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Moderator Chris Wallace Calls Debate ‘a Terrible Missed Opportunity’

“I’m just sad with the way last night turned out.”

Chris Wallace, the “Fox News Sunday” anchor and moderator of Tuesday’s melee of a debate between President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr., was on the phone Wednesday from his home in Annapolis, Md., reflecting on — his words — “a terrible missed opportunity.”

“I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did,” he said.

In his first interview since the chaotic and often incoherent spectacle — in which a pugilistic Mr. Trump relentlessly interrupted opponent and moderator alike — Mr. Wallace conceded that he had been slow to recognize that the president was not going to cease flouting the debate’s rules.

“I’ve read some of the reviews. I know people think, well, gee, I didn’t jump in soon enough,” Mr. Wallace said, his voice betraying some hoarseness from the previous night’s proceedings. “I guess I didn’t realize — and there was no way you could, hindsight being 20/20 — that this was going to be the president’s strategy, not just for the beginning of the debate but the entire debate.”

Recalling his thoughts as he sat onstage in the Cleveland hall, with tens of millions of Americans watching live, Mr. Wallace said: “I’m a pro. I’ve never been through anything like this.”

Mr. Trump’s bullying behavior had no obvious precedent in presidential debates, even the one that Mr. Wallace previously moderated, to acclaim, in 2016. In the interview, the anchor said that when Mr. Trump initially engaged directly with Mr. Biden, “I thought this was great — this is a debate!”

But as the president gave no sign of backing off, Mr. Wallace said, he grew more alarmed. “If I didn’t try to seize control of the debate — which I don’t know that I ever really did — then it was going to just go completely off the tracks,” he said.

Asked what he was feeling when he called the debate to a temporary halt — instructing the candidates that “the country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions” — Mr. Wallace said, “The answer to that question is easy: Desperation.”

Asked directly if Mr. Trump had derailed the debate, Mr. Wallace replied, “Well, he certainly didn’t help.”

Care to elaborate? “No,” Mr. Wallace said. “To quote the president, ‘It is what it is.’”

In the spotlight, Mr. Wallace was keenly aware of the complexity of his task: ensuring an evenhanded debate, avoiding taking sides, allowing candidates to express themselves while keeping the discussion substantive.

“You’re reluctant — as somebody who has said from the very beginning that I wanted to be as invisible as possible, and to enable them to talk — to rise to the point at which you begin to interject more and more,” Mr. Wallace said. “First to say, ‘Please don’t interrupt,’ then ‘Please obey the rules,’ and third, ‘This isn’t serving the country well.’ Those are all tough steps at real time, at that moment, on that stage.”

Mr. Wallace flew home from Cleveland on Tuesday night. At an airport there, he accepted a glass of champagne from Lachlan Murdoch, whose family controls the Fox Corporation, and Suzanne Scott, the chief executive of Fox News, both of whom had been on hand for the debate. (“I didn’t feel much like celebrating,” Mr. Wallace admitted.)

Back in Annapolis, “I’ve been involved in a certain amount of soul-searching.”

“Generally speaking, I did as well as I could, so I don’t have any second thoughts there,” Mr. Wallace said, in conclusion. “I’m just disappointed with the results. For me, but much more importantly, I’m disappointed for the country, because it could have been a much more useful evening than it turned out to be.”

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Chris Wallace Struggled to Rein In an Unruly Trump at First Debate

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On the eve of Tuesday night’s presidential debate, Chris Wallace of Fox News declared his goal as the evening’s moderator: “My job is to be as invisible as possible.”


With a pugilistic President Trump relentlessly interrupting his opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Wallace struggled to keep the proceedings coherent, reduced at times to pleading with the president to pause and allow the Democratic presidential nominee to speak.

“Mr. President, I am the moderator of this debate, and I would like you to let me ask my question and then you can answer it,” Mr. Wallace, sounding more headmaster than moderator, instructed Mr. Trump early on. (Mr. Trump did not accede.)

Known for his sharp interrogations of political figures, Mr. Wallace — the veteran Fox News anchor who at 72 was the youngest of the three men onstage — succeeded in keeping Mr. Trump more or less in check during his first go-round as moderator four years ago, when pundits declared him a clear winner of the night.

On Tuesday, Mr. Wallace was facing harsher notices, as viewers assessed his performance on social media. “Moderate this debate — now,” Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian, demanded on Twitter 15 minutes in.

Mr. Trump did not make it easy. In a brute-force style, the president flouted the agreed-upon ground rules and refused to allow Mr. Biden his two minutes to respond to questions, leaving Mr. Wallace yelping at one point, “Let him answer!”

Not satisfied with merely speaking over his Democratic opponent, Mr. Trump took aim at the moderator, too. “I guess I’m debating you, not him, but that’s OK, I’m not surprised,” Mr. Trump said after one Wallace query he disliked.

The debate had no breaks. But at the midway point, perhaps sensing that Mr. Trump was threatening to steamroller the event, Mr. Wallace did something unusual for a presidential moderator: He effectively called the debate to a temporary halt.

“The country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions,” Mr. Wallace said, directly asking Mr. Trump to yield a higher civic ideal. “I’m appealing to you, sir, to do it.”

“And him, too?” the president replied defiantly, nodding at Mr. Biden.

“Well, frankly, you’ve been doing more interrupting,” Mr. Wallace replied.

Few journalists envied the moderator his task heading into the night.

Mr. Trump’s onstage intensity and logorrhea have proved a formidable challenge for some of the nation’s leading interviewers. And with the president ignoring the traditional parameters of debate decorum, Mr. Wallace was left with few good options to keep Mr. Trump from chattering without pause.

He tried humor: “If you want to switch seats, we can do that,” Mr. Wallace told the president at one point, arching a brow. (Mr. Trump did not parry.) He said he regretted having to raise his voice, “but why should I be different than the two of you?”

