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Lachlan Murdoch says he has no plans to change Fox News

"I'm not embarrassed by what they do at all," Murdoch said of the channel, adding that it was not his role to steer the coverage of Fox's media companies.
Image: Business, Tech And Media Luminaries Attend New York Times DealBook Conference
Lachlan Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, at The New York Times DealBook conference on Thursday in New York.Stephanie Keith / Getty Images

Lachlan Murdoch, in his first substantive interview Thursday since being named the prospective CEO of "New Fox," said he won't apologize for Fox News.

"I'm not embarrassed by what they do at all," Murdoch said during an interview at The New York Times Dealbook conference in New York.

Murdoch, who will take over the company once the sale of its entertainment assets to Disney is finalized, said his own political views were broadly independent and did not fit into a "left-right, Republican-Democrat" framework. He added that Fox News critics are people who are most likely not watching it.

Fox News has been under fire for perpetuating conspiracy theories and has even taken criticism from Matt Drudge, who runs the popular conservative news aggregator the Drudge Report. Drudge sharply criticized a particular roundtable discussion about political civility that evoked some laughter from female hosts.

Murdoch was asked by Ken Auletta, a writer for The New Yorker, if he planned to make any changes at Fox News. Murdoch, whose father, Rupert, launched the right-leaning cable news channel in 1996, said he did not get involved in the editorial decisions of the media outlets his company owns.

"I've run newspapers since I was 21, 22 years old, and as a standard practice ... I don't tell journalists what to say or what to write," Murdoch said. "That's not my role."

Murdoch acknowledged that managers across the company work closely with the newsrooms and that it was important to get positioning right.

"We don't always get it right," Murdoch said, adding that mistakes are corrected.

He added that Fox News was the only mainstream news channel with strong conservative views.

"We all have to be more tolerant of each others' views," Murdoch said, adding that Americans have become more intolerant of each other.

"Frankly that has to change," Murdoch said.

Murdoch was also asked about the future of Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News anchor who is negotiating her departure from NBC News. Murdoch dropped no hints that Fox News would negotiate to get Kelly back to the Fox News family.

"We won't be making any changes" to the current line-up of hosts at Fox News, he said.

When asked by New York Times journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin if Kelly was damaged, he responded, "Sure."

Murdoch opened the session by giving every indication that New Fox, as it has come to be known in media circles, would be on the hunt to acquire new assets. The company is forecast to have more than $1.5 billion in cash once the sale of its entertainment production assets to Disney is completed.

Murdoch said New Fox expected to be operational by the first quarter and would buy assets that would help it generate additional fees from cable, satellite and telecom distributors. Typically, that is either highly rated entertainment content or live sports.

Fox agreed to sell its regional sports networks to Disney as part of the $71.3 billion deal, but Disney is now selling them as part of an agreement with government regulators for approval of the deal.

If Disney isn't able to command the price it wants within 90 days of the close of the Disney deal, Fox could be in line to buy them back.

When asked about that interest, Murdoch told NBC News in a conversation after the interview that the sale process was ongoing.

"We're in the process now of helping Disney sell them," Murdoch said. "We expect at the end of that process, once Disney has a sense of where they are, they'll make a decision."

When asked if New Fox would make a bid if Disney hasn't sold the regional sports networks, he responded, "Honestly, we don't know."