It seems Lachlan Murdoch isn’t too impressed with his own work: “Look, I think unfortunately in this country, there is less and less civil debate, and I think we’re all poorer for it,” said Murdoch in an interview with Matthew Belloni of the Hollywood Reporter. The comment came in response to a question about how “nasty” things have gotten at Fox News itself, a workplace where so-called straight-news journalists have sparred with opinion-side hosts such as Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. This dynamic helps to explain the sudden exit last week of news anchor Shepard Smith from Fox News after a 23-year stint at the network.
In response to another question regarding Fox News, Murdoch essentially repeated the talking point, "Unfortunately in this country there’s less and less civil debate. Civil debate among our countrymen and our colleagues at work is something we always aspire to.”
No, it isn’t, Lachlan — and the proof is right on the Fox News airwaves.
Look no further than “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” which aspires to divide the country as much as possible with each broadcast. "Should people who hate the country be in charge of it?” asked Carlson in February as he hammered progressive Democrats for their position on immigration enforcement. On another show that same month, he criticized Democratic positions on infrastructure and climate change: “I think these policies are designed to destroy the country. I think they are being advocated by people who hate the country, and I think the aim is really clear. If you love the country, you would not propose this.”
In September 2018, Carlson argued that pro-immigration politicians hate America, drawing a rebuke from colleague Brit Hume. “I think the word ‘hate’ is flung around with much too much abandon in our discourse today,” Hume said.
The other main repository of divisive rhetoric on Fox News is, of course, Hannity. Finding nasty and insulting jabs in his transcripts is among the easiest tasks in a media critic’s world. “No investigation from the House Intel Committee and the cowardly Shifty Schiff,” riffed Hannity on Tuesday night, referring to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.). That’s misdemeanor divisive rhetoric, too: For something more grievous, just check out the host’s work on the Seth Rich “story.”
Rhetoric that divides the United States isn’t an incidental aspect of Fox News; it’s part of the business model. Another part of the Fox News business model is to lament political division, as if the network played no role whatsoever in it. Lachlan Murdoch’s reflections are merely the most recent example of this contradiction.