On social media, some viewers at home called for the president’s microphone to be shut off, but that was a power Mr. Wallace did not possess: Neither campaign would have agreed beforehand to such a mechanism.

Mr. Wallace, son of the “60 Minutes” legend Mike Wallace, drew on the entirety of his on-screen repertoire: the defusing aside, a self-deprecating remark, a jabbing question. None seemed to knock Mr. Trump off his determination to dominate the night.

It was a far cry from Mr. Wallace’s stated goal for the debate. “I’m trying to get them to engage, to focus on the key issues, to give people at home a sense of ‘why I want to vote for one versus the other,’” he had said beforehand.

Instead, he closed the evening with Mr. Trump still talking offscreen, attempting to argue over Mr. Wallace’s signoff. “This is the end of this debate,” the Fox News anchor said, drawing a deep breath. “It’s been an interesting hour and a half.”

Two more matchups are scheduled between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, and the next moderator assigned to maintain control will be a TV personality known less for jousting with lawmakers than listening, quietly and attentively, to rambling on-air callers: Steve Scully of C-SPAN.

The message from Tuesday night: good luck.

John Koblin contributed reporting.

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TV Ratings for Biden and Trump Signal an Increasingly Polarized Nation

Americans who watched the political conventions on television opted for news networks with partisan fan bases to a degree unseen in recent years, another sign of an increasingly divided electorate as the nation hurtles toward the November election.

Fox News, whose prime time is a destination for conservatives, accounted for close to half — 45 percent — of the viewership of the Republican National Convention this week across the six major news networks, Nielsen said on Friday. In 2016, that figure was about 30 percent; in 2012, 36 percent.

MSNBC, whose prime time is popular with liberals, accounted for about 30 percent of Democratic National Convention viewership last week across the six networks — which also include ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC — up from roughly 18 percent in 2016 and 2012.

During the Republican convention, MSNBC lost about 70 percent of its average viewership from the Democratic conclave. Fox News’s average viewership more than tripled.

Television viewers’ turn to perceived safe spaces raises questions about the ability of political conventions — which reached a broader TV audience in the pre-internet era — to persuade undecided voters. And it underscores fears about a polarized information environment where Americans can receive little exposure to political ideas that run counter to their own.

“It speaks to the larger point that we are siloed in our media choices,” David Axelrod, the Democratic strategist and CNN political analyst, said in an interview. “We’re a polarized country, and that is reflected in the media choices we make. We have the opportunity to create virtual reality worlds that affirm our points of view.”

A nightly average of 21.6 million people watched the Democratic convention on live TV, compared with 19.4 million for the Republicans. The total television audience for both conventions fell roughly 25 percent from 2016, a sign of Americans’ increasing reliance on online outlets and streaming services to follow live events.

Credit…Chris Creese for The New York Times

President Trump’s 70-minute acceptance speech on Thursday was seen by about 23.8 million live viewers, falling short of Joseph R. Biden’s remarks last week, which reached 24.6 million — a comparison likely to irritate the ratings-conscious president.

Neither candidate attracted the number of viewers who tuned in four years ago for Mr. Trump’s acceptance speech (32.2 million) or Hillary Clinton’s (29.8 million).

Because Nielsen excludes streaming views — which are difficult to credibly capture — its ratings reflect the habits of an older slice of the population that still watches traditional TV. Some political analysts argue that Nielsen ratings are an irrelevant indicator, given the role of social media and other online platforms in the country’s media ecosystem.

Still, Americans’ TV habits over the past two weeks offer a glimpse of a cross-section of likely voters.

Fox News’s dominance during the Republican convention was striking. Its audience on Thursday, for Mr. Trump’s climactic speech, was nearly 9.2 million, close to a prime-time record for the network. That was more viewers than watched ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC combined.

For the Democratic convention, the picture was sharply reversed.

MSNBC clocked its highest-rated prime-time week in the network’s 24-year history, with a 10 p.m. average of 5.7 million viewers. Fox News’s viewership fell far below its usual prime-time average.

“What we saw in the last presidential election was that Clinton supporters distributed their attention much more evenly among a broader range of outlets, and Trump supporters concentrated much more heavily on Fox News,” said Yochai Benkler, a co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

“The fact you have such a high proportion of viewers of the Democratic convention on MSNBC does suggest, to some extent, a gravitation on the Democratic side toward a more partisan, viewpoint-reinforcing network,” Mr. Benkler said.

For Mr. Axelrod, an architect of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns who helped oversee Democratic conventions in 2008 and 2012, the Nielsen trends speak to a wider development in the years since.

“We are more polarized than we were in 2012 and 2008,” he said. “The elasticity in the electorate is even less. It wasn’t great then; it’s even less now.”

Mr. Benkler wondered how many truly undecided voters had tuned into the conventions in the first place.

“It’s just a very, very small slice of the American public who have not yet made up its mind to go for Trump or not,” he said. “They aren’t going to be the news junkies that spend their time on 24-hour cable news channels.”

He said he was surprised to hear Fox News’s proportion of network viewership of Mr. Trump’s convention.

“Forty-five percent?” Mr. Benkler said. “I would have thought it would be even higher.”

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The TV Divide: Convention Ratings Surge on MSNBC as Fox News Dips

This week’s Democratic National Convention attracted an average nightly television audience of 21.6 million viewers, down roughly 18 percent from 2016 but still a respectable number given how many Americans have turned away from traditional TV sets in favor of online video and streams.

An examination of TV viewing patterns reveals a nation that remains deeply divided, politically and culturally. And it raises questions about which voters chose to focus on the convention and which voters tuned it out.

MSNBC, home of liberal favorites like Rachel Maddow and Nicolle Wallace, had the highest-rated prime-time week in its 24-year history. The channel’s mostly unfiltered coverage of the four-day Democratic jamboree easily ranked ahead of every other TV network on every night.

