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Rupert Murdoch announces he will step down as Fox and News Corp chairman

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Rupert Murdoch is effectively retiring, signalling an end of an era. He built his media empire over seven decades. It, of course, includes Fox News plus the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and many others. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik wrote a book on Murdoch, so he's the right man to talk to about all this, and he joins us now. Hi, David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey, Leila.

FADEL: So what did Murdoch say? Why is he stepping down?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, he said that this was the right time, that he's always going to be engaged in questions of public life in the news, but that, you know, it was time for him to have time to do other things. I think it's worth noting he's 92 years old.

FADEL: Maybe time...

FOLKENFLIK: He hasn't been...

FADEL: I want to be retired at 92.

FOLKENFLIK: He hasn't been in great health and that, you know, it's been a season of scandal and controversy for him as well.

FADEL: He hands off the media empire to his eldest son, Lachlan. Tell us about him.

FOLKENFLIK: You know, Lachlan is his elder son. He's - Murdoch has six children, of whom two were sons, the only two he really seriously considered to run the shop. He is in some ways his father's favorite, most like him temperamentally, politically conservative, much like his father, and yet without the same seemingly towering ambition that his father has or the same appetite for the political involvement, the influence that he had in so many countries in which he operated. So, you know, there's a lot of skepticism that Lachlan can be the incredibly dynamic dynamo of a figure that Rupert been for all these decades.

FADEL: Yeah, I mean, let's talk about that legacy and the towering figure that he's been. This is a man who was known as a political kingmaker, Lachlan's father, Rupert Murdoch. What is his legacy?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, his legacy - you know, he supported politicians in his native Australia and in the U.K. from the center left to the far right, and in this country he supported people from center right to the far right. And he leaves behind him, you know, an incredibly successful venture that they were really able to build up. He just sold off his Hollywood holdings, or much of them, for - at the peak of the market before streaming took everything down a significant amount. And it's an extraordinary success story, but it's also one which is strewn with sort of a destructive political legacy. He's propped up politicians who did things like Brexit in the U.K. He - his embrace - despite his contempt for Donald Trump as a politician, his embrace of him publicly with Fox News and the New York Post and other places for much of Trump's tenure helped lead to this disastrous embrace of the completely baseless claims of electoral fraud in 2020. And we saw the results not only in the courtroom, where the Murdochs paid three-quarters of a billion dollars to an election software company that a judge found they had defamed, but also, you know, in many ways, people involved in the attacks on January 6, 2021, of the U.S. Capitol, you know, pointed to Fox as the place where they got their inspiration for a lot of it.

FADEL: Yeah.

FOLKENFLIK: And so you see this combination of building things and also being a destructive force in some ways as well.

FADEL: So a mixed legacy there. What impact will his departure mean for the conservative and right-wing media landscape?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, I think Fox News may not have the singular role that it has enjoyed for the last 15 years, called it (ph) on Republican politics. But it's still a very dominant one. The real question is whether, you know, investors and the Murdoch family, after Murdoch really steps away and particularly after he dies, will want to try to hold on to this company or whether they'll try to break it apart, whether, that is, Rupert Murdoch's company can outlast Rupert Murdoch.

FADEL: NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. Thank you, David.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.

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