Inside sources at Fox News believe the new CEO is inclined to push the conservative network in a less pro-Trump direction.
And recent signs suggest the bond between the president and Fox is already fraying.
On Sunday, Trump criticized the cable news network for suspending host Jeanine Pirro. Later, he disparaged Fox journalists, including Shepard Smith, for perceived biases.
The growing tension between the network’s opinion hosts and reporters along with moves by libertarian-leaning CEO Lachlan Murdoch have insiders believing that Hannity may even abandon ship. (Vanity Fair)
The outcome of that civil war will be decided by Fox Corporation chairman and C.E.O. Lachlan Murdoch. Rupert’s oldest son took over the smaller media company that emerged out of the Murdochs’ $71 billion deal to sell their entertainment assets to Disney. Though Lachlan hired West Wing stalwart Hope Hicks, staffers believe he is likely to nudge the network away from its close marriage to Trump. Sources close to Lachlan pointed out that Lachlan is a libertarian conservative, not a MAGA diehard, who in private has expressed annoyance at Trump. “He doesn’t like Trump,” one person who has spoken with Lachlan told me. “There’s a lot of talk of the direction of the network changing under Lachlan,” the senior Fox staffer told me.
Sources pointed out the hiring of Donna Brazile and the appointment of Trump critic Paul Ryan to Fox Corp’s board as signs of Lachlan’s view on Trump. “Donna is a shot in that direction. Management knows they have an image problem.” (A spokesman for Lachlan declined to comment.) Indeed, at an advertiser sales event in recent days, brands complained to Fox News executives about the network’s association with Trump, a source briefed on the meeting told me. (Through a spokesperson, Fox’s head of ad sales, Marianne Gambelli, said this was “completely false.”)
Two sources close to Lachlan told me that he has likely waited to implement any editorial changes at Fox News until the Disney deal closes on March 20, for fear of antagonizing Trump into opposing it. (The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer recently reported that Trump had told former economics adviser Gary Cohn to direct the Justice Department to block AT&T’s takeover of Time Warner. Cohn reportedly didn’t act on Trump’s directive.) And the senior Fox staffer cautioned that any changes will be modest, at least at first. “Lachlan is not James,” the staffer said, referring to Rupert’s liberal younger son. (“Fox News will continue to provide a platform for a diverse range of voices in its opinion programming and fair and balanced news coverage as it always has,” a Fox executive told me.)
Another vector influencing the Trump-Fox relationship is Hannity’s frustration with the Murdochs. Sources said Hannity is angry at the Murdochs’ firing of Ailes and Bill Shine, Hannity’s close friend and former producer. Hannity believes the Murdochs are out to get Trump. “Hannity told Trump last year that the Murdochs hate Trump, and Hannity is the only one holding Fox together,” a source who heard the conversation told me. Hannity has told friends that he intends to leave Fox when his contract expires in early 2021, two people who’ve spoken with him said. (Hannity did not respond to a request for comment.)