Fox News, the cable home of Trump cheerleaders like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, devoted its 10 p.m. hour to convention coverage. The network recorded its lowest average viewership in the time slot since the start of the year.

Over all, live TV viewership fell 17.6 percent from 2016, according to the ratings agency Nielsen. Thursday’s broadcast, when former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. accepted the nomination in Wilmington, Del., drew 24.6 million viewers, the week’s biggest television crowd.

Still, the ratings picture underscored concerns about a choose-your-own-news dynamic that is increasingly prevalent around the country, as Americans head into a high-stakes election reliant on information sources that can affirm pre-existing points of view.

The divide was not exactly unexpected. Fox News, the No. 1-rated cable news channel — and, this summer, the top-rated network in all of prime-time television — typically lags behind its rivals during the week of a Democratic convention.

Even so, Fox News drew a bigger audience on Thursday than CBS or NBC, including among younger viewers, a notable win over two broadcast networks that are available in more American households. Fox News’s coverage outranked CBS every night of the convention.

Few viewers — or Democratic officials, for that matter — knew quite what to expect.

With the coronavirus preventing the usual TV tropes of patriotic crowds and airdropped balloons, Democrats put on an entirely virtual show, mixing taped video feeds with celebrities on a Los Angeles soundstage and Mr. Biden speaking to a mostly deserted exhibit hall in a Delaware events center.

Glitches were few, to the great relief of the Democrats’ production team, which oversaw the event from a pair of control rooms in Wilmington and Milwaukee, the original site of the convention before its in-person elements were canceled. The convention had an interactive element, as well, with at least one viewer: President Trump, who reacted in real time, often angrily, to the events unfolding on his screen.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump opted to have his own say on the matter, phoning into Fox News for a live interview on “Hannity” — a breach of past protocol. Presidents have typically deferred to their electoral rivals on the week of a convention.

About 4.6 million people watched Mr. Trump’s half-hour appearance. After he hung up, and the network’s convention coverage began, the Fox News audience fell 36 percent.

Nielsen figures do not capture the entire universe of this week’s viewers, including those who watched on internet livestreams, a number that is difficult to credibly calculate.

As they did during the conventions in 2016, cable channels beat the Big Three broadcast networks. CNN won the week among viewers ages 25 to 54, the most important demographic in the TV news industry, beating even MSNBC. ABC had the highest ratings of the Big Three broadcasters.

The broadcast networks also suffered from weaker lead-ins than in past convention years: Live sports have been curtailed because of the coronavirus, and many TV productions are halted, leaving viewers with reruns and other less appealing fare.

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Boycotted. Criticized. But Fox News Leads the Pack in Prime Time.

In one sense, this has been a difficult period for Fox News: a star anchor fired after being accused of sexual harassment, a lawsuit depicting a misogynist workplace, a top writer exposed as a racist internet troll, advertiser boycotts and outrage after Tucker Carlson called protesters “criminal mobs” and questioned the patriotism of a senator who lost her legs in Iraq.

In another sense, business has never been better.

In June and July, Fox News was the highest-rated television channel in the prime-time hours of 8 to 11 p.m. Not just on cable. Not just among news networks. All of television. The average live Fox News viewership in those hours outstripped cable rivals like CNN, MSNBC and ESPN, as well as the broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC, according to Nielsen.

That three-hour slot is a narrow but significant slice of TV real estate, and it is exceedingly rare for a basic-cable channel to outrank the Big Three broadcasters, which are available in more households and offer a wider variety of programming.

Even the return of live sports did little to stop the momentum: The Fox News programs hosted by Mr. Carlson and Sean Hannity drew more live viewers than competing baseball and basketball games, including a Yankees-Nationals matchup on Opening Day.

Fox News’s big summer has been boosted by a rise in audience for news programming in general, an increase driven by interest in the pandemic, civil rights protests and the presidential election. ABC, CBS, and NBC, meanwhile, have more reruns on the summer schedule; the coronavirus has suspended most TV productions; and viewers are being lured away by streaming services and on-demand Hollywood movies.

But the Fox News ratings also demonstrate the size and resilience of America’s audience for pro-Trump opinion, and the loyalty of Fox News viewers who shrug off the controversies that routinely swirl around the network.

“Massive news events that conservatives view through a highly partisan lens are driving the ratings, and none of the controversies really land with loyal Fox News viewers,” said Nicole Hemmer, a scholar at Columbia University and a historian of American conservative media.

Lachlan Murdoch, the executive chairman of Fox News’s parent company, bragged on an earnings call last week about the network’s “astronomical” ratings. He also said its ad revenue was up from a year ago — a reminder that Fox News, for all the flak it takes from critics, politicians and the advertisers that fled Mr. Carlson, remains an unrivaled profit engine for the Murdoch empire.

Complaints that Fox News prime-time hosts downplayed the coronavirus — and, in the case of Laura Ingraham, encouraged the use of hydroxychloroquine, a drug shown to be useless, and even dangerous, for Covid-19 patients — made little difference.

“The belief that hydroxychloroquine is something between a therapeutic and a miracle cure is wildly popular in conservative media, especially talk radio,” Ms. Hemmer said. “Tucker Carlson’s controversies have never really hurt his ratings, though they have cost him advertisers.”

Two days stood out when Fox News ratings fell significantly: the funerals of George Floyd, the Minnesota man who died after a police officer pinned him to the ground during a routine stop, and Representative John Lewis, the towering civil rights figure.

Like its rivals CNN and MSNBC, Fox News carried the memorial services live. During Mr. Floyd’s funeral, viewership on all three networks dipped. On both occasions, the drop in Fox News’s audience was stark, down to numbers more typically seen during overnight hours. (CNN and Mediaite previously reported on the ratings dips.)

Over all, viewers have shown a strong appetite for news on politics, public health and natural disasters.

