Fox’s top lobbyist, a former Biden staffer, is leaving the network
Fox Corp.’s top lobbyist is exiting the company, leaving the cable and broadcast giant and owner of Fox News without its most prominent Democrat, just as scrutiny of the network is reaching a fever pitch in Washington.
Danny O’Brien, a top aide to President Joe Biden during his time in the Senate and during his penultimate presidential campaign in 2008, had been serving as the network’s main point person in Washington, D.C. South Korean solar manufacturer Qcells announced that he will be joining as an executive vice president and head of U.S. corporate affairs. Puck News first reported O’Brien’s departure. The precise date of O’Brien’s exit from Fox is unclear and he did not return a request for comment.
The loss of O’Brien comes at a particularly rough patch for Fox, which is facing a $1.6 billion lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, which has accused the network of defamation for its role in spreading conspiracies around the 2020 election. That suit has dredged up damaging revelations about the network. Among them, the company’s chairman Rupert Murdoch conceded that some Fox News hosts had “endorsed” false claims that the election had been stolen from former President Donald Trump. Other filings from Dominion revealed that some of the network’s top talent booked guests who they believed were spreading disinformation about the election. In addition, it was revealed that Murdoch provided Trump’s son-in-law and campaign aide Jared Kushner with secret details on forthcoming ads from the Biden campaign.
The documents prompted outrage from top Democrats in Washington, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). It has also sparked discussions within Democratic circles about icing out the network. The White House, for its part, sidestepped having Biden sit down with Fox for an interview around the Super Bowl — breaking with tradition that the host network of the game get a one-on-one with the president.
Fox confirmed O’Brien’s departure in a statement.
“FOX is currently interviewing for our Head of Government Relations role and speaking with internal and external candidates,” spokesman Brian Nick said. “We would like to thank Danny for his years of outstanding service to our Company and wish him the best of luck on his next endeavor.”
O’Brien joined Fox in 2018 as head of its Washington office, where he led the company’s legislative, regulatory and policy agenda and its government relations team. Before that, he served as a global government affairs and policy executive for what is now GE Transportation.
But it’s his past roles in the public sector that have made O’Brien’s place of employment especially intriguing.
O’Brien worked on Democratic campaigns for years, before moving to the Hill to work for former Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.). He then served as chief of staff in Biden’s Senate office from 2003 to 2006, and later held the same role with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), in addition to becoming staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. When Biden ran for president in 2008, O’Brien was tapped as his policy director.
At Fox, O’Brien had built up an in-house lobbying shop that employed more Democrats (3) than Republicans (1). In 2019, he hired veteran broadcast lobbyist Jamie Gillespie away from the National Association of Broadcasters, and last year O’Brien recruited a staffer straight from Biden’s West Wing, Carissa Joy.
O’Brien is not the first Democrat to lead Fox’s D.C. office — his predecessor, Chip Smith, helped lead former Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 White House bid.
And ahead of last year’s midterms, Fox said its corporate PAC gave roughly evenly to Republicans and Democrats, including maximum donations to each party’s national committee and House and Senate campaign arms. Democratic recipients of Fox’s campaign cash included some of Fox News’ favorite punching bags, such as Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), and several of each party’s most vulnerable incumbents.
In his new role at Qcells, O’Brien will almost assuredly be working on the implementation of one of Biden’s legacy legislative achievements as president, the climate and tax spending bill passed last year.
Last month the company and Biden announced a $2.5 billion dollar investment for an existing Qcells solar manufacturing plant in Georgia that was attributed specifically to the Inflation Reduction Act. Qcells also recently announced a partnership with Microsoft, and said that O’Brien will lead its policy, communications and sustainability teams as Qcells “expands across the clean energy value chain in the United States.”
Daniel Lippman contributed to this report.