James Murdoch, chief executive of Fox News’ parent company, became the latest corporate leader to blast President Trump over his response to the recent racially charged attack in Charlottesville, Va.
“[W]hat we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the president of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people,” Murdoch wrote in an email letter to friends. “These events remind us all why vigilance against hate and bigotry is an eternal obligation — a necessary discipline for the preservation of our way of life and our ideals.”
Murdoch’s letter was noteworthy because of his company’s ownership of the conservative Fox News Channel, which is one of Trump’s favorite news sources. Fox News has been a staunch defender of Trump’s presidency. In addition, Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch’s 86-year-old father and the company’s founder, has become an informal advisor to the president.
“I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists. Democrats, Republicans, and others must all agree on this, and it compromises nothing for them to do so,” Murdoch wrote.
His missive comes in the wake of several other CEOs quitting Trump’s business councils and publicly admonishing him for not taking a tougher stand against extremism.
Trump was widely criticized for blaming “both sides” in the deadly violence that followed a Friday night march in which some white nationalists chanted anti-Jewish statements. Murdoch said that he and his wife, Kathryn, had made a $1-million donation to the Anti-Defamation League.
Resignations from Trump’s business councils began on Monday and snowballed until Trump said he was disbanding the manufacturing and economic advisory councils Wednesday morning. Many of the executives cited their personal beliefs — and not just business reasons — as the impetus for their action.
Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. and one of corporate America’s leading black executives, was the first to quit on Monday.
“America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal,” Frazier said. “As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”
Management and brand experts said the business leaders were trying to distance themselves and their companies from Trump.
“There’s not enough spin in the world to justify [Trump’s] position on this,” Marlene Towns, a professor at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, told The Times on Wednesday.
“Generally, it’s a bad idea to align your brand with the KKK and white nationalists. You don’t need a PhD in marketing to arrive at that conclusion,” she added.
Murdoch’s position continues a generational change at 21st Century Fox. It was James Murdoch and his older brother, Lachlan Murdoch, who serves as co-chairman of Fox and sister company News Corp., who pressed for the firing of Roger Ailes, the once-powerful founder and architect of Fox News, in July 2016 amid allegations of widespread sexual harassment at the news unit. (Ailes died in May.)
Full text of the letter sent by James Murdoch:
I’m writing to you in a personal capacity, as a concerned citizen and a father. It has not been my habit to widely offer running commentary on current affairs, nor to presume to weigh in on the events of a given day save those that might be of particular or specific concern to 21CF and my colleagues. But what we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the President of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people.
These events remind us all why vigilance against hate and bigotry is an eternal obligation — a necessary discipline for the preservation of our way of life and our ideals. The presence of hate in our society was appallingly laid bare as we watched swastikas brandished on the streets of Charlottesville and acts of brutal terrorism and violence perpetrated by a racist mob. I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists. Democrats, Republicans, and others must all agree on this, and it compromises nothing for them to do so.
Diverse storytellers, and stories, can make a difference, and that diversity, around the world, is a crucial strength and an animating force in my business. Often times not everyone agrees with the stories and positions that emerge from this, and that can be difficult. Certainly no company can be perfect. But I’m proud of the powerful art that can emerge, and I’m grateful to all of my colleagues who make this happen.
From the potent and compelling narrative of “12 Years a Slave”, to the streets of Pakistan and the bravery of an extraordinary young woman that we saw in “He Named Me Malala”, to name just a few, we’ve never been afraid to help storytellers and artists say important things – hard things, too. To further demonstrate our commitment, Kathryn and I are donating 1 million dollars to the Anti-Defamation League, and I encourage you to give what you think is right as well. We hardly ever talk about our charitable giving, but in this case I wanted to tell you and encourage you to be generous too.
Many of you are supporters of the Anti-Defamation League already — now is a great time to give more. The ADL is an extraordinary force for vigilance and strength in the face of bigotry — you can learn more here:
My very best to you and with all my gratitude,