The evening newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC are notching their biggest audiences in years. David Muir’s “World News Tonight” on ABC has been a standout: In July, its episodes were the top 18 telecasts across all of broadcast and cable television, drawing more viewers than usual summertime ratings leaders like NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”

All three of the network newscasts, which air at 6:30 p.m., draw more viewers than Fox News’s prime-time shows, with Mr. Muir more than doubling Mr. Hannity’s average in July.

Cable channels define prime-time as 8 to 11 p.m., but the Big Three broadcasters include the 7 p.m. Sunday slot in their average prime-time audience counts. That is when “60 Minutes” airs on CBS — another news show that is hugely popular with viewers — and the broadcast networks’ definition of prime time allowed CBS to eke out a win against Fox News in June and July.

But Fox News was the king of 8 to 11 p.m., in part because conservative viewers have few options for right-wing political commentary. Smaller networks like Newsmax and One America News have tried to siphon off viewers but lag far behind.

MSNBC, whose liberal prime time is an ideological inverse to Fox News, has increased its audience from a year ago. But Rachel Maddow, once neck and neck with Mr. Hannity at 9 p.m., has fallen behind all three of Fox News’s prime-time stars in total viewers. Ms. Ingraham, who appears in the less desirable 10 p.m. slot, has drawn more viewers than Ms. Maddow for many months.

Fox News won praise this summer thanks to several news-making interviews with President Trump, including Chris Wallace’s grilling on “Fox News Sunday” and an interview with Harris Faulkner in which Mr. Trump struggled to address racial grievances. Even Mr. Trump’s June forum with Mr. Hannity yielded headlines when the president could not name a policy priority for a second term.

Credit…Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

But the network’s critics say the language of its prime-time hosts can be reckless. Mr. Carlson has faced a particular backlash since Mr. Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in late May sparked nationwide demonstrations for civil rights.

Major advertisers, including the Walt Disney Company, T-Mobile and Poshmark, boycotted his program as Mr. Carlson denounced the protesters as violent anarchists. Later, the host called Senator Tammy Duckworth, a wounded veteran, a “moron” and questioned her patriotism. In recent days, Mr. Carlson called former President Barack Obama a “greasy politician” and wondered if Mr. Floyd’s death had been caused by drug use rather than being pinned to the ground by a police officer.

Mr. Carlson’s ratings have never been higher. And based on Mr. Murdoch’s telling, the boycott had little effect on Fox News’s bottom line. Mr. Carlson’s show has virtually no major sponsors, but many ads were redistributed to other programs on the network. Fox News also continues to make a fortune in so-called carriage fees, the money paid by cable and satellite providers to keep the network in their lineups.

Fox News vigorously defends itself from critics who say its news coverage is biased or its commentators are extreme. When a writer for Mr. Carlson, Blake Neff, resigned in July because of racist and sexist messages he had posted in an online forum, Fox News’s chief executive, Suzanne Scott, publicly denounced his conduct as “abhorrent.” Mr. Carlson issued a halfhearted mea culpa, saying Mr. Neff’s posts were “wrong” but also warning that his critics would be “punished.”

Mr. Murdoch was made aware of Mr. Carlson’s on-air remarks before the broadcast, according to two people with knowledge of the exchange, which was reported earlier by The Daily Beast.



CBS remains neck-and-neck with Fox News in the 8 to 11 p.m. slot, and could still take the summer crown.

On Wednesday, however, CBS aired what should have been a major draw: the two-hour season premiere of the reality show “Big Brother,” a rare new episode amid a raft of summer reruns.

“Big Brother” was seen by an average of 3.7 million live viewers. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” lured 3.9 million and “Hannity” just shy of four million — the most-watched telecast of the night.

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James Murdoch Resigns From News Corp

James Murdoch wants the world to know he is out of the family business.

Once considered a potential successor to Rupert Murdoch, Mr. Murdoch on Friday resigned from the board of the newspaper publisher News Corp, severing his last corporate tie to his father’s global media empire.

“My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions,” Mr. Murdoch, 47, wrote in his resignation letter, which News Corp disclosed in a filing shortly after the close of business on Friday.

The two sides began discussing Mr. Murdoch’s departure from the News Corp board earlier this year, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

But his terse resignation note belied the behind-the-scenes drama that has brought Mr. Murdoch to this point in his life and career. And it widened the schism that has emerged between James and his 89-year-old father and his older brother, Lachlan, once a dynastic triumvirate that for years held sweeping influence over the world’s cultural and political affairs.

A political outlier in his conservative-leaning family, James Murdoch has sought to reinvent himself as an independent investor with a focus on causes more closely associated with liberals, like environmentalism, which he and his wife, Kathryn Murdoch, have long championed.

He has also taken public stands against President Trump, who has counted Fox News, a prime Murdoch asset, among his closest media allies.

Weeks ago, James and his wife jointly contributed more than $1 million to a fund-raising committee for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. And in February, as wildfires raged across Australia — his father’s birthplace — Mr. Murdoch issued a rebuke of his own family’s media properties, criticizing how Murdoch publications have covered climate change.

Such public gestures came after a period when James Murdoch’s hopes of succeeding his father at the helm of a worldwide empire had been all but extinguished.

He had already departed the Fox Corporation, the family’s television and entertainment arm, which was mostly dismantled after his family transferred many of its assets to The Walt Disney Company in a blockbuster sale that was completed last year.

His last formal link to the family business was through News Corp, which publishes influential broadsheets like The Wall Street Journal as well as powerful tabloids, including The Sun of London and The New York Post. The company also oversees several other papers in Britain and publications in Australia.

The London-born, Harvard-educated Mr. Murdoch remains a beneficiary of his family’s trust, meaning he will continue to financially benefit from the profits of Rupert Murdoch’s news and information assets.

