Former Executive Turns on Rupert Murdoch, Says Fox News ‘Grievous Harm’ Should Cost Its License

Former affiliates fixer Preston Padden wants federal regulators to pull Fox Corp. broadcast licenses

Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch (Getty Images)

A former Fox executive who served under Rupert Murdoch has emerged as an opponent of the network, arguing Fox News’ 2020 election coverage “undermined democracy” and lobbying for its broadcast licenses to be pulled.

As Murdoch was building the foundations of the Fox broadcast network in the 1990s, Preston Padden served as both chief lobbyist and organizer of Fox’s affiliated stations. He also helped to secure the regulatory waivers that allowed Fox’s growth, which made them competitive in the already saturated TV market. 

After Padden left Fox in 1997, he and Murdoch remained in touch. “I’ve always admired Rupert’s vision and guts,” Padden said in an interview, describing him as a “father figure.” 

Now, Padden is attempting to reverse course and convince federal regulators to strip Fox Corp.’s licenses to operate its TV stations.

Last month the former Fox executive joined the Media and Democracy Project, a nonprofit group, to urge the Federal Communications Commission to cancel the renewal of Fox’s license to operate WTXF in Philadelphia, known as Fox29, one of the company’s largest affiliates. 

The group argues that misinformation spread on Fox News should disqualify Fox from being an FCC license holder. 

In response, Fox Corp. called the petition “frivolous,” and “completely without merit.” Fox additionally invoked its First Amendment rights and “long-standing FCC precedent.” The network did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment Wednesday.

Padden says his primary gripe with Fox is the network’s conduct following the 2020 election, including the amplification of baseless claims that Dominion Voting Systems contributed to widespread election fraud on Fox News and the subsequent $787.5 million settlement. 

One of the former Fox executive’s email exchanges with Murdoch was included in the Dominion lawsuit, which was released in the discovery period. The exchange shows that Murdoch was fully aware that Fox News was broadcasting lies about the election, but did little to change. 

Padden says that while he still has some respect for Murdoch, Fox News has done “grievous harm,” to the country and should be held responsible for their actions. 

In July, Padden teamed up with two other former Fox executives, Ken Solomon and Bill Reyner, to pen a blog post, in which all of them lamented their role in the creation of the machine that is Fox Corp. Padden has consistently spoken out against the network in recent weeks. 

“I was torn between my admiration and affection for Rupert on the one hand and the damage that, in my opinion, the Fox News Channel was doing to America,” Padden said. “In the end, I decided I had to do something.”