Since Donald J. Trump’s presidency ended in shame and violence in January, Fox News hasn’t been as fawning and fact-checked as outlets like OANN and Newsmax have been. They have, however, made an attempt. For one thing, they employ Tucker Carlson, who is known for spewing hazardous drivel, such as inciting viewers to harass people wearing masks. However, one of the network’s former executives, who was there from the start, is criticizing them — or attempting, but failing, to criticize the network’s owner, Rupert Murdoch.
Preston Padden, who was president of network distribution at Fox Broadcasting Company for seven years and witnessed Fox News grow from its origins, attempted to reconcile his lengthy affiliation with Murdoch with what his biggest network has become in a withering op-ed published by The Daily Beast.
“Over the past nine months I have tried, with increasing bluntness, to get Rupert to understand the real damage that Fox News is doing to America,” Padden wrote. “I failed, and it was arrogant and naïve to ever have thought that I could succeed. I am at a loss to understand why he will not change course. I can only guess that the destructive editorial policy of Fox News is driven by a deep-seated vein of anti-establishment/contrarian thinking in Rupert that, at age 90, is not going to change.”
Padden praises Murdoch as “intelligent, daring, optimistic, and a gentleman,” but believes that what started out as a “truthful center-right news network” has devolved into a “bile-filled network” hawking statements “that no sensible person would accept.” He specifically mentions their lies concerning masks, vaccines, and the election. He holds them responsible for organizing the gathering that turned into the murderous but ultimately unsuccessful insurgency on Jan. 6. “Millions of Americans believe these lies because Fox News has pounded them into their heads night after night.”
But, according to Padden, not even Fox News’ owner believes the fantastic tales the network tells on a regular basis:
The greatest irony is that I don’t believe Rupert Murdoch’s ideas are reflected in most of the falsehoods on Fox News. During the pandemic, I suppose he felt it was important to safeguard his health by wearing a mask, and he pushed me to do the same. I believe dad believed it was critical to safeguard his health by being vaccinated as soon as possible, and he urged me to do the same. And I believe he believes that former President Trump is an egomaniac who lost the election because of his actions, which alienated people, particularly suburban women.
It’s big if true, though surely by now the damage done to a wide swath of America, perpetuated since the 1990s, is already very much done.