And although his resignation letter cited “certain editorial content,” Mr. Murdoch did not speak specifically about Fox News, the hugely profitable cable channel where prime-time hosts like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham openly cheerlead for Mr. Trump.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Murdoch declined to comment further on the reasons for his departure, saying the letter “speaks for itself.”

Rupert, who holds the title of executive chairman at News Corp, and Lachlan Murdoch, the co-chairman, said in a joint statement on Friday: “We’re grateful to James for his many years of service to the company. We wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”

James Murdoch’s drift from his family began in earnest during the early part of the Trump era, around the time Lachlan was consolidating power and becoming seen more widely as their father’s preferred successor.

There had been discussions about James Murdoch taking a powerful new role at Disney after the completion of the Fox sale, but those talks came to nothing. His 48-year-old brother was named the executive chairman and chief executive officer of Fox Corporation, which includes Fox News, Fox Business and the Fox sports networks.

James Murdoch was the chief executive of 21st Century Fox from 2015 until it was sold to Disney, and he netted $2 billion from the sale. He opened his own investment firm and named it Lupa Systems. (In Roman mythology, Lupa is the wolf goddess who nurtured Romulus and Remus, the twin brothers who became the founders of Rome.)

The firm specializes in early stage start-ups and has focused on sustainability projects, extending efforts that Mr. Murdoch made at Sky, the European satellite giant that was formerly part of the Murdoch empire, and his financial support of the National Geographic Society’s endowment fund.

Mr. Murdoch has also taken a starkly different tack with his media investments. In October, he bought a small stake in Vice Media, the irreverent — and decidedly liberal — news brand focused on youth and entertainment. He has been less interested in traditional media businesses.

In August, Mr. Murdoch led a consortium of investors to buy a controlling stake in Tribeca Enterprises, which owns the Tribeca Film Festival as well as a production studio. He also put money into Artists, Writers & Artisans, a new comics publisher founded by former Marvel executives.

In 2011, Mr. Murdoch was a chief figure in the phone hacking scandal that led to the closure of News of the World, one of the Murdochs’ flagship properties, and strained his relationship with his father. At the time, Mr. Murdoch was in charge of the family’s holdings across Europe, including the British newspapers that were behind the hacks.

Called before a Parliamentary committee investigating the matter, he was confronted with an email that appeared to show his knowledge of the hacking; Mr. Murdoch said he had not read the entire email chain. The committee chided James and his father for “willful blindness” about the company’s behavior.

The scandal dinged Mr. Murdoch’s credibility in London, and he soon relocated to New York to help run his father’s businesses there, where he focused on the Fox television empire and made investments in digital ad technology.

This latest twist in the Murdoch saga is likely to show up in the myriad pop culture products that depict the family’s corporate and personal dramas. The 2019 film “Bombshell” portrayed the Murdoch brothers pushing out Roger Ailes, the founder of Fox News, after revelations of sexual harassment and abuse at the network. In Britain, a new BBC documentary series, “The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty,” has offered a searing review of the family’s exploits.

Perhaps best known is the HBO series “Succession,” which chronicles a Murdoch-like media family led by an aging patriarch who pits his children against one another, sometimes in cruel ways. Asked in an email exchange last year if he was a fan of the show, James Murdoch pleaded ignorance.

“I’ve never watched it,” he wrote.

Jim Rutenberg contributed reporting.

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Shepard Smith, Formerly of Fox News, Joins CNBC as a Nightly Anchor

Shepard Smith, the former Fox News anchor who abruptly left his longtime network last year after tensions with colleagues over coverage, is set to join CNBC, the cable station known for Wall Street and business news, as the host of a new nightly newscast.

His 7 p.m. program, “The News with Shepard Smith,” is expected to start in the fall, the network said on Wednesday, part of a broader overhaul of CNBC’s lineup. The channel carries live programming during the business day, but its evening hours are often filled with reruns of “Shark Tank” and original episodes of “Jay Leno’s Garage.”

The next job for Mr. Smith, 56, has been a topic of speculation for months in media circles. A genial Mississippian, Mr. Smith had worked at Fox News for 23 years, most recently as chief news anchor, where he often stood out for reporting that countered the conservative views of the channel’s prime-time stars.

His departure, last October, left colleagues stunned. Friends said Mr. Smith had been dismayed by some of the pro-Trump cheerleading by Fox News commentators, and he had been the subject of on-air mockery from the star pundit Tucker Carlson.

“I am honored to continue to pursue the truth, both for CNBC’s loyal viewers and for those who have been following my reporting for decades in good times and in bad,” Mr. Smith said in a statement. The Wall Street Journal first reported his hiring.

At CNBC, Mr. Smith will serve as chief general news anchor, and his newscast will compete with “Lou Dobbs Tonight” on Fox Business.

Mr. Smith’s move to CNBC may be the first concrete sign of a strategy shift by Jeff Shell, the new chief executive of NBCUniversal, CNBC’s parent company. Mr. Shell, along with the new chairman of NBC’s news networks, Cesar Conde, is considering a variety of changes to CNBC’s programming outside of market hours.

Although Mr. Smith, whose last show on Fox News aired at 3 p.m., will be moving closer to prime time, he will need to build an audience: the 7 p.m. hour at CNBC is seen by about one-fifth of the viewers that tuned in for Mr. Smith on Fox News.

The last time CNBC broadcast a live news program in the time slot, it was anchored by a future White House official: “The Kudlow Report,” hosted by Larry Kudlow, now President Trump’s chief economic adviser, ran at 7 p.m. until the program ended in March 2014.

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Advertisers Are Fleeing Tucker Carlson. Fox News Viewers Have Stayed.

In recent weeks, Tucker Carlson, the conservative Fox News host, has challenged the Black Lives Matter movement, dismissed demonstrators as “criminal mobs,” accused a Texas police chief of “sounding more like a therapist than a cop” and mocked a CNN children’s special about racism that featured Elmo, the “Sesame Street” puppet.

