Me? I'm Mr Clean: Why James Murdoch can never really wash his hands of News Corp

James Murdoch has resigned from News Corp; but he's still daddy's boy

James Murdoch pictured being about as reactive to his father getting pied as he was to the News of the World running like a mafia shakedown.

James Murdoch was sat next to his father, Rupert, on “the most humble day of [his father’s] life.” It was July 19, 2011, and Murdoch & Son, the worst cabaret act in town, had taken their dog and pony-up-damages act to Parliament where they were being questioned by MPs on their journalists’ rampant use of phone hacking to get stories.

James Murdoch was there to act as a human shield for his father as the sustained bombardment around malfeasance within News Corporation increased in volume. But he couldn’t even prevent his father from getting foam pied by Johnny Marbles that day.

All the world could now see what many within News Corp had known for a long time; James Murdoch, for all his expensive education and easy access to resources, was an empty suit. He has none of his father’s instincts — killer or otherwise — and was so in Rupert’s shadow that his chances of getting sunburn were less than zero. James Murdoch speaks entirely in bland corporate cliches. He is the banality of evil with better shoes. He doesn’t talk about TV channels, newspapers, or websites, he talks with the bloodless negative enthusiasm of the consultant of ‘platforms’ and ‘synergies’.

Nine years after that infamous parliamentary appearance and James Murdoch has quit the News Corp board, citing 'disagreements over certain editorial content.” That is likely to be related to the way his father’s Australian newspaper holdings have covered climate change, which James has adopted as a reputation cleansing hobby horse.


Note: James Murdoch’s ethical stance didn’t stretch to truly deploring newspapers engaging in outright criminality, and this new ‘moral’ move is arguably symbolic since he retains his spot on the £12 billion Murdoch Family Trust.

In comparison to that Smaug’s horde-style war chest, James’ $1 million in donations to Joe Biden’s political campaign is merely a tiny head fake — an attempt to future proof whatever relationship he may need to have with a Biden administration, and a clear, public repudiation of his father’s political instincts. It won’t bother Rupert who can simply instruct his loyal son Lachlan Murdoch to turn up the racism dial at Fox News.

Blah blah, you can’t blame the son for the sins of the father, but James Murdoch, but as if he’s playing Lady Macbeth in a production sponsored by a jam company, he cannot scrub the residue from all the pies he has had his fingers in. “Will these hands ne'er be clean?” he asks as he wishes he’d just stuck to pootling around running his rap record label and pretending that isn’t the scion of astronomical wealth and the son of a man whose dark energy could be used to power a series of small cities.

In May 2012, a highly critical report by the UK Parliaments’s Culture, Media and Sport committee declared that Murdoch "showed wilful ignorance of the extent of phone-hacking" and found him "guilty of an astonishing lack of curiosity" over the issue. It argued both James Murdoch and Rupert, "should ultimately be prepared to take responsibility" for wrongdoing at the News of the World and News International. James Murdoch has suffered not one consequence of his involvement in that atrocity.

Many media reports will focus on how James Murdoch has ‘broken free’, but as long as he remains tied to Murdoch money — and that will never change — he’ll always remain what we saw him be at that parliamentary committee: Daddy’s boy.