Rupert Murdoch, the 92-year-old media mogul, has announced his retirement from his roles as chairman of both Fox Corporation and Fox News Group, transitioning to the position of honorary chairman. His eldest son, Lachlan, is set to take his place.
The elder Murdoch described Lachlan as a "passionate and principled leader," adding that he expects Lachlan to maintain Fox's right-leaning political stance. However, according to CNN, Lachlan has privately criticized Trump, expressing disapproval of many of the former U.S. president's actions.
In 2016, when Trump was elected president, Fox News actively engaged with and showed strong support for him, leading other media outlets to label it as the "propaganda machine" for the Trump administration.
In 2020, when Trump failed in his re-election bid, Fox News anchor Jeanine Pirro accused voting system manufacturers Smartmatic and Dominion of conspiring to manipulate the election. Several other Fox News hosts followed suit with similar allegations.
As a result, both Smartmatic and Dominion filed defamation lawsuits against Fox, seeking $2.7 billion and $1.6 billion in damages, respectively. Fox settled with Dominion in April for $787.5 million, while the lawsuit with Smartmatic is still ongoing.
Trump currently faces multiple charges. He has been indicted in two cases so far, one for mishandling classified documents and the other for allegedly paying hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 campaign and falsifying business records.
Regarding the payment to Daniels and the falsification of business records, Fox News host Jesse Watters commented in a March 30th segment that it was merely a private agreement, suggesting that the U.S. is currently engulfed in an atmosphere of "political vengeance."
Trump himself has labeled the charges against him as "absurd" on social media and has thrown his hat into the ring for the next presidential election.
As of July 31, polling averages showed Trump leading Florida Governor Ron DeSantis by 53% to 37%. None of the other 14 candidates polled above 6%, with more than half polling below 1%.
A recent poll conducted by The Economist in collaboration with YouGov showed President Biden leading Trump by just 4 percentage points, with a support rate of 44%.
However, as the 2024 election approaches, Trump opted out of Fox's first Republican primary debate in August. The Financial Times suggested this indicates a significant rift between the former U.S. president and the TV network that aided his rise to the White House seven years ago.
Data from S&P Global Market Intelligence indicates that in U.S. households with televisions, over 70% subscribed to cable or satellite services in 2016, but this year, it's below 40%. Analysts believe that regardless of Trump's participation, Fox News is unlikely to reach the 24 million viewership it had during the first primary debate in 2015.
In April of this year, Fox News fired host Tucker Carlson, one of its most popular anchors and a known Trump ally. In response to Carlson's departure, Trump's son expressed shock, calling Carlson a "once-in-a-generation talent." Following Carlson's exit, Fox's ratings immediately plummeted, with viewership during the prime 8 p.m. slot dropping by about 50% over the next two weeks.
A 2022 media trust survey found that Americans generally trust Fox News less than competitors like CNN.
Currently, Fox News's relationship with Trump is ambiguous. Whether they will choose to support and collaborate with him in the future remains uncertain. On one hand, Fox benefits from the viewership Trump brings; on the other, the network is eager to pivot and find a more stable path.
The Guardian suggested that "Murdoch seems to be abandoning ship." For the newly appointed Lachlan, he not only has to address the lingering doubts left by his father but also chart a clear direction for Fox's future.