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Former Murdoch Executive Says He Quit Over Fox News Anti-Muslim Rhetoric : NPR

Former Murdoch Executive Says He Quit Over Fox News Anti-Muslim Rhetoric : NPR

Joseph Azam says he left his senior publish at News Corp. in late 2017 over the protection of Muslims, immigrants and race by Fox News and different Murdoch information retailers.

Sasithon Pooviriyakul


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Sasithon Pooviriyakul

Joseph Azam says he left his senior publish at News Corp. in late 2017 over the protection of Muslims, immigrants and race by Fox News and different Murdoch information retailers.

Sasithon Pooviriyakul

In current days, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel and a few of its corporate siblings have faced renewed and withering criticism for a way they depict Muslims and immigrants. Requires boycotts of exhibits and strain campaigns on advertisers ensued.

Final weekend, a Muslim news producer stated she give up Fox’s company cousin, Sky News Australia, over its protection of Muslims within the wake of the bloodbath at two New Zealand mosques. Her publish went viral.

Now, add the voice of considered one of Murdoch’s former senior executives, who says he left his job in late 2017 over the protection of Muslims, immigrants and race by Fox News and other Murdoch news retailers.

“Scaring people. Demonizing immigrants. Creating, like, a fervor — or an anxiety about what was happening in our country,” former News Corp. Senior Vice President Joseph Azam tells NPR in his first public comments on his former employer.

“It fundamentally bothered me on a lot of days and I think I probably wasn’t the only one,” he says.

Azam was additionally chief compliance officer for News Corp.’s corporate headquarters, The Wall Road Journal, the New York Submit and the HarperCollins ebook publishing house, among different properties. He labored for News Corp. from 2015 till late 2017, leaving, he says, without any non-disclosure settlement. Whereas News Corp. is technically separate from the corporate mother or father of Fox News, they’re both controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his household.

In separate interviews, a longtime good friend of Azam’s and Azam’s wife stated he relayed his considerations to them about News Corp. and Fox News on the time. Each ladies stated that that was his cause for deciding to go away the corporate.

For Azam, his choice to go away News Corp. was a matter of private satisfaction as well as principle: Born in Kabul, Azam got here to the USA as a toddler, part of a household of immigrants and struggle refugees in search of haven from the battle brought on by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan almost four many years ago.

And Azam says the rhetoric coming from a few of his company colleagues sickened him: Muslims derided as threats or less than human; immigrants depicted as invaders, dirty or legal; African-People introduced as menacing; Jewish figures characterised as enjoying roles in insidious conspiracies.

Azam says he saw it all through the Murdoch media empire — particularly on the favored opinion exhibits of Fox News, including Jeanine Pirro, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, and Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs.

Azam’s public remarks to NPR arrive after a slew of controversies for Fox News.

Fox News star Tucker Carlson has been on the defensive over seemingly racist anti-Iraqi remarks he made years in the past.

Wealthy Polk/Getty Photographs for Politicon


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Rich Polk/Getty Photographs for Politicon

Fox News star Tucker Carlson has been on the defensive over seemingly racist anti-Iraqi remarks he made years ago.

Wealthy Polk/Getty Pictures for Politicon

In current days, the community has discovered itself pressured to sentence current anti-Muslim commentary by Pirro, an opinion host with shut ties to President Trump. Fox News stated her views “do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly.”

Prime-time Fox News star Tucker Carlson has been on the defensive over seemingly racist anti-Iraqi remarks he made years ago uncovered by the liberal watchdog group Media Issues (in 2008, Carlson referred to as Iraqis “semi-literate primitive monkeys” on a shock-jock radio present). Carlson’s critics say those remarks dovetail together with his newer anti-immigrant commentaries on Fox. (Carlson was not made out there by Fox to talk for this story.)

Certainly Azam himself brings up an interaction with Carlson from two years ago. In June 2017, Carlson despatched out this tweet from his private account: “#Tucker: Why does America benefit from having tons of people from failing countries come here?”

Azam shot back: “If you come upstairs to where all the executives who run your company sit and find me I can tell you, Tucker. #Afghanistan.”

Joseph Azam says he took down his 2017 tweet reply after his boss advised him not to attack other figures within the Murdoch empire.

Twitter/Screenshot courtesy of Joseph Azam


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Twitter/Screenshot courtesy of Joseph Azam

Joseph Azam says he took down his 2017 tweet reply after his boss informed him to not attack other figures in the Murdoch empire.

Twitter/Screenshot courtesy of Joseph Azam

Azam’s boss, News Corp. Basic Counsel and Executive Vice President David Pitofsky, took him apart and endorsed him to not attack other figures in the bigger Murdoch empire, as Azam recollects it, and he took down the tweet. (Pitofsky declined to remark via a corporate spokesman.)

Carlson is the main target of intense scrutiny from Media Matters in addition to Muslim advocacy organizations. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, for example, has referred to as for advertisers to boycott Fox News until Carlson and Pirro are both dropped.

Azam, now 37, in some ways is an embodiment of the American dream, an instance of the drive and thrift that is typically praised, no less than within the summary, by Fox hosts and commentators.

