Rupert Murdoch must have imagined Steve Jobs would be a feisty dinner guest. Even still, the News Corp. chairman couldn't have foreseen that, in one night at the mogul's Carmel, California ranch, Jobs would call his tech people incompetent, get a guy fired, and say that Fox News was literally destroying the world.
Walter Isaacson's new biography of the Apple co-founder says Jobs railed against the conservative news channel and tried to convince Murdoch to shut it down. His comments came at the 2010 iteration of News Corp.'s annual management retreat. Isaacson writes:
In return for speaking at the retreat, Jobs got Murdoch to hear him out on Fox News, which he believed was destructive, harmful to the nation, and a blot on Murdoch's reputation. "You're blowing it with Fox News," Jobs told him over dinner. "The axis today is not liberal and conservative, the axis is conservative-destructive, and you've cast your lot with the destructive people. Fox has become a destructive force in our society. You can be better, and this is going to be your legacy if you're not careful." Jobs said he thought Murdoch did not really like how far Fox has gone. "Rupert's a builder, not a tearer-downer," he said...
Murdoch later said he was used to people like Jobs complaining about Fox. "He's got sort of a left wing view on this," he said. Jobs asked him to have his folks make a reel of Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck shows - he thought they were more destructive than Bill O'Reilly - and Murdoch agreed to do so.
Isaacson's book also confirms our 2010 item about how the Wall Street Journal's Gordon McLeod got fired for crossing Jobs at the same Carmel retreat. According to the biography, Jobs said in a post-dinner Q&A that newspapers like the Journal were bungling their use of technology, in part because "you're in New York and anyone who's any good at tech works in Silicon Valley." McLeod, a Gotham based digital executive, took issue, and later told Jobs, "thanks, it was a wonderful evening, but you probably cost me my job." Murdoch added, "It ended up being true."
Hannity, Beck, O'Reilly and paranoiac Fox News boss Roger Ailes, meanwhile, all still have their jobs. It sounds like somebody missed Steve Jobs's point. If a master persuader of Jobs's caliber couldn't break Murdoch's loyalty to Ailes, it's hard to imagine anyone else will, either.
[Photo of Jobs and Isaacson's book via Getty. Photo of Murdoch via AP]