Meet The Fox Board That Doesn’t Want To Talk About Fox News’ Conspiracy-Theory Habit

Rupert Murdoch, 21st Century Fox's chairman, is a known confidante of President Trump, though they do disagree on certain issues, including immigration.

Rupert Murdoch, 21st Century Fox’s chairman, is a known confidante of President Trump, though they do disagree on certain issues, including immigration.Getty Images

In a week where a white assailant apparently shot two people dead for being black, a Donald Trump supporter allegedly sent pipe bombs to a news outlet plus at least 12 Democratic politicians and funders, as well as CNN, and 11 Jewish people were massacred by a man who appears to be a white supremacist, triggered by the false story that George Soros is funding the caravan of asylum-seekers, Fox News and the Fox Business Network leaned heavier than ever on conspiracy theories. On Fox News, a guest suggested that the migrants coming to the U.S. are bringing diseases like smallpox and leprosy. (Small pox was eradicated in 1980, and the Fox host stated later that the network had no way to verify that migrants were bringing the diseases in).  Some pundits, including Geraldo Rivera, even floated the idea that Democrats were behind the recent mail bombs, claiming it was an attempt to rally support ahead of the midterm elections. (Rivera later apologized.) On Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight, a guest went unchallenged, echoing neo-Nazi language when he repeated the latest Soros conspiracy theory. Dobbs has in fact called Soros, who is Jewish, an “evil SOB” and “insidious” on Twitter. (Fox Business later condemned the guest’s rhetoric, pulled the episode and banned the guest from future appearances.)

The combination was so toxic that even conservatives took umbrage. Bill Kristol, a former panelist on Fox News Channel, tweeted on Monday that “The United States of America has a Fox News problem.” Matt Drudge, editor of the Drudge Report, slammed the network and said hosts were laughing and making jokes during a segment that earlier discussed the recent acts of terror and how they might impact the midterm elections. “Not even 48 hours since blood flowed at synagogue? Check your soul in the makeup chair!” he wrote on Twitter.

Both Fox networks fall within a publicly-traded company, 21st Century Fox. So what do the people where the buck stops—the board of directors, who each earn $300,000 or more for their oversight—have to say about their company’s conspiracy-theory habit?

Nothing. Forbes reached out to each of the board members of 21st Century Fox—all except for one are foreign born, immigrants or have immigrant parents—for a comment on the latest controversies, but no one was willing to talk. A Fox spokesperson did respond, however, noting that “many of the FNC and FBN programs regularly push back on the Trump narrative—and just this morning, the FOX & Friends co-hosts called out Trump for his ‘enemy of the people’ attacks on the media.”  

Here’s a look at the 11 board members:

Rupert Murdoch: declined to comment

Annual pay: $49 million

The Australian immigrant has seen the value of 21st Century Fox increase by 50% since Trump’s inauguration. Despite the conservatism of most of his networks, Murdoch publicly clashed with Trump and rebuked him for his views on immigration during the 2016 primary. He has also consistently supported more lenient immigration reform, reportedly urging Trump not to go forward with mass deportation of illegal immigrants and writing in a 2014 Wall Street Journal op-ed that “Immigrants enrich our culture and add to our economic prosperity.” While Murdoch never gave directly to Trump’s campaign, he has given over $75 million to various national Republican organizations over the last decade.

Lachlan Murdoch: declined to comment

Pay: $51 million

The eldest son of Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan has been in and out of the family business. He first worked as a News Corp executive before leaving for a stint in investing. He currently serves as an executive chairman of both 21st Century Fox and News Corp. When the majority of 21st Century Fox’s assets are transferred soon to Disney, Lachlan will be in charge of “New Fox,” which will include Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network and the Fox broadcast channels. Like his father, Lachlan has come out against Trump’s travel policies. Last year, Lachlan and his brother, James, penned a letter condemning Trump’s travel ban, which largely affected Muslims. Lachlan has not given to individual candidates in years, but did give $2,000 to George W. Bush in 2003.

