Why is Rupert Murdoch associated with Stanford? An open letter to leadership

March 12, 2023, 9:17 p.m.


President Marc Tessier-Lavigne

Provost Persis Drell

Jerry Yang, Chair, Stanford Board of Trustees

Condoleezza Rice, Director, Hoover Institute

We write with regard to the fact that Mr. K. Rupert Murdoch is a member of the Hoover Institute’s Board of Overseers. Given that Provost Drell and Director Rice have stated that they intend “increased interaction” between the University and the Hoover, we address both the Director of the Hoover and the senior administration of the University, as well as the chair of the Board of Trustees, who serve as stewards of Stanford University.

We are alarmed that Mr. Murdoch, chairman of Fox News, has facilitated the spread of lies with regard to the 2020 election. Recent information emerging from the lawsuit brought against Fox by voting machine companies Dominion and Smartatic show that Fox News anchors knew the information they were broadcasting to the American people was untrue, yet they repeated these lies over and over again, seeking to increase Fox’s market share and to profit off these lies.

Crucially, these were not just any lies — the misinformation purposefully spewed out by Fox fueled the Insurrection and continues to form the basis for extremely dangerous beliefs that can, as we now know, translate into catastrophic actions, which include death and real threats to the democratic process.

Murdoch’s role in this scandal is clear. Fortune Magazine notes:

Rupert Murdoch acknowledged that he didn’t stop various Fox News commentators from promoting unfounded claims from Trump allies that the election was stolen, even though he could have. He also acknowledged that some of the network’s hosts — Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity — at times endorsed the false claims.

Fox shows no sign whatsoever of changing its pattern of deception and deceit for the sake of financial gain. Just recently, even after the exposure of its calculated and cynical dissemination of falsehoods, one of Fox’s most popular anchors, Tucker Carlson, showed cherry-picked segments of video records of the January 6 Insurrection, using these decontextualized bits to make patently false claims about the entire day’s events. As NBC reports:

Carlson focused Monday’s segment on promoting former President Donald Trump’s narrative by showing video of his supporters walking calmly around the U.S. Capitol. He asserted that other media accounts lied about the attack, proclaiming that while there were some bad apples, most of the rioters were peaceful and calling them “sightseers,” not “insurrectionists.”

This revisionist history is not only shameful, it is extremely dangerous — it will encourage the continuance of conspiracy theories about a “stolen” election and exculpate the guilty.

As National Public Radio has stated, this is not the first time Mr. Murdoch has engaged in questionable actions:

Murdoch has been called to answer for the practices of his media outlets before. News of the World — at one point a flagship tabloid paper for the Murdoch empire in the U.K — was the subject of scandal back in 2011 for reporting tactics that included hacking into people’s phones. The paper shut down and Murdoch was brought before a British parliamentary inquiry…

former Australian prime minister and the newly appointed ambassador to the U.S., Kevin Rudd, has spent the last two years lobbying for an inquiry into media diversity in Australia. He has taken particular aim at the influence of the Murdoch media, and called Rupert Murdoch a threat to democracy. 

As far back as 2010, the Columbia Journalism Review published an essay using precisely the same language, “Murdoch’s Threat to Democracy.” 

Let us be perfectly clear — in this letter we are not asking that you remove Murdoch from the Board. That is your decision alone. What we are asking of you is that you each publicly account for your acquiescence to Rupert Murdoch’s prestigious appointment to the Board, one which reflects not only on the Hoover, but also on Stanford.

We ask — why is it that Rupert Murdoch is an Overseer? Does his expertise outweigh what many find to be his dangerously deficient sense of ethics? At the Faculty Senate meeting of Oct. 22, 2020, Provost Drell opined: “Over the past decade, Hoover has become much more integrated into Stanford.  In a very real sense, and I think this is important to keep in mind, they are, in fact, us.”

Rupert Murdoch is not “us.”

In closing, we wonder what kind of signal his presence sends to our students, who we are training to seek the truth, and to our colleagues on the faculty, who are constantly held to the highest standards of honesty, truth and responsible scholarship. Why is someone who has proven himself an opponent to all these values on the Board?

We look forward to hearing your reasoning.


