Australia’s ex-prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has long accused Rupert Murdoch of bringing his prime ministership down—and, at a parliamentary hearing Monday, it was very clear that he’s out for revenge.
Turnbull, a former journalist who has known Murdoch for more than four decades, delivered a furious takedown of one of his country’s most notorious sons during Monday’s evidence session. He accused Murdoch of doing more to divide America than Vladimir Putin and blamed his media empire for causing the presidency of Donald Trump as well as the Capitol riot that marked the disgraceful climax of his time in power.
“What does Vladimir Putin want to do with his operations in America? He wants to divide America and turn Americans against each other,” said the ex-PM, who first met Murdoch in 1974. “That is exactly what Murdoch has done: Divided Americans against each other and so undermined their faith in political institutions that a mob of thousands of people, many of them armed, stormed the Capitol.”
The former PM, who led Australia’s center-right party from 2015 to 2018, was invited to give evidence to the inquiry that was launched after a petition calling for a probe into Murdoch’s media empire was signed by half a million Australians.
Turnbull is the second former prime minister to rip into Murdoch in front of the inquiry. Kevin Rudd, who led Australia’s center-left party, said, “Everyone’s frightened of Murdoch.”
Turnbull said that, although Murdoch has had far too much influence in the political processes of his own country, he was particularly sickened to see what the media mogul achieved with Trump in America. He went as far as to suggest that Trump’s relationship with Fox News was similar to the unwaveringly loyal state media in authoritarian countries.
“I’ve hung around billionaire media proprietors for a long time. I have never seen a politician as deferential to a media proprietor as Trump was to Murdoch, ever, in any country,” said the former leader. “Murdoch’s media in the U.S. had a symbiotic relationship with Trump.”
One of the most blistering complaints that Turnbull leveled at Murdoch and his journalists is that they essentially carry out propaganda work for terrorists by stoking hate for minorities. The former prime minister said that, while he was in power, he did everything he could to try and overcome that division but that his efforts were often drowned out.
‘These voices on the populist right, particularly from Murdoch’s organization, are essentially doing the work of the terrorists,” said the ex-prime minister. “They regularly seek to incite animosity towards minorities, particularly Muslims.”
Turnbull concluded that News Corp. had essentially become a political party that wasn’t accountable to anyone. He said that its network pumps out climate denialism and incites violence against minorities, and he also accused it of playing a crucial part in disseminating the 2020 election disinformation that resulted in the riot at the U.S. Capitol earlier this year.
“If you don't think that is a threat to American democracy and undermining the strength and capability of our most important ally, then, you know, you are kidding yourself,” Turnbull told lawmakers.