Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A mogul's downward spiral. Journalist Wolff, author of a spate of books skewering the dysfunctional Trump presidency, returns to his investigation of the Murdochs with a fast-paced, gossip-filled recounting of family drama—rivaling Succession in intrigue and bitter strife—and the travails and scandals that have roiled Fox News. In focusing on the media giant, though, the author is concerned “less about what is on the air, than what is in its heart, or churning in its stomach. Here is a television story of ego, money, power, and the unnatural obsession to be on the air.” His goal, he adds, “is to bring to life the contradictory forces that now tear at the network.” Those forces are not limited to the enmity between Murdoch’s sons James and Lachlan and the machinations of their sister, Elisabeth, but includes the late, disgraced Roger Ailes, an arch-manipulator; Ailes loyalist Sean Hannity, “addicted to airtime and the sound of his own voice”; self-aggrandizing Tucker Carson; the recent Dominion lawsuit that cost the company hundreds of millions; and Murdoch himself, “disconcertingly inarticulate, seemingly stuck in a zeitgeist and emotional time warp, and barely able to function outside of his closed circle of henchmen.” Wolff is merciless in his characterization of Murdoch’s sons: Lachlan, weak and indecisive; James, simply “a prick”—supercilious, needing “to justify whatever choices he’s made and actions he’s taken as being of a higher order than everyone else’s. He is aided in this by a natural hostility and overweening smugness and a punch-before-getting-punched spirit.” Wolff weaves verbatim conversations, the inner thoughts of his melodramatic protagonists, and his own wide-ranging speculations to predict the eventual fall of Murdoch’s empire. Now 92, Rupert is “shaded by doubt, ambivalence, regret, and bafflement, and the harsh and clanging voices of his children. Not the best mindset with which to hold a kingdom.” A sordid family and journalistic history. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
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Journalist Wolff (Too Famous) serves up a gossip-filled and inadequately sourced account of recent turmoil inside Fox News, delving into the rivalries between Rupert Murdoch’s children, Tucker Carlson’s tumultuous tenure at Fox, and Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation suit against the network for broadcasting false claims that the voting machine company helped rig the 2020 election. Wolff delivers behind-the-scenes drama, reporting that Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert’s eldest son, encouraged Carlson’s presidential ambitions in the hope that a Carlson administration in 2024 would grant Lachlan the kind of power his father wielded over conservative politicians, only for Rupert, who believed Carlson would be out of his depth, to fire the host as an informal condition of the Dominion settlement. Unfortunately, many of the more salacious details are inconsequential, and throughout Wolff is conspicuously silent on what events he witnessed firsthand, which are recreated from sources, and who those sources are. For instance, he doesn’t name any sources for his claims that Florida governor Ron DeSantis may have kicked Tucker Carlson’s dog during a visit to Carlson’s house and that former Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle didn’t wear underwear to the 2018 funeral of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who was ousted from the network in 2016 in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. This is heavy on rumors and short on substance. (Sept.)