In August of last year, I published my observations under the header “FoxNews Moving Leftward” about what we can now call the “maturing” of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. Even earlier, on January 27, 2017, I observed that “the octogenarian Rupert Murdoch and sons, Lachlan and James, have achieved a balance of authority over the News Corp empire that is certain to explode when the elder Murdoch dies.”
Twenty-two years ago, Rupert Murdoch brought British advocacy journalism to America, doing a big favor for the community of political, social, and economic conservatives in the United States. Mr. Murdoch tapped GOP political operator Roger Ailes in 1996 to serve as CEO of Fox News. President Clinton had begun his second term, and Republicans and conservatives were dispirited. And well we should have been dispirited.
The spirit of Woodrow Wilson had dominated American politics from World War I to the present day. We had “lost” our colleges to a “Left University,” the Reagan “Revolution” was dead as a doornail, American journalists were champions of a variety of Progressive ideologies, and a Democrat was in the White House.
By giving conservatives a voice in national media, Rupert Murdoch inspired hope that the Left could be countered. And Roger Ailes was the man to do it. He had worked for Richard Nixon, established “Talk News” at CNBC in 1993, and was freed by Rupert Murdoch to speak the truth as he saw it—from the Right.
That was then. But Rupert Murdoch is 87 years of age, and his sons are poised to take command. When they do, Fox News will aspire to become a general-interest news service and no longer an advocate of Rightist advocacy journalism. Some of that began early when Juan Williams was hired after allegations of sexual harassment at NPR, but recently the presence of Democrats like Jessica Tarlov and the firing of Roger Ailes, Bill Shine, Bill O’Reilly, Bob Beckel, Jeffrey Lord, and Eric Bolling, point the way toward a Fox News cleansed of conservative advocates.
It really does require knowledge of Conservatism in America to introduce it as an ingredient in news reporting, and the sons of Rupert Murdoch and most corporate executives are not political conservatives. For that reason, Rupert Murdoch’s “boys” give every indication that they are embarrassed by the political tone and inclinations of Fox under Roger Ailes.
When this transformation occurs, we political conservatives will have to search for alternatives and the only one in sight right now is Sinclair Broadcasting. The inevitable collapse of Fox News is doubly painful for me because I was witness to the destruction of Arlington House Publishers and the Conservative Book Club.
Founded by Neil McCaffrey, Jr., McCaffrey found a niche for conservative titles published under the Arlington House imprint and marketed in part through Conservative Book Club. In an attempt to monetize his creation, McCaffrey sold his company to Computer Applications, Inc. for cash and a significant portion of Computer Applications stock. Unfortunately, Computer Applications collapsed and McCaffrey secured his company’s existence by persuading Bill Buckley to purchase Arlington House. But, Buckley sold his media properties to Roy Disney, Jr. and new management forced the departure of McCaffrey and his many children who were employed at Arlington House.
Roy Disney’s lack of concern for the value of Arlington House to the conservative movement is very much Disney’s fault. Disney, Jr. had placed Bruce Johnson in charge of his holdings, and Johnson, like Disney, Jr. knew nothing about political conservatives nor their history and beliefs, and he replaced Neal McCaffrey.
Upon McCaffrey’s dismissal, Bruce Johnson appointed an accountant, Tom Sullivan, to manage Arlington House. At the time, I was teaching at the College of New Rochelle and lived about two miles from the company’s offices and warehouse. My colleague at the College of New Rochelle, Bob Markel, who became Senior Editor at Arlington House, was also dismissed along with all other employees except two or three.
I then applied for the position of Senior Editor.
Sullivan hired me to work on a part-time basis—essentially three afternoons a week—and hired Julien Dedman to manage the Conservative Book Club. Julien Dedman was a conservative who was in the same class at Yale with George H. W. Bush and was editor of the Yale humor magazine. Julien later memorialized the decline of Yale in a successful book titled The Rape of Yale.
Though Sullivan’s knowledge of conservatism was quite limited, he was a Catholic who came up the hard way by earning an accounting degree at night school. That effort took him eight years. When Henry Regnery, Jr. was killed in a tragic airplane accident, I persuaded Sullivan to make a company donation to ISI in Regnery’s name. Henry Regnery personally thanked him, and Sullivan began to think of himself as publisher of a conservative publishing house.
Ultimately, Bruce Johnson, Shamrock’s President, replaced Sullivan with a marketing person who decided to make the Book Club into a general-interest book club. As a result, Conservative Book Club Main Selections were at best “off key,” and aroused the concerns of members of the conservative movement. When that occurred, the Heritage Foundation’s Ed Feulner personally sent me a letter resigning his membership from the Book Club.
Over the years, the fact that I had worked at Arlington House after Neal McCaffrey’s departure—and during its destruction by Shamrock-appointed Presidents—led some to hold me responsible for the destruction of Arlington House. The hard reality is that neither Roy Disney, Jr., nor Shamrock’s management, had any sense of the value of Arlington House to the Conservative movement. Its destruction is solely due to their callous actions and Mr. McCaffrey’s inability to constrain his personal expressions of disdain of Shamrock’s management.
New management was not “conservative,” and I had to argue to award contracts to conservative authors. In one instance, six months before the 1980 presidential election, I recommended that we retain Wayne Valis to put together a book of essays titled The Future Under President Reagan. Only after Reagan won the election was I told we could offer a contract to Valis.
About that time, friends in the newly-elected Reagan Administration asked me to serve on the Reagan Transition as a Team Leader, and I asked Shamrock’s CEO to reimburse me for expenses I would incur from November through the 1980 Inauguration. Shamrock reimbursed me for what I recall was about four thousand dollars in expenses.
After the Inauguration, I returned to New Rochelle, finished the Spring semester at the College of New Rochelle and traveled to Westport, Connecticut, where Arlington House had been moved. There I worked for a few months with yet another Arlington House President, the company’s third since the departure of McCaffrey.
In June I left my teaching position at the College of New Rochelle—and my part-time employment with Arlington House—to accept a presidential appointment from President Reagan.
Once or twice, after I founded a for-profit Internet university (Yorktown University), I told the story of the collapse of Arlington House to my shareholders and explained that I would resist selling the company to another publisher because of the betrayal of Neal McCaffrey by Roy Disney, Jr.’s Shamrock Broadcasting.
The coming decline of News Corp is inevitable because Rupert Murdoch failed to educate his sons in anything resembling the ideas that attract conservative viewers to Fox News.
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1 Bishirjian, Richard J. “FoxNews Moving Leftward.”
Editor’s Note: Both the picture of Rupert Murdoch and the featured image of the Fox News logo are licensed under Creative Commons 4.0.