Stephen Monismith, Obayashi Professor in the School of Engineering

David Palumbo-Liu, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor

Branislav Jakovljevic, Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities

David Spiegel, Jack, Lulu, and Sam Willson Professor of Medicine

Joshua Landy, Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French

Joseph Lipsick, Professor of Pathology, Genetics, and Biology (by courtesy)

Steven Goodman, Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health

Peggy Phelan, The Ann O’Day Maples Chair in the Arts, Professor of English and TAPS

Richard Luthy, Silas H. Palmer Professor of Environmental Engineering

Jeffrey R Koseff, William and Martha Campbell Professor of Engineering

Stephen Palumbi, Jane and Marshall Steele Jr. Professor of Oceans

Shelley Fisher Fishkin, James S. Atha Professor in the Humanities

Jonathan Rosa, Associate Professor of Education and, by courtesy, Anthropology, Linguistics, and Comparative Literature

Theodore L. Glasser, Professor Emeritus, Communication

Julie Parsonnet, Professor of Medicine

Helen M. Blau, Donald E. and Delia B. Baxter Foundation Professor

Debra Kaysen, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Benjamin Pinsky, MD, PhD, Professor of Pathology and Medicine

Lorrin Koran, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emeritus, Active

Philip A Pizzo, MD, David and Susan Heckerman Professor Emeritus

Robert Malenka, Pritzker Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Judith Frydman, Professor, Donald Kennedy Chair in the School of Humanities and Sciences

Jonathan Pollack, Professor of Pathology

Cécile Alduy, Professor, French and Italian Department

Terry M. Moe, William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science and Hoover Senior Fellow

Russ Altman, Professor, Kenneth Fong Professor of Bioengineering

Greer Murphy MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emeritus

Krista Lawlor, Henry Waldgrave Stuart Professor of Philosophy

Robert Dunbar, Keck Professor of Earth Sciences

Rush Rehm, Professor, Theater and Classics

Sara A Michie, Professor of Pathology, Emerita

Philip Levis, Professor, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering

H.-S. Philip Wong, Willard R. and Inez Kerr Bell Professor in the School of Engineering

Jeannette Bohg, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Natalie Rasgon, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

James Fishkin, Janet M. Peck Professor of International Communication

Stephen Montgomery, Associate Professor of Pathology, Genetics, Biomedical Data Science and, by courtesy, Computer Science

Mark A. Kay MD PhD, Professor of Pediatrics and Genetics

Dita Gratzinger,  Associate Professor, Pathology

Jeff Axelrod, Professor of Pathology

Matthew Smith, Professor of German Studies and Theater & Performance Studies

Matt van de Rijn, MD PhD, Sabine Kohler Professor of Pathology

Stephen J. Galli, Mary Hewitt Loveless, MD Professor, Professor of Pathology and of Microbiology and Immunology

James Lock, Eric Rothenberg, MD Professor of Pediatrics

Sharika Thiranagama, Associate Professor of Anthropology

Eric Roberts, Charles Simonyi Professor of Computer Science, emeritus

Lalita du Perron, Associate Director, Center for South Asia

James E. Ferrell, Jr., Professor of Chemical and Systems Biology and of Biochemistry

Gavin Sherlock, Professor of Genetics

Virginia Walbot, Professor of Biology, Emerita

Ryan Perkins, Curator for South Asian Studies and Islamic Studies

Michele Elam, William Robertson Coe Professor in Humanities, Dept of English

Grant Parker, Associate Professor of Classics

Anil K. Panigrahi, MD, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine

Julie Zelenski, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science

Audrey Shafer, Professor Emerit, Anesthesiology, Perioperative & Pain Medicine

Creed Stary, Associate Professor

Martin Angst, Professor of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine

Sarvagna Patel, MD, Clinical Instructor in Anesthesiology

Dan Jurafsky, Professor, Linguistics and Computer Science, and Reynolds Professor in Humanities

Paula Moya, Professor of English

Ramon Saldivar, Professor of English & Comparative Literature

Elliot J. Krane, Professor, Emeritus, Departments of Anesthesiology and Pediatrics

Bryant Lin, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine

Ralph Cohen, Barbara Kimball Browning Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus

Susan McConnell, Professor of Biology

Julie Williamson, DO Clinical Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Pediatrics

Elizabeth Hadly, Professor of Biology and Earth System Science

Victoria Fahrenbach, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine

David Lobell, Professor of Earth System Science

Milap Rakholia, M.D. Clinical Instructor in Anesthesiology

Genevieve D’souza, Clinical Associate Professor

Brooke Howitt, Associate Professor of Pathology

Michele Dauber, Frederick I. Richman Professor of Law

James Holland Jones, Professor of Environmental Behavioral Sciences

Mark Greif, Associate Professor of English

Amado Padilla, Professor Graduate School of Education

Kathryn Starkey, Professor of German Studies

Jessica Riskin, Frances and Charles Field Professor of History

James Holland Jones, Professor, Environmental Behavioral Sciences

M Bruce MacIver, Professor Emeritus, Anesthesiology

Donald E Born, Clinical Professor

Monika Greenleaf, Associate Professor Slavic Languages & Literatures and Comparative Literature

Fabian Okonski, Assistant Professor

Nick McKeown, the Kleiner Perkins, Mayfield, Sequoia Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Vivianne Tawfik, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology, Perioperative & Pain Medicine

Michael Snyder, Professor and Chair of Genetics

David Bingham MD, Clinical assistant professor

Laura Wittman, Associate Professor of French and Italian

Rita Agarwal, Clinical Professor

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