Daily Beast columnist Clive Irving has lived on both sides of the Atlantic, which gives him a unique perspective of the Rupert Murdoch empire of tabloids and channels.
So, when Fox News journalist Chris Wallace announced abruptly Sunday morning that he'd be leaving the network effective immediately, it prompted a response from Irving that called into question the legitimacy of the "news" portion of Fox News.
"The final fig leaf has fallen from Fox News, in the form of Chris Wallace’s exit. As it does, the nakedness of the Murdoch network assumes more clearly the grotesque form of Tucker Carlson," he wrote.
But, Irving noted that it wasn't hard to see that the moment was coming. Wallace did an interview in the Financial Times in November where he refused to comment on Tucker Carlson copying the Alex Jones model of television. Wallace explained he is only responsible for his show and can only control his show, but that he takes it seriously.
Wallace had his own style that showed him "well briefed and even-handed, tough without excess, [and] respected in Washington." It made him the valuable piece of Fox News, particularly in the era of false information flooding through social media sites and by partisan outlets.
"He delivered a gravitas and credibility that the newsroom needed. But the seeds of a diverging culture were already there," Irving explained. "Fox’s first primetime host, Bill O’Reilly, under the tutelage of the Fox mastermind, Roger Ailes, was turning news into the personal agenda of a populist blowhard."
He calls the primetime hosts "the bloviators," which is nothing more than television personalities and hardly news reporters.
With primetime given over to the bloviators, Fox was creaming CNN and MSNBC. By 2012 its primetime audience was more than twice that of the other two combined, giving Rupert Murdoch a huge new revenue stream. At the same time, Murdoch was insisting that Fox was primarily a news operation, independent of political allegiance.
"If all you wanted was opinion you don’t need all those reporters and producers and associate producers and desk assistants… they put their money where their mouth is when it comes to journalism," Wallace said of Fox News in his FT interview. But clearly, it wasn't what Wallace considered a "right fit" anymore.
Irving disagrees with Wallace, saying that it's clear the Murdochs know where their money is coming from. Their newspaper empire is effectively over along with the rest of the industry too slow to move to digital content. The only thing the Murdoch family has at this point is their propaganda arm. Real news might be Rupert Murdoch's interest, but it no longer pays his bills.
"No matter what spin Fox will put on the departure of Chris Wallace, let there be no doubt that allowing the face of Fox News to become predominantly that of Tucker Carlson has the Rupert blessing. He has to live with that," Irving closed.