The son-in-law of News Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch told the New York Times in little-noticed comments Sunday that he's "ashamed and sickened" by Fox News Channel's Chief Executive Roger Ailes.
“I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’s horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to,” said Matthew Freud, married to Rupert Murdoch's daughter and recently labeled the most influential PR executive in London.
Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation's chairman and politically engaged chairman, didn't respond directly to the remarks. But a spokesman for the company put out a statement after a Financial Times inquiry, saying Murdoch was actually "proud" of Ailes.
“Matthew Freud’s opinions are his own and in no way reflect the views of Rupert Murdoch, who is proud of Roger Ailes and Fox News,” the statement said.
Murdoch has reportedly privately voiced concerns with Ailes before. A 2008 biography said he was purportedly “embarrassed” by Fox News, a claim he later denied.
Regardless, Fox News is a cash cow for the News Corporation, which has recently entered into a string of less profitable deals. A $5.6 billion purchase of the Wall Street Journal had investors shaking their head, with Murdoch buying the paper near the recent top of the market before the financial crisis munched some of the paper's leading financial advertisers. Murdoch also jumped into buying MySpace for $580 million in 2005.
Fox News Channel, created in 1996, posted a profit of $1.6 billion in 2009, the majority of News Corp's $3.6 profit.
A liberal diarist at Daily Kos notes that Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth -- who is married to Matthew Freud -- stands to inherit a great deal of Murdoch's empire.
"It's good to know that there are some reasonable members of the Murdoch clan who aren't afraid to voice their opinions," wrote diarist KingOneEye. "It makes for some interesting speculation about the future of News Corp. when the Murdoch progeny assume control. While son James is still a high-ranking executive running Papa's European satellite operations, siblings Elisabeth and Lachlan will inherit equal voting shares from their father's estate.
"Should any of this make Ailes nervous?" the diarist adds. "Well, would you want to keep a division head that made you "ashamed and sickened" if you inherited a multinational media empire? Would you allow your news network to continue to have a "horrendous and sustained disregard" for journalistic standards?"
Notes The New York Times: "Mr. Ailes’s approach has put him at odds not just with the Democrats but also with the more liberal members of his boss’s family."
"He played a well-chronicled role in the decision in 2004 by Lachlan Murdoch, Mr. Murdoch’s eldest son, to leave the company; he thought Mr. Ailes was intruding on his corporate turf," the paper's David Carr and Tim Arango report. "Two other Murdoch children, Elisabeth, a television producer in London, and James, the only Murdoch scion employed at the company, are sympathetic to Democratic causes and frequently voiced concerns to their father during last year’s presidential campaign about Fox News’s coverage of Mr. Obama."
Correction: Rupert Murdoch is the Chairman of News Corporation.