In a case of potential brand-blemishing by association, the Murdoch empire’s cash cow, Fox News Media, is spending $250,000 to underwrite a three-day partisan political confab featuring ousted president Donald Trump and a host of speakers on multiple panels pushing the big lie that President Joe Biden was fraudulently elected.
Fox News Media donated the money via its fledgling Fox Nation streaming service, which is listed as a top corporate sponsor—along with the American Conservative Union, the organizer of the confab, and Liberty HealthShare, a Christianity-based health-care management firm—of this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. (Fox Nation was also a sponsor of CPAC 2020, albeit at a much lower tier costing at least $28,000.)
Fox News Media—which is the most profitable part of Fox Corp., a publicly traded company boasting $12.3 billion in 2020 revenue—narrowly avoided further possible public-relations trouble when CPAC on Monday hastily canceled its invitation to a social-media denizen named Young Pharaoh (apparently his legal name). He’s a virulently anti-Semitic, anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorist who was listed as participating in a Sunday afternoon panel featuring conservative Black influencers and titled “Doubt, Dysfunction, and the Price of Missed Opportunities.”
The CPAC schedule, which runs from Thursday night through Sunday afternoon, begins with a Fox Nation-hosted welcoming reception for attendees and features speeches by such presidential-election denialists as Donald Trump Jr., Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, along with panels featuring Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks—like the Trumps, Hawley and Cruz, a pugnacious orator who riled up the mob before the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol—and former Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a paid Fox News contributor.
Chaffetz’s panel—one of seven specifically devoted to supposed widespread election fraud—is titled “Protecting Elections Part 3: The Left Pulled the Strings, Covered It Up, and Even Admits It.”
Another of the election-themed panels, titled “Failed States (PA, GA, NV, oh my!),” will feature right-wing attorney Cleta Mitchell, who aided Trump’s election lies and participated in his private phone call pressuring Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” the votes to put him ahead of Biden.
Other Fox stars featured on the CPAC bill include Fox & Friends host Pete Hegseth and current contributors like Dan Bongino, Lawrence Jones, and Deroy Murdock.
Among several current staffers who spoke to The Daily Beast, Fox News Media’s generous financial contribution to CPAC was greeted with a collective rolling of eyes.
“I’m not even surprised anymore,” a current Fox News employee said on Monday. “Fox is indefensible at this point as it has become a channel for the GOP… well, more than usual. So many employees at Fox don't even support half the shit the channel does or says… It isn’t right, but Fox has rarely been on the right side of history and ethics.”
A second staffer—who like the others, asked not to be identified out of concern for possible retaliation—said: “Doesn’t surprise me at all. That’s their crowd. It’s their audience. I feel like they’re always there… CPAC is the Fox audience so it makes sense that they would have a presence there.”
A third staffer, however, said: “I think it’s desperate. Fox Nation doesn't have any clear identity of what it is. Pandering hard to right wing or a fluff HGTV lifestyle wannabe. But it clearly shows desperation and a lack of identity. I’d say it’s biased, but Fox Nation doesn’t pretend to be straight news. I have heard from several people they’ve struggled big-time to get subscribers and money from Fox Nation. I don’t think you advertise with CPAC unless you desperately want right-wing subscriptions.”
A Fox News Media spokesperson declined to comment on the company’s eye-popping CPAC donation, but instead pointed to rosy comments about Fox Nation that were made in recent months by Fox Corp. chief executive Lachlan Murdoch, son of company chairman Rupert Murdoch.
The streaming service is “doing tremendously well,” the younger Murdoch said at an investor conference in September, adding that the lethal pandemic had been a boon to subscriptions. “Consistently over the last year the trial conversion rate remains above 80 percent, so that’s terrific. It was a big beneficiary of COVID-19… and it had some of its best growth weeks and months through the COVID-19 lockdowns. So that business is doing very well and growing.”
Like CPAC, Fox Nation and Fox News Media dodged embarrassment with the cancellation of Young Pharaoh. As the liberal press watchdog Media Matters reported on Monday afternoon, Young Pharaoh has claimed that Judaism is a “complete lie” and “made up for political gain,” that Jewish people are “thieving fake Jews,” that “all the censorship & pedophilia on social media is being done by Israeli Jews,” and that “all of these big tech [companies], media, & social media platforms are controlled by CCP & Israel through Jewish CEO & corrupt Democrats.”
Media Matters also noted that Young Pharaoh attacked conservative pundit Ben Shapiro for being Jewish, endorsed the QAnon and Pizzagate conspiracy theories, and warned falsely that COVID-19 vaccines will “alter your DNA.”
The discussion from which he’s been disinvited—set to be moderated by the founder of Black Guns Matter—was scheduled to take place a mere hour before Trump’s speech at the conference in Orlando.
“We have just learned that someone we invited to CPAC has expressed reprehensible views that have no home with our conference or our organization,” the organization announced, shortly after Media Matters story posted its story. “The individual will not be participating at our conference,” the CPAC statement continued.
Asked how Young Pharaoh had been invited by CPAC in the first place—especially given his heavy footprint on social media, with a Twitter account that CPAC had promoted on its website—a spokesperson didn’t respond.
Diana Falzone was an on-camera and digital reporter for FoxNews.com from 2012 to 2018. In May 2017, she filed a gender discrimination and disability lawsuit against the network and settled, and left the company in March 2018.