(This article has been updated after a source with knowledge of the room and the situation reached out to The Western Journal after reading our article. That update is included at the bottom of the article. — Ed. note)
It was something thought to be totally impossible a few years ago: Is Fox News going full-on woke?
That’s the question a lot of people are asking after Muslim prayer rugs were added to a “meditation room” in Fox’s Washington bureau, a move that’s sparked a lot of consternation at the network, and not just because of latent Islamophobia.
The report regarding the prayer rugs came from Vanity Fair, which viewed the development approvingly.
Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman notes that “two years after (former CEO Roger) Ailes was fired for sexual harassment, Fox News is getting woke. Today, Lachlan Murdoch announced the network’s longtime programming executive, Suzanne Scott, was being promoted to chief executive of the news organization, noting in the release that she ‘made history as its first female CEO.'”
“Scott’s elevation comes two days after the network announced it had settled the remaining gender and racial discrimination lawsuits from the Ailes era for roughly $10 million,” Sherman adds.
So far, so good. That’s hardly woke, merely cleaning house. However, things get a bit more eh from there.
Sherman writes that “as Fox News adapts its 1950s workplace culture to fit the times, staffers are on edge. According to sources, Fox News recently installed a ‘meditation room’ complete with Muslim prayer rugs in Ollie North’s office in the network’s Washington bureau. (Earlier this month, North left Fox to become the president of the National Rifle Association.)”
“Staffers now attend mandatory sexual harassment training, and the employee intranet includes a section for gender-transition policies and guidelines. ‘People are terrified. They kicked Ollie North out and put in a prayer room. We’ve got a new trans policy. You’re not allowed to be transphobic,’ one source said. Other changes that would have been alien in the Ailes era include the creation of a workforce and diversity council. ‘People’s heads are blowing up,’ one insider said.”
Now, a few things to mention here. Each of these things in isolation wouldn’t make too big of a deal. I know quite a few Muslim conservatives who, should they bring their prayer rugs into Fox News, wouldn’t exactly cause “people’s heads to blow up.” (I don’t think the Muslim liberals I know would cause any heads to blow up, either, although I think the bigger problem there is getting them to set foot inside of Fox News’ offices.)
As for any policy regarding transgender individuals, whatever it contains isn’t elucidated in the article, aside from Sherman assuring us that it’s “trans-inclusive.” Given that Fox seems to still discuss trans issues on air with greater candor than other cable networks, one assumes that this is mostly for the rank-and-file.
As for mandatory sexual harassment training and gender-transition policies and guidelines, one would actually need to see them before passing judgement. Given the events of the past year, however, such policies wouldn’t be seen as the worst thing in the world.
In terms of “people’s heads blowing up,” there is a good reason for that — Rupert Murdoch is slowly easing himself out from the empire that was his baby, and his sons are keeping it 100 on the King Lear scale.
The Goneril in this saga is James Murdoch, a highly swampy socialite who admits that he’s far from an unalloyed supporter of Fox News’ coverage.
“James, who holds some progressive views, has privately expressed embarrassment about some elements of Fox News, including its sometimes skeptical coverage of climate change, according to the three people who are friendly with him, a stance not shared by his more conservative brother and father,” The New York Times reported earlier this year.
That “more conservative brother” is Lachlan Murdoch, who I guess represents the Cordelia in this whole mess. He’s currently seen as having more favor with the aging potentate of News Corp. and currently holds the position of executive co-chairman of the media conglomerate. After Rupert became disillusioned with James’ role regarding the acquisition of British satellite broadcaster Sky, it appeared Lachlan was almost certain to be the heir apparent.
However, James is still the CEO of News Corp, a powerful position which gives him a lot of leverage over the corporate culture of various Murdoch properties. Given Fox News’ leftward drift over the past few years, that kind of involvement is worrying.
Keep in mind, the succession is far from fixed. There are also two daughters, Elisabeth and Prudence, who could take over the empire. In fact, The U.K. Guardian reported in 2011 that the family was actually undergoing counseling in part to decide just who would be the heir apparent, which probably should have been a bodement that things weren’t all well inside the “fair and balanced” network or any of Murdoch’s other subsidiaries.
No, neither Muslim prayer rugs in a meditation room nor a well-defined sexual harassment policy are bad things. However, this sort of theatrical “wokeness,” primarily made for public consumption, is somewhat worrying, particularly since Murdoch’s empire is about to pass into the hands of a bunch of squabbling intellectual milksops straight out of an Ayn Rand novel.
We’ll see where this goes, but let’s hope this is actually for the protection and benefit of Fox News’ employees as opposed to a silly PR stunt custom-made to attract eager Vanity Fair writers.
Update: A source with knowledge of the room told The Western Journal that Sherman has blown the story completely out of proportion. They said the room is meant to serve as a quiet meditative place for all employees and nursing mothers and is a “multi-purpose wellness room.” The source confirmed that the mats weren’t purchased with a particular faith in mind and there were no other religious icons or symbols in the room. Using North’s office for the wellness room was just a coincidence since he happened to leave at a time when employees needed the space, according to the source.
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