Earlier this year, when Fox News fired at least 16 digital editorial staffers, the network claimed it was a mere “restructuring” effort. But recent job listings posted by the network prove the layoffs were an “ideological purge” meant to keep remaining employees “in line” as the digital properties move further right, both current and impacted Fox News staffers told The Daily Beast this week.
The January sackings included senior staffers like politics editor Chris Stirewalt, who’d been tasked with defending the network’s accurate election night projection for Joe Biden to win Arizona—a projection which angered then-President Donald Trump and his allies and sent a substantial portion of MAGA viewers running over to rival outlet Newsmax.
A dozen current and former staffers told The Daily Beast that the layoffs were a “concerted effort to get rid of real journalists,” led by Fox’s new digital chief Porter Berry, a Sean Hannity acolyte who has quickly remade the network’s digital properties more in the image of its conservative, culture war-heavy opinion programming.
Fox News, meanwhile, insisted the firings constituted a realignment of its digital news properties “to meet the demands of this new era.” (Less than a month before the layoffs, Fox’s talent recruitment team boasted in a tweet calling for applicants: “Our @FoxNewsDigital team is growing! And we want you to be a part of it.”)
But within weeks of the “blood bath”—as several insiders characterized the firings—Fox News Media began posting new job listings for many of the digital jobs that were cut in the supposed “restructuring,” including openings for a politics editor, senior and managing editorial positions, senior social media producers, and reporters/producers.
Former employees who were impacted by those layoffs told The Daily Beast that such job openings serve as confirmation that their firings were just a way for Fox management to “purge” news staffers who stood in the way of its vision for the digital properties.
“As we said in January, we have realigned the business to meet the unique demands of a new era,” a Fox News Media spokesperson said in a statement. “On the heels of FOX News Digital’s record 2020 year, our team of dedicated journalists have been delivering in-depth and exclusive reporting as well as continuous breaking news developments around the clock. We are incredibly proud of their efforts.”
“I think it is a clear contradiction to the ‘press release’ they sent out after the massive layoffs from January,” said one recently departed employee. “It doesn’t make sense to let people go and then post those same job openings a couple months later. It’s probably just a chance for Porter [Berry] to hire the stooges and ‘yes men’ he wants.”
Another axed staffer was even blunter.
“It just shows that management of the digital side wanted particular people out and so they framed it as ‘restructuring’ when, in fact, it was a purging of journalists that held news and ethics to a higher standard,” this ex-employee told The Daily Beast.
Another former Fox Newser, who recently left the company of their own accord, reiterated the “ideological purge theory,” adding that it is “cruel and blatant” for the network to dangle their “old jobs in front of [the fired staffers] as they search for new ones on LinkedIn.”
And current Fox staffers agreed.
“I’ve seen several job listings on LinkedIn,” said one Fox News employee, who spoke with The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity for fear of corporate reprisals. “It was without a doubt an ideological purge to ‘streamline’ as they put it. They cleaned house of anyone on the digital side with original ideas that aren’t ‘on-brand’ with the new direction.”
Insiders further reiterated the belief that Fox drove out other key digital news employees prior to the January “purge,” while Berry plucked employees from Fox’s opinion side to edit the news website—all in an effort to enforce a distinctly opinion-heavy, conservative editorial vision.
“It sends a message to current staffers that if you don’t fall in line with Porter Berry, he will find a way to retaliate and get you out,” one former staffer declared.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to there now realizes they need to fall in line or they’ll get fired,” another Fox insider added.
“They’re knocking down the final walls of the old regime to rebuild with the new people they can mold,” one of the current Fox staffers added. “Digital has essentially become a factory of unoriginal ideas to sell bullshit with an agenda. There’s even a term for it, it’s called ‘Foxifying’ stories. People in management liked to say that it’s not a real thing, but it was a term that was widely used; in 2021 it is still used.”
Ultimately, this employee said, Fox is hiring to fill the jobs the network previously cut because “they want new, green people to shape.”
Another current staffer concurred, adding that Fox’s mission of “producing programming for low-information right-wing voters” has been made obvious to prospective employees.
“This is what you sign up for when you work for this company.”
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.