Tesla independent director James Murdoch, the son of News Corp owner Rupert Murdoch, has publicly criticized his father’s media outlets, including Fox News and News Corp, for promoting climate-crisis denialism.

James Murdoch, who joined Tesla in 2017 and was at one point in 2018 considered the favorite to succeed Elon Musk as chairman, is the former CEO of 21st Century Fox and former CEO and chairman of News Corp and Sky plc. He is currently the founder and CEO of media investment company Lupa Systems.

In 2006, James invited former US vice president Al Gore to present his Oscar-winning global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, to Fox executives.

In a statement to the Daily Beast, a spokesperson said for James and his wife, Kathryn, in response to what they feel is false media coverage of Australia’s bushfires:

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.

They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary.

In November, at NewsCorp’s AGM, Rupert Murdoch was asked by a proxy for Australian activist shareholder Stephen Mayne:

What do you believe is the global role of News Corp in the geopolitical climate? If you do believe in climate change, Mr. Mayne is interested to hear why News Corp gives climate deniers like Andrew Bolt and Terry McCrann so much airtime in Australia?

Rupert Murdoch replied:

There are no climate change deniers around, I can assure you.

Yet Rupert Murdoch’s media has continued to broadcast and post stories that dismiss the climate crisis, even as Australia suffers from massive bushfires that have killed around 1 billion animals.

The fires are so extreme that as of Monday, a resulting “smoke halo” has circled the globe. Colin Seftor, an atmospheric scientist with NASA, told Vice:

It’s just one, continuous, long line of smoke, and that to me is very unusual. I haven’t seen that before.

On November 6, business writer Terry McCrann of the Australian and the Herald Sun said on Sky News:

I am skeptical of that word ‘scientist.’ I think if you substitute ‘loon and hysteric’ then that is getting more accurately to the description of who these people are.

On November 25, Andrew Bolt wrote in the Melbourne-headquartered daily the Herald Sun:

Let’s assume you’re silly enough to think global warming is causing worse bushfires around the world… True, the world has warmed slightly as it rebounds from the little ice age that stretched from 1300 to around 1870, but can we cool it on this panic?

And in the US, on January 8, the Daily Beast reports on an example of Fox News’ climate denial:

Host Laura Ingraham referred to it as a ‘climate-change flameout’ and said that ‘celebrities in the media have been pressing the narrative that the wildfires in Australia are caused by climate change’ while again hosting [contributor Raymond] Arroyo, who added: ‘This is incomplete reporting, Laura. Though Australia has had the highest temperatures on record — the driest season ever — it’s not correct to say climate change caused these wildfires.’

Electrek’s Take

To state the obvious, the Murdoch media empire is powerful. It’s shameful that Rupert Murdoch lied to his own shareholders when there is plentiful print and broadcast evidence that clearly contradicts his November AGM statement.

Journalists are entitled to editorial freedom from their owners, but climate-crisis denial is outright lying. That shows a lack of editorial integrity, ethics, and due diligence.

Apparently, the Murdoch family has an ongoing rift about climate change. James Murdoch has been gradually withdrawing from the family-owned media business. He tried to cash in his stock in the family companies, but his brother Lachlan apparently refused to buy him out.

James ran the environmental sustainability initiative at 21st Century Fox. He told Vanity Fair that he didn’t watch Fox News. James’ conscience is clearly bothering him enough now to actively speak out against harmful misinformation, now that Australia is burning. But that’s only a first small step. Talk is cheap. Let’s use that power for some serious action to stop climate change, James.

Photo: Paul Hampartsoumian/Rex/Shutters

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