His comments have generated a harsh backlash. Critics have called Mr. Carlson’s on-air monologues incendiary and accused him of making racist remarks. Major advertisers, including the Walt Disney Company and Sandals, the vacation resorts, have fled, requesting that Fox News remove their ads from Mr. Carlson’s 8 p.m. hour.

Viewers, however, are tuning in.

“Tucker Carlson Tonight” was seen by 4.2 million people on Monday, making it the most-watched television program in the country that night, ahead of entertainment fare on the major networks. His show was the highest rated on Fox News last week, and he has pulled ahead of Sean Hannity, the network’s usual ratings leader, in total viewers for June.

Fox News’s stars, including Mr. Carlson, are no stranger to advertising boycotts and denunciations from the left. But at a moment of deep national turmoil, prompted by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month, the response to Mr. Carlson offers another sign of the nation’s deep political divide. Major American brands have recoiled from his program — and celebrities like Padma Lakshmi have accused him of spreading “race-baiting filth” — even as many viewers remain enthusiastic.

Mr. Carlson, a conservative pundit who previously hosted shows on CNN and MSNBC, has seized on the high Nielsen numbers as a sign that his message — which warns about censorship from the left, and depicts the country’s unrest as ominous and violent — is resonating.

“You are not alone,” Mr. Carlson told viewers on Tuesday, noting that his Monday program had ranked first among “cable and broadcast news, entertainment and sports.”

“You may feel like you are,” he continued. “Suddenly, your opinions qualify as crimes. Dare to say what you think at work and you will be fired in the middle of a recession. Write what you think online and you will be silenced by the big tech companies.”

But his remarks have not sat easily with Mr. Carlson’s advertisers, including companies like Papa John’s, Poshmark, Angie’s List and the office furniture brand Vari, all of which have distanced themselves from “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” T-Mobile announced its defection in a memorable Twitter post from Mike Sievert, the company’s chief executive, who wrote: “Bye-bye, Tucker Carlson!”

On Thursday, the fitness equipment company NordicTrack also said it would no longer advertise on Mr. Carlson’s program.

“The show has almost no big-name advertisers left right now,” Kara Alaimo, a public-relations expert who teaches at Hofstra University, said in an interview. “This is just not an issue you want to be on the wrong side of, if you’re a mainstream brand.”

Fox News has said brands removed from “Tucker Carlson Tonight” typically have their ads run on other programs, and the network retains the revenue. Fox News also earns a significant portion of its income from subscription fees paid by cable providers, rather than spending by individual advertisers.

Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, who control Fox News, are usually reluctant to make changes at the network because of outside pressure. Last week, Mr. Carlson acknowledged his superiors’ support: “We work for one of the last brave companies in America, and they’re not intimidated. We’re grateful for that.”

Since demonstrations began, Mr. Carlson has adopted a hard-edge approach, encouraging President Trump to be more harsh, not less, in cracking down on protesters. The ad boycott intensified after Mr. Carlson, on June 8, said the unrest “is definitely not about black lives, and remember that when they come for you.” (Fox News said the pronoun “they” referred to liberal leaders, not protesters.)

This week, Mr. Carlson criticized police officials in Fort Worth for dropping charges for rioting. The police responded by saying that more serious criminal charges had not been dropped, but Mr. Carlson repeated his criticism, calling the department’s actions “shameful.”

Though he enjoys Fox News’s backing, Mr. Carlson, a longtime Washington resident, may be on the cusp of leaving his liberal-leaning hometown. He recently put his Washington home up for sale, and has spent much of the quarantine at his houses in Florida and Maine. Through a spokeswoman, the host declined to comment about his plans.

On Wednesday, Mr. Carlson yielded the nightly ratings crown to Mr. Hannity, who attracted 4.5 million viewers for his telephone interview with Mr. Trump. Across all of television, Mr. Hannity enjoyed the largest audience. Mr. Carlson was in second place, not far behind.

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Chris Wallace, Insider and Outlier at Fox News

Chris Wallace is a registered Democrat who hosts “Fox News Sunday,” a child of two Jews who keeps a rosary by his bedside, a Washington wonk who has vacationed in Italy with George Clooney.

A son of the renowned correspondent Mike Wallace, he was schooled at Hotchkiss and Harvard and worked at NBC and ABC (including as host of “Meet the Press”) before landing at Fox News, an organization founded in part to bedevil the pieties of the Eastern establishment that had shaped him.

Presidents of both parties have regarded him with suspicion. Bill Clinton once accused him of having a “little smirk on your face,” Barack Obama avoided his program for eight years, and President Trump declared him “nasty & obnoxious” and a “Mike Wallace wannabe.”

All that is to say that Mr. Wallace, 72, is comfortable being a bit of an enigma. For every Trump loyalist who views him as a heretic, there is a liberal who wishes he’d denounce colleagues like Sean Hannity. (To be clear: He won’t.)

He broke ranks at Fox News by speaking out in December against Mr. Trump’s “direct, sustained assault on freedom of the press.” But he has also scolded mainstream journalists for showing an anti-Trump bias — “a big mistake,” in his words.

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

In an interview from his weekend home in Maryland on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, where he has been working remotely since March, Mr. Wallace was asked over Zoom if he experienced discomfort with the pro-Trump cheerleading spouted by Fox News’s opinion stars.

“Look, I work at Fox. Do I agree with some of the stuff I hear? Absolutely not,” said Mr. Wallace, who was hired by Rupert Murdoch and the network’s founder, Roger E. Ailes, in 2003. “In the end, I have decided that what matters to me is what I am allowed to do. And the fact is, in the 16 and a half years I’ve been at Fox News, I have never — by Roger Ailes first, now by the Murdochs — I’ve never been second-guessed on a guest I booked, a question I’ve asked.”

