October 20, 2022

When the topic of Fox News comes up, the narrative usually revolves around its top primetime stars — Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham — and, of course, the man who runs all of Fox: Rupert Murdoch.

But someone who isn’t talked about often (or not often enough) is Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, who has been the CEO of Fox News and Fox Business Network since May of 2018.

The New York Times’ Jeremy W. Peters and Rachel Abrams have a new in-depth piece on Scott: “The World According to Fox’: A C.E.O.’s Vision Gets Tested in Court.”

Peters and Abrams, based on interviews, wrote, “Since Ms. Scott took over the top job at Fox News in 2018, her colleagues said, she has managed from behind the scenes with a simple mantra: Respect Fox’s audience. Often, that involves sparing conservative viewers what they don’t want to hear — even when that means ignoring one of the biggest stories of the year.”

The Times points out that the strategy worked if ratings are what matter most. And apparently, that is what matters most at Fox News, which continues to dominate the cable news landscape.

But as the Times points out, Scott’s leadership is being tested in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed against Fox News by Dominion Voting Systems. Dominion is alleging that Fox News repeatedly aired false accusations that Dominion’s voting machines rigged the election against Donald Trump. Scott is expected to be deposed in the case, according to Times’ sources.

The Times writes, “A judge has granted Dominion access to (Scott’s) emails and text messages from the period after the 2020 election when Fox anchors and guests amplified some of the most outrageous falsehoods about Dominion and its supposed role in a plot to steal the election. So far, those messages contained at least one instance in which Ms. Scott expressed skepticism about the dubious claims of voter fraud that her network had been promoting, a recent court proceeding revealed. That kind of evidence is what Dominion hopes will ultimately convince a jury that Fox broadcast information it knew to be false, which would leave the company on the hook for significant damages.”

The Times adds, “People who have heard Ms. Scott speak in meetings say she has been critical of Mr. Trump’s election denial claims, though she mostly keeps her personal politics private. (She is registered as unaffiliated.) One colleague recalled that in a meeting shortly after the 2020 election, Ms. Scott seemed in disbelief as she described how people she considered otherwise serious and rational thought there was any chance Mr. Trump could legitimately stop President Biden’s inauguration.”

In a statement to the Times, Fox News Media said, “We are extremely proud of Suzanne rising through the ranks to become one of the most successful C.E.O.s in the media industry and her track record of incredible results speaks for itself.”

As far as the Dominion suit, Fox News has maintained it was merely covering allegations made by Donald Trump and those around him. Fox has repeatedly said in a statement: “There is nothing more newsworthy than covering the president of the United States and his lawyers making allegations.”

There’s more to the story, including Scott’s leadership style at the network.

Speaking of Fox News …

Interesting numbers on Wednesday from The Washington Post’s Philip Bump. The Post columnist notes that, as of Tuesday, Fox News’ Sean Hannity had spent 97 minutes talking to 18 Republican candidates over the previous 10 hours of his primetime show. If you consider all the commercials, Bump figures Hannity has spent about a fifth of his total time on air over the past two weeks talking to Republicans currently running for office.

That included a town hall with Georgia senatorial candidate Herschel Walker and other notable Republican candidates in hotly contested races: Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and senatorial candidates Mehmet Oz of Pennsylvania and J.D. Vance of Ohio, just to name a few.

Bump wrote that that is basically free advertising for the candidates. Bump added, “In fact, it’s probably a net positive, by design: During the interview, they often pointedly include directions for viewers to visit their websites and contribute.”

Lemon speaks

Day two of Semafor — the new global news outlet started by Justin Smith (ex-Bloomberg Media CEO) and Ben Smith (ex-New York Times media columnist and BuzzFeed News editor-inichief) — had a story on CNN’s Don Lemon. The story with the clever headline, “Even Don Lemon got sick of Don Lemon,” was written by former Politico staffer Max Tani.

Lemon is moving to mornings on CNN after hosting a primetime show for eight years. Lemon told Tani, “Has it been frustrating over the last couple of years having to deal with politics in the way it’s been dealt with in primetime? Yes. Was I tired of it? In some ways, yeah it’s gotten old.”

