One of Rupert Murdoch's sons condemned the billionaire for using media features to illustrate the role of climate change in Australia's deadly bushfires.
James Murdoch and his wife Kathryn told the Daily Beast this week in a statement that the couple was "disappointed" by older Murdoch's Australian news agencies about the link between global warming and the country's massive wildfires.
The flames killed at least 25 people, made more than 1,000 homeless and scorched more than 20 million acres – a land mass larger than Maine or North Carolina. Scientists also estimate that more thandied.
"Kathryn and James & # 39; views on the climate are well founded and their frustration with some of News Corp and Fox's coverage of the subject is also well known," a couple spokesman told Daily Beast.
James Murdoch is the youngest critic to accuse the Australian-born media mogul of misinforming the public about man-made climate change. The youngest of Rupert's sons, James, was CEO of 21st Century Fox at 47 until he was sold to Disney last year. He still sits on the board of News Corp and electric car maker Tesla.
The family dispute burns as Australia experiences its worst forest fire season in history. Unusually hot, dry conditions have facilitated the spread of fire and made it more difficult for firefighters to control. The country is in the middle of a three-year drought, with 2019 being the hottest and driest year ever, reported meteorologist and climate specialist Jeff Berardelli from CBS News.
Average temperatures in Australia have risen by 3 degrees Celsius over the past century, according to a recent study in Nature. Hotter air temperatures dry out the soil and vegetation, increasing the risk of fire and spreading.
The Murdoch family owns News Corp, the parent company of Fox News, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal. In Australia, Murdoch papers make up more than 70% of the continent's newspaper circulation. Critics accuse Australian outlets of raising doubts about the effects of climate change on the fires.
For example, Peter Gleeson, a commentator at News Corp subsidiary Sky News Australia, recently beat up a former fire chief who criticized the Australian government's lack of action against climate change. "He has joined a cult," said Gleeson of the 39-year-old veteran of the fire department.
Another Sky News Australia commentator, Andrew Bolt, downplayed "Australia's tiny emissions" as a contribution to global warming. (Australia, a major coal exporter, is the world's second largest per capita greenhouse gas emitter, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.)
Terry McCrann, an economic columnist, wrote in Murdoch's Herald Sun that "none of these bushfires has been anything special compared to … the past 150 years," according to the Australian National Science Agency and the international scientific community disagreed.
In the US, Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham, moderator of The Ingraham Angle, criticized Hollywood celebrities who linked the fires to climate change and invited contributors to downplay the topic on their program, the Daily Beast reported ,
The Wall Street Journal has long been criticized for publishing opinions from climate change deniers funded by fossil fuel companies. An analysis of more than 300 contributions to climate change carried out in 2018 showed that only six were scientifically correct. The newspaper published an editorial last week by James Morrow, editor-in-chief of The Daily Telegraph in Australia, and another Murdoch publication that denied a link between the magnitude of the fires and the use of fossil fuels
A News Corp spokesman declined to comment on the spit reported by Murdochs, but referred to a recent editorial in The Australian in which he defended the newspaper's coverage.
"In our reporting, Australian journalists report on facts about combating bushfires and dealing with the effects of climate change. Second, we are holding debates that reflect the political divide in Australia about how to tackle climate change without destroying our economy," said the editorial.
Rupert Murdoch told investors last year that the company "has no deniers to climate change" while promoting News Corp's own efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.
However, not all News Corp journalists seem to agree with the company's stance. A former News Corp Australia employee sent a newsroom-wide email accusing the company of participating in a "misinformation campaign", the Sydney Morning Herald reported last week.
"Reporting on the fires in the News Corp. publications hit me hard, especially the misinformation campaign that tried to divert attention from the real problem of climate change to focus more on arson (including misrepresentation of facts) "said the email, according to Herald.
The e-mail was removed from the employees' inboxes within an hour, the herald said.