CNN: ‘The Murdoch Mafia’

17 MAY 2020

BRIAN STELTER: Mr Rudd, thank you so much for joining me.

KEVIN RUDD: It’s good to be on the program.

STELTER: Let me ask you a very basic question: you describe the ‘Murdoch mafia’. How do you define that mafia? Who are you talking about?

RUDD: Well, Rupert Murdoch himself and now his effective No.2 in control, his son Lachlan Murdoch. And why I use the term Murdoch mafia is that at least in my country, Australia, where Mr Murdoch owns 70% — that’s seven zero percent — of the print media circulation, he behaves as a type of mafia operation whereby if you do not bend the knee and do what Mr Murdoch wants or shut up, then he comes after you and attacks you, denigrates you, with the object of delegitimising you over time. And I’ve had many years of experience of it. That’s the cancer on democracy in our country, Australia, but I see evidence of it also in the United States and the United Kingdom where he also has significant media footprints.

STELTER: So this is something you say you experienced when you were Prime Minister. And has it changed since then? Is it becoming more intense?

RUDD: I think since Lachlan Murdoch took over many of the operational reins of News Corporation, we find it becoming more and more hard-right, more and more ultra-conservative, more and more far-right and, in the United States, campaigning unapologetically for Donald Trump and the re-election of the Trump administration. In Australia, campaigning unapologetically against the Australian Labor Party and to sustain the conservative government incumbency here and similarly for Boris Johnson’s government in the United Kingdom, and so I simply see it becoming more intense over time, and it affects the overall narrative of our democracy in terms of other contending voices.

STELTER: Channelling Lachlan and Rupert, they would say the rest of the media is liberal and they’re just balancing it out. What do you say to them?

RUDD: Well, I can speak primarily of my own country in Australia where the rest of the media equals less than 30% of the print circulation in the entire country. So in Australia, it is a comprehensive near-monopoly. I’ll give you one example: in my home state of Queensland in Australia, 14 of the 15 newspapers in this state are owned by the Murdoch corporation, and that simply doesn’t allow a diversity of opinion. I am unapologetic about taking the argument up to the Murdoch empire in Australia, in the US and in the UK. And furthermore, I notice very few people have the guts to do this, and there’s a reason for that: you know that as soon as you take up the fight against Murdoch that they will attack you and go after you personally.

STELTER: So what do you do? You just brush it off? You just shrug it off?

RUDD: Well, yeah, I’ve got fairly broad shoulders. And if you’ve lost the general election and ceased to be prime minister in part — not in whole, but in part — because of the tactics of the Murdoch media empire, then you accumulate a fair bit of scar tissue over time. But what I’d say to progressive politicians around the United States, as well as the United Kingdom and elsewhere: the thing about bullies and that’s how the Murdoch media empire behave — look at the notorious stories of Roger Ailes for goodness sake, who was at the heart of this Fox empire for years and years and years — the thing about bullies is if you don’t stand up to them, they just get worse, they continue to bully, bully elected politicians, bully others in the media, and bully anybody who gets in their road. And so my call to people is to have the courage to stand up and just say ‘enough is enough’.

In all of our democracies, which are under so much challenge at present through a combination of internal and external challenges, to have these media organisations like the Murdoch media empire constantly reinforcing the voices of hardline nationalism. If these things simply continue into the future, I do fear about the long-term solidity of our Western civilisational project. The English-speaking countries have occupied a particular place within the Western world for the last 150 years. But now when we have core countries of the English speaking world with such a powerful media voice in the middle, running such a hardline, right-wing conservative agenda, and dedicated to the delegitimisation of other contending voices within our political system, it actually goes to the heart of our future democracies. Therefore, we need to stand up and fight, and fight hard.

STELTER: After speaking with Rudd, I reached out to Murdoch’s publishing company for a response, but a spokesperson declined to comment.