After coming to the U.S., Azam grew up largely in Queens, N.Y., after which Southern California, at one point promoting footwear at his father’s small store in Manhattan.

He went to New York University and acquired his regulation degree from the University of California, Hastings School of Regulation in San Francisco.

“My office at News Corp. looked over a corner near Rockefeller Center where my dad used to sell newspapers,” Azam says.

In current days, Fox News has found itself pressured to condemn current anti-Muslim commentary by Jeanine Pirro, an opinion host with shut ties to President Trump.

Mike Theiler/AFP/Getty Pictures


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Mike Theiler/AFP/Getty Pictures

In current days, Fox News has found itself pressured to sentence current anti-Muslim commentary by Jeanine Pirro, an opinion host with close ties to President Trump.

Mike Theiler/AFP/Getty Photographs

He says he beloved working together with his legal colleagues and most of the journalists. But at occasions he seethed in navigating News Corp., which is in the identical building as Fox News in Midtown Manhattan. Throughout an elevator journey shared with Pirro, Azam says, the host watched a monitor tuned to Fox News report on a terror strike by Islamic extremists. Good fodder for the present, Pirro remarked, in accordance with Azam. (Pirro was not made obtainable for remark by Fox News for this story.)

“My issue with this isn’t as an American Muslim. It’s not as a refugee. It’s not as an immigrant. It’s as an American,” Azam tells NPR. “I live here. I have kids here. And it worries me that, you know, what’s being put out into the universe could actually create a lot of risk for them.”

Azam wrote about his experience as a refugee and an immigrant in a current collection of essays edited by the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Viet Nguyen. Azam says he was inspired to speak extra immediately now about his qualms about Fox and its corporate siblings by two incidents: the mass shootings of Muslims in New Zealand, and the murder of an Afghan American in Indiana last month. Authorities accuse a person of capturing Mustafa Ayoubi after yelling anti-Muslim slurs.

The former Sky News Australia producer Rashna Farrukh additionally cited the New Zealand killings this week in quitting the cable community, which is owned by News Corp.

“As a young Muslim woman, I had many crises of conscience working here, but the events of Friday snapped me out of the endless cycle of justifying my job to myself,” Farrukh wrote on the web site of the ABC, Australia’s public broadcasting network. “I compromised my values and beliefs to stand idly by as I watched commentators and pundits instil[l] more and more fear into their viewers. I stood on the other side of the studio doors while they slammed every minority group in the country — mine included — increasing polarisation and paranoia among their viewers.”

Because the departure of the late Roger Ailes as the community’s chairman, Fox News executives have at occasions sought to rein in additional excessive commentary, barring a visitor, for example, who spun a conspiracy concept around the Jewish philanthropist and investor George Soros.

Nevertheless, Azam says if anything the rhetoric has gotten harsher since Trump got here to energy. Informed of the nature of Azam’s critique, executives at Fox News and at News Corp. declined to comment.

The opinion pages of The Wall Road Journal, Azam argues, typically sounded comparable themes surfaced towards immigration in a more high-brow style.

“It was very eloquent, mostly… it was policy backed, at a certain level,” Azam says. “In a very subtle and eloquent way, it was kind of like the stuff that would happen in the [New York Post], dressed up in a tuxedo.”

For instance, Azam pointed to an opinion piece within the Journal by two leaders of a right-wing populist Swedish political social gathering claiming violence rose along with larger immigration there — although subsequent information coverage elsewhere seemingly debunked it. Underneath former Journal editor Gerard Baker, Azam says, even the information coverage of the Trump administration’s preliminary Muslim ban “seemed to be aimed at shaping the narrative for the White House, to move away from talking about the fact that religion was being targeted.” Some journalists agreed, as NPR and other retailers reported at the time.

Fox just publicly distanced itself from Pirro for questioning a Muslim congresswoman’s loyalty to the U.S. because the lawmaker wears a hijab. Pirro was off the air final weekend. And the community won’t explicitly say whether it has suspended her. Trump has tweeted in help of both Pirro and Carlson. Azam says the network’s silence is telling, arguing that Fox is in search of to retain Pirro’s followers — and the president’s help.

“I think that the wink-and-a-nod thing is very problematic because that is exactly how racists operate at the highest level, right? That is exactly how anti-Semites operate. That is exactly how Islamophobia operates at the highest level.”

News Corp. is technically separate from the Murdoch household’s television and leisure holdings, newly referred to as Fox Corp. after an enormous sale of belongings to the Walt Disney Co. But Azam lays the duty at Rupert Murdoch’s ft, saying the punditry echoes what the media mogul himself seems to consider and promote. Azam notes, for instance, a 2015 tweet by which the media chief wrote that the majority Muslims could also be peaceable but till they destroy this “jihadist cancer” they need to all be held accountable.

Murdoch not tweets. But the controversies continue.

“I grew up in New York City. I don’t think I’m very sensitive,” Azam says. “I’ve had guns pointed at me at my work. I’ve investigated corruption throughout Africa and the Middle East and in places where, you know, my life was in danger doing that. So I think I’m pretty thick-skinned when it comes to pretty much anything.

“These things went beyond kind of being thick-skinned,” he says.