“I don’t pull punches, I’m not playing favorites,” he added. “That’s what matters ultimately to me.”

It is Mr. Wallace’s dual role as insider and outlier at Fox News that has made him an object of media fascination in the Trump era.

His occasional critiques of the administration are often met with rapture on Liberal Twitter, even as he recoils from what he sees as the showboating style of reporters like Jim Acosta of CNN. His restraint may be a throwback from his father’s heyday, but it can make Mr. Wallace’s appraisals all the more withering.

In recent weeks, he challenged the surgeon general, Jerome M. Adams, for playing down the risks of the coronavirus; pressed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on his “rosy predictions” for the post-pandemic economy; and mocked the administration’s defense of Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser. Last month, he castigated the president’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, after she chided White House reporters at a briefing for questions she deemed irrelevant.


Credit…Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“I would have gotten up and walked out,” Mr. Wallace, who covered the Reagan White House for six years for NBC, said in the interview. “I don’t need somebody telling me what to say or what questions to ask.”

And yet Mr. Trump — who has turned Mr. Wallace into a regular piñata on Twitter, accusing the anchor of anti-Republican bias — remains susceptible to the Wallace allure. He granted Mr. Wallace lengthy interviews in 2016 and 2018, and the anchor would relish a reprise.

It would be another milestone for Mr. Wallace, who earned Fox News’s first Emmy Award nomination for a tense 2018 interview with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and in 2016 became the first Fox News journalist to moderate a general-election presidential debate.


Credit…Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office, via TASS

This month, Mr. Wallace published his first book, “Countdown 1945,” a chronicle of the 116 days in which Harry S. Truman ascended to the presidency and decided to drop atomic bombs on Japan in World War II.

“One of the things I loved most about coming up with the idea for the book, researching the book, writing the book, and now talking about the book, is it has nothing to do with Donald Trump,” Mr. Wallace said, laughing in the home studio — complete with Purell and disinfectant wipes — he uses for on-camera appearances.

Mr. Wallace rummaged the archives at the Truman Library in Missouri, where he was impressed by the president’s agonized decision-making as he weighed the moral costs of a nuclear attack. The book, he said, was a chance “to take a key moment in history and really drill down, almost like a novel.”

The “Countdown” title was his idea. “Frankly, I thought it could be replicable,” Mr. Wallace said. “If you can do ‘Countdown 1945,’ we can do ‘Countdown Something Else.’”

He knows history is happening in real time, too, comparing the protests sweeping the nation to the tumult of 1968. “We seem almost paralyzed by our polarization today,” he said at an online forum last week, though he was quick to add a pox-on-both-houses caveat: “It didn’t begin with Donald Trump. It’s been a steady decline in the 40 years I’ve been in Washington.”

As a teenager Mr. Wallace worked as a gofer for Walter Cronkite at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. He covered student protests for Harvard’s radio station, filing from a county jail where he had been detained. (“This is Chris Wallace in custody,” he signed off.)


Credit…Yvonne Hemsey/Getty Images

After a stint at The Boston Globe, he joined NBC News in 1975, rising to co-anchor of the “Today” show and moderator of “Meet the Press.” As the network’s chief White House correspondent, he had a feisty reputation, squabbling with Sam Donaldson of ABC News over camera positions in the briefing room. British authorities once threatened to revoke his press credentials after he shouted a question at Margaret Thatcher during a photo-op.

When he jumped to “Fox News Sunday” in 2003 from ABC News, where he had worked since 1989, skeptics said Mr. Ailes would use Mr. Wallace’s presence to bring gravitas and a famous broadcasting name to a news channel whose most popular shows — then and now — were sharp conservative punditry.

“He’s an argument that Fox uses to say it’s fair and balanced,” Carl Cameron, the network’s former chief political correspondent, said in an interview.

Mr. Cameron, who left Fox News in 2017, called Mr. Wallace “a different bird” at the network. He noted that Mr. Wallace’s independence and tough interviews benefited the channel and viewers alike, adding, “He’s fighting the good fight.”

Mr. Wallace has occasionally needled his Fox News colleagues, including an on-camera rebuke to the hosts of “Fox & Friends” in 2008 for their carping coverage of Mr. Obama. But in interviews, he repeatedly demurred when pressed about his comfort level with Fox News’s pro-Trump prime-time.

“Why would anyone want to parade what they think about their colleagues in public?” he said, adding: “I’m responsible for myself.”

“If Donald Trump loses and Joe Biden is elected in November, Fox News will go on,” Mr. Wallace said. “The Trump era will be over, but Fox News will go on and the opinion side will push other issues and other people.”

But is the Fox News brand now too closely associated with Trump?

“The president doesn’t seem to think so,” Mr. Wallace replied. “He’s pretty critical of Fox. He’s certainly critical of me.”

Rivals continue to take notice of Mr. Wallace’s skills: CBS approached him about taking over the “Evening News” anchor chair in 2017, though he ultimately declined. “Chris is a master of the old ways: sobriety, objectivity, a willingness to go wherever the facts take him,” said Jonathan Klein, a former president of CNN.

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has said the anchor “will never be his father,” seizing on the complicated relationship between Mike Wallace and his son.

Mr. Wallace’s parents divorced when he was a year old, and he was raised by his mother and stepfather, Bill Leonard, a former president of CBS News. When Mr. Wallace was in high school, his older brother, Peter, died in a climbing accident in Greece, prompting father and son to reconnect. The Wallaces eventually became close, barring some hiccups — like when Mike stole an interview from Chris with the comedian Chris Rock.


Credit…Andrew Mangum for The New York Times

Though his parents were both Jewish, Mr. Wallace — named Christopher because he was born on Columbus Day — attended Episcopalian prep school in a uniform bearing a small cross, startling his Jewish grandmother.

