Lachlan Murdoch ‘doubling down’ on right-wing strategy with Tony Abbott’s nomination to Fox board, say critics

The endorsement of former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott for a position on Fox Corporation’s board by Lachlan Murdoch shows he is “doubling down” on the company’s “right-wing crusading”, critics say.

Murdoch welcomed the nomination in one of his first moves since being announced as sole chair of both Fox and News Corp this week following the retirement of his father, Rupert Murdoch, at the age of 92.

The nomination will be considered by shareholders at the media giant’s annual meeting in November, a media statement released on Friday (Saturday AEST) confirmed. Nominated alongside Abbott was technology executive Peggy Johnson.

“I welcome Peggy Johnson and Tony Abbott’s nominations to the board,” Lachlan Murdoch, who has been chief executive of Fox Corp since 2019, said in a statement.

“They bring skills, experience and perspectives that will contribute to the Board and benefit Fox.”

Politics professor Chris Wallace, from the University of Canberra, said it “shows Lachlan doubling down on News [Corp’s] right-wing crusading when the costly lessons of recent and ongoing litigation suggest that’s not smart”.

“This confirms fears that decisions under the Lachlan Murdoch-helmed News Corp will be at least as noxiously right-wing as under Rupert – and possibly worse. For shareholders it’s a worry,” she said.

The Australian Greens communications and media spokesperson, Sarah Hanson-Young, said it was a “shockingly bad decision” and proved the need for a royal commission into the Murdoch empire.

“Putting Tony Abbott on the Fox board is a brazen attack on global efforts to tackle climate change,” she said.

“This proves what we all know about the Murdochs: they are right wing, climate wreckers.”

The Fox Corporation statement noted Abbott’s service as Australia’s 28th prime minister and stints as leader of the Liberal party from 2009 to 2015, as well as being an advisor to the UK Board of Trade since 2020.

Abbott notoriously once said that the “so-called settled science of climate change” was “absolute crap”. He has also previously said that climate change is “probably doing good”. Under his leadership, Australia’s carbon price was repealed.

Earlier this year he joined the board of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a UK thinktank that is critical of climate change science.

During the 2013 federal election campaign, in which Abbott won office, Rupert Murdoch tweeted from New York, saying: “Conviction politicians hard to find anywhere. Australia’s Tony Abbott rare exception. Opponent Rudd all over the place, convincing nobody.”

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Abbott was prime minister for two years before being deposed by Malcolm Turnbull in an internal party challenge. He lost his seat of Warringah at the 2019 federal election after 25 years in parliament.

The Fox Corporation board has eight members, with Jacques Nasser and Anne Dias set to step down following the next annual meeting.

Other board members include former Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan and ex-Formula 1 chairman Chase Carey.

Rupert Murdoch will become chairman emeritus of Fox Corp and News Corp, he announced this week.

Turnbull lashed the 92-year-old media mogul’s “shocking” legacy, saying he had created an “anger-tainment ecosystem” and left America the most divided it’s been since the Civil War.

Abbott has been contacted for comment.

  • Australian Associated Press contributed to this report.