 James Murdoch: declined to comment

Pay: $50 million

The current CEO of 21st Century Fox is set to leave his father’s media empire once the merger with Disney goes through. The younger of Rupert’s two sons, he does not have a position at New Fox or Disney and remains quiet about his next move. Since Trump has taken office, James has publicly condemned the president on multiple occasions, criticizing Trump’s immigration ban and response to a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. Following Charlottesville, he donated $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League, which has been outspoken against Trump. James has also been an advocate for the fight against climate change. According to OpenSecrets.Org, he largely supported Democrats in the 2016 election, giving $2,700 (the maximum donation) to Hillary Clinton and over $35,000 to other Democratic candidates. This year, he and his father have jointly has given over $11,000 to Democratic candidates.

Chase Carey: declined to comment

Pay: $20 million

The vice chairman of 21st Century Fox, Carey also serves as CEO of Formula One. But his background is in media, not on the race track. An Irish immigrant, Carey originally worked for News Corp in the 1980s and 1990s, holding many positions, including CEO of Fox Broadcasting Company, before leaving to become CEO at DirecTV.

Sir Roderick Eddington: declined to comment

Pay: $359,000

The lead director of 21st Century Fox, Eddington also serves as chairman of J.P. Morgan’s Asia Pacific Advisory Council. Originally from Australia, he previously spent a decade as chairman for the bank’s Australia and New Zealand business. In another life, Eddington was CEO of British Airways.

Delphine Arnault: declined to comment

Pay: $300,000

Arnault positions herself as one of the world’s most influential tastemakers, working alongside her father Bernard Arnault, the luxury goods titan who controls LVMH. A veteran of Christian Dior, she is now No. 2 at Louis Vuitton. In 2017, advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services encouraged investors to vote against Arnault’s appointment to 21st Century Fox because she already sat on too many boards. They had a point: She is on at least ten boards, including Ferrari, LVMH and Christian Dior.

David DeVoe: did not reply

Pay: $1.3 million

A senior advisor to 21st Century Fox, DeVoe has been at the company for nearly three decades, serving as the company’s chief financial officer and a senior executive VP during his tenure. When the Disney transition is complete, DeVoe plans to retire.

Jacques Nasser: did not reply

Pay: $332,000

Lebanon-born Nasser immigrated to Australia as a child and later came to the U.S. to work for Ford Motor, where he spent 30 years, including a three-year stint as the automaker’s CEO that ended in 2001. Nasser served as a director of commodities company BHP Billiton and insurance firm Allianz until 2017. He is listed on 21st Century Fox’s website as an advisor to private equity shop One Equity Partners; however, a spokesperson for the firm said he no longer works there.

Robert Silberman: did not reply

Pay: $327,000

The longtime CEO of for-profit education company Strayer University, Silberman, who received a master’s in international policy from Johns Hopkins, is also active in international affairs circles. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and sits on the board of visitors at Johns Hopkins’ international studies school. In the 80s and 90s, he held several senior positions at the Department of Defense, including as assistant secretary of the Army.

Tidjane Thiam: did not reply

Pay: $311,000

Thiam, who was born in Cote d’Ivoire but grew up in France and is now based in Switzerland, was tapped as CEO of Credit Suisse in 2015. He moved to the bank from Prudential, where he spent nearly a decade as an exec. Thiam also completed a short stint with the World Bank. 

Jim Breyer: no comment

Pay: $354,000

The famed venture capitalist best known for being one of Facebook’s earliest investors was the only board member to respond directly – and his response was a “no comment.” The obvious question for him: how his parents, Hungarian immigrants, who fled their country during the 1956 revolution and arrived in the U.S. with $5 in their pockets, would feel about Fox’s fact-challenged demonization of Soros, a Hungarian immigrant, who fled his country right after World War II—and last week saw that pipe bomb had been put in his mailbox. At some point, the Harvard board member will have to answer that, if even to himself.

So where’s the oversight? Perhaps they’re just biding their time. After all, the board will dissolve once 21st Century Fox is officially split next year, with the majority of its assets moving to Disney following its $71.3 billion acquisition. Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network will be part of “New Fox,” which will be run by Lachlan Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch, and presumably have an entirely new board.