James Murdoch has criticised his father’s news outlets for promoting false scepticism about climate change as deadly bushfires tear across Australia, the original home of Rupert Murdoch’s news empire.
In a pointed joint statement aiming to highlight their deep unhappiness with the coverage, James and his wife Kathryn took aim at conservative News Corp outlets in Australia for their “ongoing denial” of global warming.
The rare rebuke reveals some of the simmering tensions within the Murdoch family, rifts that James has made increasingly public by pursuing a distinctive path in politics and business, championing green causes and democratic reform.
While Mr Murdoch still works with his eldest son Lachlan, who became chairman of News Corp and chief executive of Fox Corporation, he parted ways with James, who left as chief executive of 21st Century Fox to pursue his own business interests.
News Corp owns a portfolio of newspapers while Fox owns Fox News Channel, which features stars such as Laura Ingraham. She has denied that climate change played a role in the Australia fires and was recently criticised for comparing the teenage activist Greta Thunberg to a cult leader.
“Kathryn and James’ views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known,” a spokesperson for the couple told The Daily Beast.
“They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary.”
Mr Murdoch’s six children each received up to $2bn from the break-up of his media empire and the sale of his entertainment businesses to Walt Disney.
The family dispute over News Corp coverage in Australia will refocus attention on rightwing commentators such as Andrew Bolt, who used his columns in Murdoch newspapers to attack people who are “silly enough” to think bush fires are linked to climate change.
“Above all, can we drop our incredible arrogance in thinking man now has the power to change the climate?” he wrote in the News Corp-owned tabloid, the Herald Sun.
Another Murdoch paper, The Australian, the country’s only national broadsheet, has also been widely criticised for allegedly promoting doubts about global warming in its news coverage.
Since leaving Fox, James Murdoch has used the money raised from the break-up of the media empire to launch Lupa Systems, an investment vehicle to assemble a portfolio of media companies.
With programmes focusing on fighting climate change, he and his wife Kathryn have started to conspicuously distance himself from the conservative politics of his father’s news outlets, including Fox News.
News Corp owns around 140 publications in Australia, employing about 3,000 journalists.
At a News Corp annual meeting in December, Rupert Murdoch insisted “there are no climate change deniers around, I can assure you”. News Corp, Lachlan and Rupert Murdoch have all made donations to the bushfire relief efforts in recent weeks.
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