New Fox is looking to acquire assets, he didn’t seem open to a return for the former FNC host.
“I’m a big fan of Megyn’s. I like her a lot, we didn’t want her to leave Fox when she did. Having said that, I’m very happy with our current lineup,” he said. “We won’t be making any changes.”
As far as Murdoch’s personal politics, he explained that he doesn’t necessarily fit into a specific category, as he is often conservative on economic policy issues but socially liberal.
“Running media organizations, you need to be an independent thinker,” he said.