James Murdoch Weighs In on 'Succession,' Explains Support for Pete Buttigieg

James Murdoch - Getty - H 2018
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In an article published Monday, Rupert's younger son revealed he does not watch the HBO critical darling, in which a version of him is played by Kieran Culkin.

In a new interview, James Murdoch, whose father, Rupert, founded and commands Fox News, says disinformation campaigns and technology are "being manipulated to make us fight with each other, making us the worst versions of ourselves."

The politically liberal younger son of the News Corp media mogul — who, after the sale of the bulk of 21st Century Fox to Disney, has left his father's empire with about $2 billion and founded the private-investment company Lupa Systems — said he believes the 2020 election is a "really crucial moment" for liberal values in a New Yorker interview published Monday. “There’d been a bet for a long time that economic liberalization would inevitably lead to political liberalization,” he told reporter Jane Mayer, “but it didn’t work out that way."

The former CEO of 21st Century Fox and chairman of News Corp and Sky has hung his hopes on Democrat Pete Buttigieg, who he has donated to, to counteract disinformation and the misuse of technology. “It’s clear to anyone who hears him speak that he has an extraordinary mind,” he said of the South Bend, Indiana, mayor.

Like other members of his family, James has helped inspire a character on HBO's Succession, the critical darling centered on the family at the helm of a Fox News-like company, who waits for its patriarch and CEO to name a successor as he ages. Kieran Culkin's Roman Roy, a slippery and wise-cracking youngest child, as well as shades of Shivan Roy (Sarah Snook) are based loosely on James, while Kendall (Jeremy Strong) thematically resembles Lachlan. Has he watched the show, Mayer asked? "I don’t watch Succession,” he told her. “Not even a peek. Why would I?”

James also said he had not watched the Broadway show Ink, based on the rise of British tabloid The Sun after Rupert's purchase of it in 1969, nor Showtime's The Loudest Voice, based on Gabriel Sherman's book about former Fox News head Roger Ailes.

Unlike the Succession characters' current plotline in the show's second season, James seems to be doing the opposite of angling for a new position in News Corp post-Disney and Fox merger. When Mayer asked him about not being involved in the latest version of Rupert's empire, James responded, "It’s all good. I just feel very lucky to have the opportunity at this point to make a clean break, and literally have an empty slate.”

With that empty slate, he is investing in several companies that are seemingly at odds with the priorities of News Corp, including the "Countering High-Tech Illiberalism" program at the bipartisan think tank the Center for New American Security. "There are views I really disagree with on Fox," he told Mayer. "But I wouldn't cast it as some reaction to that."

James and his wife Kathryn's Quadrivium Foundation is also backing organizations that are protecting voting rights in an effort to increase voter turnout. "This is not just a Trumpian problem,” James said. “Generally, Western liberalism is up against an enormous amount of opposition everywhere.”