Much of that had to do with Trump. Lemon said, “So I was ready to move on and I think the audience is ready to move on as well. And even if he comes back, I think there’s a different approach that can be taken in primetime and in the mornings. The morning gives me more latitude to educate and elevate the conversation.”

Meet the hustle

NBC News’ Chuck Todd talks to independent voters for his “Meet the Midterms” series. (Photo courtesy of NBC News)

I’m enjoying the work put in by NBC News’ Chuck Todd as he continues to travel around the country leading into the midterms. The “Meet the Press” moderator is doing an NBC News NOW series called “Meet the Midterms,” where he travels to swing states that could determine which party is in charge over the next two years.

On Wednesday, he was in Georgia talking to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and a panel of voters. (Here’s the show.)

Next week, Todd will be in Pittsburgh to report on the latest from Pennsylvania.

The latest from Ukraine

The war in Ukraine continues, with the notable news Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin declared martial law in four illegally annexed regions that Russia doesn’t fully control. The New York Times’ Neil MacFarquhar writes the move, “would allow the pro-Russian authorities to impose even tighter restrictions as Moscow fights to hold off Ukraine’s military advances.”

The Associated Press’ Hanna Arhirova, Yuras Karmanau and Sabra Ayres write, “Putin’s drastic efforts to tighten his grip on Ukrainians and Russians follow a series of embarrassing setbacks: stinging battlefield defeats, sabotage and troubles with his troop mobilization. The martial law order belies the Kremlin’s attempts to portray life in the annexed regions as returning to normal. The reality is that a military administration has replaced civilian leaders in the southern city of Kherson and a mass evacuation from the city is underway as a Ukrainian counteroffensive grinds on.”

Here are some notable stories from the war:

Disturbing numbers

The latest New York Times/Siena poll revealed some disturbing numbers about how registered voters feel about the mainstream media. Of those polled, 59% considered the “mainstream media” as a “major threat to democracy.”

That’s a bigger number than those who consider President Joe Biden (38%), former President Donald Trump (45%), and the Supreme Court (27%) as major threats to democracy.

And it isn’t just a conservative viewpoint. The poll showed that 33% who voted for Biden in 2020 felt the mainstream media was a major threat to democracy. No surprise, 87% who voted for Trump thought that.

Live from …

Hat tip to Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher for noticing this. Apparently Trump wasn’t too happy that last weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at him during its cold open. The opening was about the Jan. 6 hearings and it showed Trump at his home sitting on a golden toilet, asking if Mike Pence was dead yet and someone handing him a Diet Coke.

Trump took out his frustrations on his Truth Social platform late Tuesday/early Wednesday by writing, “I once hosted Saturday Night Live, and the ratings were HUUUGE! Now, however, the ratings are lower than ever before, and the show will probably be put to ‘rest.’ It is just not, at these levels, sustainable – A bad show that’s not funny or smart. L.M. is angry and exhausted, the show even more so. It was once good, never great, but now, like the Late Night Losers who have lost their audience but have no idea why, it is over for SNL – A great thing for America!”

Yeah, I don’t think “SNL” is going to be put to rest anytime soon. And, by the way, if you haven’t seen the Trump impression by “SNL”’s James Austin Johnson, you’re missing out. It’s spot on. Check out this old clip of Johnson as Trump talking about Scooby Doo.

Media tidbits

(Photo courtesy of CNN)

Hot type

Sports Illustrated’s Michael Rosenberg with “After Surviving a High School Shooting, He Was ‘An Empty Shell. No Emotion.’ Now What?”

For Vanity Fair, Adam Ciralsky with “Inside Wealth-Conference Con Man Anthony Ritossa’s Wild Web of Lies.”

The latest in “The New Abnormal” podcast from The Daily Beast and host Andy Levy and special guest co-host Danielle Moodie: “Marjorie Taylor Greene Isn’t Joking. She’s Pushing ‘War.’”

Now online, the latest episode of PBS’s “Frontline”: “Michael Flynn’s Holy War.”

And finally, a special report from “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell: “‘They were very sick’: Cases of carbon monoxide poisoning in schools and day cares prompt reviews of state laws.”

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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