The Apple Falls Far From the Tree: About That James Murdoch Gift to the ADL

photo: Leonard Zhukovsky/shutterstock

photo: Leonard Zhukovsky/shutterstock

A CEO and his wife donated $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League in response to the violent clash between white nationalists and protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the president’s condemnation of violence on “many sides.”

On its face, there doesn’t appear to be anything unusual about this news.

The ADL, which has been around for more than a 100 years, has lately been enjoying what may be its best fundraising streak ever—pulling in seven-figure gifts from JPMorgan Chase, Apple, George and Amal Clooney, and other high-profile donors. Defending civil rights and combating anti-Semitism are not controversial causes. And the mass departure of CEO’s from President Trump’s business councils following his Charlottesville comments shows that defying the president is not only a safe, but also perhaps a savvy business decision.

What make this news unusual is that half of the philanthropic couple is James Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, and the son of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, an unofficial advisor to President Trump. The younger Murdoch called out the president and his response to Charlottesville by name in an email addressed to friends announcing the donation earlier this month. 

“These events remind us all why vigilance against hate and bigotry is an eternal obligation—a necessary discipline for the preservation of our way of life and our ideals,” Murdoch said in the email obtained by the New York Times. “I can’t even believe I have to write this: Standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists.”

Murdoch praised the Anti-Defamation League as “an extraordinary force for vigilance and strength in the face of bigotry,” and encouraged others to give, too, in the email.

The gift is slightly out of the scope of Murdoch's usual philanthropic efforts, but not entirely out of left field. Projects promoting education opportunities for women, children’s health, scientific research and New York community causes have found a home at Quadrivium, the foundation that Murdoch oversees with his wife Kathryn.  

However, the main focus of the couple's philanthropy is environmental causes, specifically preserving natural resources. Quadrivium funded two Environmental Defense Fund fishery initiatives—one aimed at reforming European fisheries policy and Fish Forever, a joint project run in part by the EDF to encourage sustainable fishing in poor coastal communities.

Related: An Heir to a Media Empire and Now an Environmental Funder, Too

Kathryn Murdoch is active with environmental nonprofits. She worked for the Clinton Climate Initiative and sits on the EDF’s board. She also serves as president of Quadrivium.

In contrast to Rupert Murdoch, who is well known for his conservative politics and media outlets, James and Kathryn are significant donors to Democratic candidates, including to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign last year. Kathryn's Twitter feed bristles with anger at various aspects of the Trump agenda. "I don't believe in Donald Trump," she wrote on June 4. "Will that make him go away?"

Does the couple's donation to the ADL signal a more active stance in backing the resistance to Trump? Stayed tuned. It's worth keeping in mind that James Murdoch isn't just deeply involved in running News Corp, but is also an heir to his father's $12 billion fortune. While Rupert himself has devoted little wealth to philanthropy, the Murdoch family's charitable potential is obviously enormous. 

A final point: James Murdoch’s stances have influenced his father before. Rupert Murdoch credited his son with his conversion from climate-change skeptic to believer, though he called the plan to make his corporation carbon-neutral good business, not charity.