James Murdoch has condemned the US media for “propagating lies” which have unleashed “insidious and uncontrollable forces” that will endure for years.
Questioned about whether Fox News – founded by his father Rupert Murdoch and run by his brother Lachlan – had played a role in the riot at the Capitol last week, he said media groups had amplified election disinformation, which successfully sowed falsehoods.
Providing his sternest reproach yet of the US news industry since stepping away from the family business, Murdoch stopped short of naming Fox News but the comments will be seen as a thinly veiled rebuke.
“The damage is profound,” he told the Financial Times in an interview. “The sacking of the Capitol is proof positive that what we thought was dangerous is indeed very much so. Those outlets that propagate lies to their audience have unleashed insidious and uncontrollable forces that will be with us for years.
“I hope that those people who didn’t think it was that dangerous now understand, and that they stop.”
He added that the media would inevitably face “a reckoning” after being “co-opted by forces that only want to stay in power, or are manipulating our discourse from abroad and are only too happy to make a mess and burn things down.”
In a subsequent statement issued jointly with his wife, Kathryn, they added: “Spreading disinformation – whether about the election, public health or climate change – has real world consequences. Many media property owners have as much responsibility as the election officials who know the truth but instead choose to propagate lies.
“We hope the awful scenes we have all been seeing will finally convince those enablers to repudiate the toxic politics they have promoted once and forever.”
Fox News was contacted for comment. While it has run some stories critical of the outgoing US president, Donald Trump, it has been largely supportive of his rule and some Fox News personalities have amplified his false election fraud claims.
“Tonight every American should be angry, outraged, worried and concerned about what happened in the election,” Sean Hannity said on his programme in November. “Here’s the question that every American is going to have to answer by themselves. Do you trust what happened in this election? Do you believe these election results are accurate? Do you believe this was a free and fair election? I have a lot of questions.”
Murdoch resigned in August 2020 from the board of directors of News Corp, which also ultimately controls the Times, the Sunday Times, the Sun, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, a host of Australian newspapers and a number of other media outlets and entities across the world.
He said at the time he was departing over “disagreements over certain editorial content published” by its news outlets and “certain other strategic decisions”.
Murdoch, who donated to Joe Biden’s successful presidential campaign, told the New Yorker in 2019: “There are views I really disagree with on Fox.”
• This article was amended on 16 January 2021. News Corp does not control Sky News as stated in an earlier version.