Rupert Murdoch says ‘Fox News will never support a liberal agenda’

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Mr Murdoch’s sentiment comes after Fox News boss Bill O’Reilly was sacked for harassment allegations

Rupert Murdoch has told President Donald Trump that he and his media empire will never support a liberal agenda.

In a written message, published in the Wall Street Journal, Mr Murdoch wrote: “Fox News opposes political correctness at all times.”

He said his company would “continue to be an outspoken voice against all attempts to suppress the free exchange of ideas”.

He also said US politics should be “driven by the long-term best interests of the country”.

The message to Mr Trump comes after the New York Times reported on Tuesday that Mr Murdoch had approved a $32m (£25m) payout to settle sexual harassment allegations against a former Fox News host.

The settlement involved Bill O’Reilly, a staple of Fox News’ prime-time line-up since the 1990s.

Mr Murdoch confirmed the news as he was handed the results of an investigation into the matter by Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox.

Referring to Bill O’Reilly, Rupert Murdoch wrote: “We fully support him and do not believe the charges against him are true.”

Fox declined to comment on the contents of Mr Murdoch’s note to Mr Trump, while a spokesman for the White House also declined to comment.

However, Mr Trump had said in 2016 that Mr Murdoch’s media empire “plays a very negative role in our society, fair or unfair”.

Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson had brought a sexual harassment case against Mr O’Reilly in 2015.

He later paid Ms Carlson $40m (£31m) to settle the case, which was one of a string of allegations against prominent people at Fox News.

Mr O’Reilly also apologised for what he called “any inappropriate behaviour”.

Following the publication of Mr Murdoch’s letter to Mr Trump, the New York Times called on him to fire any executives found to have known about the payments and had failed to handle the claims properly.

The newspaper had published the complaints from Ms Carlson, who said Mr O’Reilly had sexually harassed her over the course of eight years, and 21st Century Fox, which it said had failed to do enough to protect women at the company.

The Wall Street Journal, the newspaper that Mr Murdoch heads, has supported Fox News in the past, most recently when it came under fire for its interview with Roger Ailes, the former Fox News chief executive who was forced to resign in July 2016.

Clarence Thomas

A year earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Fox News host Bill O’Reilly had paid $40m to settle sexual harassment claims made by anchor Gretchen Carlson.

At the time, media figures told the BBC that Rupert Murdoch had “turned his back” on women.

Since then, the Murdochs have been accused of insufficient oversight at Fox News by the New York Attorney General’s office in December last year.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Rupert Murdoch had approved a $32m (£25m) settlement to settle sexual harassment allegations against a former Fox News host.

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The statement from 21st Century Fox said the reported payments were part of a broader settlement between the company and five women who had complained of sexual harassment by Mr O’Reilly.

Mr Murdoch told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in New York in February that it was the first time the company had broken such a policy.

It said Fox News had “never fostered a work environment, existing or past, that tolerated harassment”.

In its report, the New York Times said several of the women who were either threatened or received settlements did not know Mr O’Reilly had harassed women.

Mr Murdoch denied knowing about the payments.

The New York Attorney General’s office said 21st Century Fox had violated state law requiring that companies run employment policies that protect against discrimination and sexual harassment.

The media company could be held liable for tens of millions of dollars in back pay owed to certain employees, it said.

The Murdochs have previously expressed concern at the social media campaign being held against Mr Trump.

They are said to have expressed concern over a tweet from Donald Trump Jr, who said that the media had “blood on their hands” for reporting on the Access Hollywood tape, during which his father had been recorded bragging about grabbing women.

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