“It’s where I first learned the expression ‘oy gevalt,’” Mr. Wallace said.

His wife, Lorraine, who was formerly married to Dick Smothers of the Smothers Brothers, is Catholic, and the two attend church on Christmas and New Year’s. At home, the anchor, who has four children from a previous marriage, keeps a rosary on his bedside table, a gift from his wife. “I touch it every night and say a little prayer,” he said.

“Countdown 1945” is dedicated to Lorraine, and it was she who brokered the couple’s Italian jaunt with Mr. Clooney.

The anchor and movie star had bonded over family business: the actor’s father, Nick Clooney, was a longtime news anchor. (Mr. Wallace said he last spoke with Mr. Clooney at the start of lockdown period: “He was in Los Angeles, and he was complaining that he had to do all the dishes and much of the laundry.”)

In 2012, at a White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Lorraine Wallace mentioned to Mr. Clooney that she’d always wanted to visit Lake Como, where he keeps a villa. “She has the guts of a burglar,” Mr. Wallace said, admiringly.

Months later, the couple was soaking up the Italian sun when Mr. Wallace’s inbox began to light up. Mitt Romney had just named Paul Ryan as his running mate. Would the anchor fly back to Washington for an exclusive interview?

Mr. Wallace’s response was swift: “Are you out of your mind?”

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Fox News Host Tucker Carlson Loses More Advertisers

On Monday’s segment of his prime-time show, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson cast doubt on the reasons behind the worldwide unrest prompted by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.

“This may be a lot of things, this moment we are living through,” Mr. Carlson said. “But it is definitely not about black lives, and remember that when they come for you. And at this rate, they will.”

Since he made those statements and others, prominent companies including the Walt Disney Company, Papa John’s, Poshmark and T-Mobile have distanced themselves from “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” joining other businesses that have backed away from the show in recent years.

The flight of advertisers accelerated on Tuesday, when the watchdog group Sleeping Giants tagged T-Mobile in a Twitter post, saying that Fox News had aired what amounted to an “extremely racist segment scaremongering about the Black community.”

The telecommunications giant responded on Twitter, saying that its ads had not run on the show since early May and would not run in the future. Mike Sievert, T-Mobile’s chief executive, added a post of his own: “Bye-bye, Tucker Carlson!”

Fox News said that Mr. Carlson was referring to Democratic leaders, not protesters, when he said “they” in his remarks on Monday night’s program.

“No matter what they tell you, it has very little to do with black lives,” Mr. Carlson had said. “If only it did.”

Advertiser disavowals of the show gained momentum on Wednesday, after the newsletter Popular Information highlighted that Disney had run commercials 29 times on Mr. Carlson’s program this year. The entertainment giant responded by saying that it had asked the third-party media agency that placed the ads, which were for Disney’s ABC network, to stop doing so on the show.

Papa John’s, a pizza chain that was the center of an uproar in 2018 over a racial slur used by its founder, also backed away from Mr. Carlson. The company said that Havas, its media agency, placed a general buy for ad space across several cable news networks and left the positioning of the spots up to the networks.

Papa John’s began advertising on cable only after the pandemic began, as live sports and other content disappeared. It has run ads on “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC and “CNN Tonight With Don Lemon.”

After Mr. Carlson’s comments, Papa John’s said in a statement that it would stop spending on opinion shows, noting that “placement of advertising is not intended to be an endorsement of any specific programming or commentary.”

Steven Tristan Young, the chief marketing officer of Poshmark, said in a statement on Thursday that the e-commerce company stopped advertising on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on June 2.

“We do not agree with the comments he made on his show and stand in solidarity with those who seek to advance racial justice and equality,” Mr. Young said.

Companies are trying to be especially sensitive amid the nationwide reckoning over race. Many, including Disney, T-Mobile, Poshmark and Papa John’s, have posted messages on social media in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Others have been advertising less in recent weeks.

Credit…Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

Mr. Carlson has spoken harshly about the unrest, urging a more severe crackdown on protests. In a segment posted to YouTube on June 1, which was preceded by a note that it could be “inappropriate or offensive to some audiences,” he chided Vice President Mike Pence for having “scolded America for its racism” and told President Trump that “people will not forgive weakness.”

Fox News said the advertiser departures had not caused the network to suffer a financial hit over all, noting that the commercials that would have run nationwide on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” had moved to other programs on the network.

On Thursday night, a hashtag campaign — #IStandWithTucker — sprang up on Twitter, with his fans appending it to messages of support for the host. As the phrase made the list of the platform’s trending topics, Mr. Carlson’s detractors tweeted insults at the host and the network that employs him while making use of the same hashtag.

Mr. Carlson, who recently sold his stake in the conservative site The Daily Caller, has lost major advertisers in the past few years. Dozens of companies, including Pacific Life, Farmers Insurance and IHOP, have distanced themselves after his on-air comments about white supremacy, immigrants and women.

But his show remains a linchpin of the Fox News lineup, drawing 4.8 million viewers last week. So far this year, “Tucker Carlson Tonight” generated 16 percent of ad revenue for Fox News, according to, the television ads measurement company. Out of $75 million in total spending, more than a third came from a single advertiser: MyPillow, a pillow manufacturer in Minnesota run by Mike Lindell, a supporter of Mr. Trump who appeared at a White House Rose Garden news briefing in March.

This month, Mr. Carlson has so far attracted 20 percent of Fox News’s ad revenue, compared with 11 percent during the same period last year. (Fox News said that figure was not accurate, but declined to provide corroborating data.)

Few major brands remain on Mr. Carlson’s program. Several major media buyers said they did not have clients with recent spots on the show.

Alongside spots from the computer security brand Norton, the skin care brand Proactiv and Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, recent ads have included a beet powder company that has used the gun rights personality Dana Loesch as a spokeswoman, a foot fungus treatment brand and several law firms, according to

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