The Loudest Voice is the story of how Ailes created Fox News, how Fox News created today's America, and how a bunch of women took Ailes down. Within all this, Deng Murdoch makes just a brief appearance. However, her own winding, near-unbelievable life story — which includes meeting her billionaire ex-husband at work, a best friendship with Ivanka Trump, rumored dalliances with Vladimir Putin, undisguised ambition, and allegations of spying for China— could probably justify its own Showtime miniseries. So, who is Wendi Deng Murdoch?
Wendi Deng Murdoch has a fascinating origin story.
Let's start at the beginning. She was born Deng Wenge in 1968 in Xuzhou, a rural town in China that, at the time, didn't have luxuries like hot water. The daughter of two engineers, Deng was expected to pursue a similar career path as her parents. "When we grew up, you did what your parents told you. Mine wanted me to go to medical school. It was not my choice," Deng told Vogue.
But Deng ended up going her own way. She soon dropped out of medical school. In 1987, she met Jake and Joyce Cherry, an American couple living in Guangzhou, China for Jake's job. Joyce became Deng's English tutor. At the age of 19, she took the Cherrys up on their offer to move to the U.S., where they would sponsor her college education. That's when her life veered toward the extraordinary.
While living with the Cherrys, Deng took an ESL course and studied at California State University. Then, Joyce caught her husband having an affair with her former student. In 1990, the Cherrys divorced and 21-year-old Deng married Jake. Their marriage lasted four months (per Vogue U.K.); during that time, Deng got a green card. According to Jake, she moved out after only four months and began dating a businessman named David Wolf.
"I was willing to do anything," Deng told Vogue of that time. "People would say to me, 'Oh you must be missing home,' but I had grown up hard. I was so happy to be there."
To support her degree in economics from Cal State Northridge, she worked as a waitress, an Avon makeup saleswoman, a babysitter, a church translator, and started a T-shirt importing business. Her big break came when she landed a coveted scholarship to Yale's MBA program and graduated in 1996.
She met her future husband, Rupert Murdoch, at a business meeting.
After graduating from the Yale School of Management 1996, Deng was offered an internship at StarTV, NewsCorps' Asian satellite service based in Hong Kong. She made an impression on the staff. A colleague recalled to the Australian magazine The Monthly, “Wendi would say, ‘I’m going to meet that guy. So she would waltz in to someone important’s office, unannounced, and exclaim, ‘Hello, I’m Wendi, I’m the intern...um, who are you?’ It was excruciating. It made some people uncomfortable, but she would get away with it; in fact, she perfected it.”
She was quickly offered a full-time position, becoming the first Chinese woman in a managerial role at StarTV. In 1998, Deng's paths crossed with Rupert Murdoch, the Australian billionaire owner of NewsCorp, at a town hall-style meeting. Deng, then 28, had a bold question for Murdoch: "Why is your business strategy in China so bad?” she asked. They spoke after the meeting. When Murdoch returned to Shanghai, he asked that Deng to be his interpreter and guide. Their affair began during that trip.
In a 2011 interview on the Chinese TV program Dialogue, Deng gave an impression of their home life dynamic: "At home, I am very strict and tough. I often criticize and scold him and tell him, ‘I am this way because I love you.'...Successful people always hear good things...So I think I should be the person to tell him how he should improve and what is not good.”
Though she immediately quit her job at StarTV, Deng remained an instrumental part of NewsCorp, informing Murdoch's decisions. In the time they were married, she also became a movie producer, fashion influencer, and keeper of an enormous friend circle. Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, and Tony Blair are their daughters' godparents; she's also close friends with Google's founders, Diane von Furstenberg, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Queen Rania of Jordan, Arianna Huffington — and the list goes on.
Deng and Murdoch divorced in 2013, but Deng still makes headlines.
After 14 years of marriage, Murdoch filed for divorce in 2013. Naturally, the divorce proceedings were public and rife with rumors — the most persistent being that Deng had an affair with Tony Blair, which both parties denied.
Could she also be cultivating a career in espionage? According to Murdoch's biographer Michael Wolff, Murdoch has been telling people Deng is a Chinese spy. His claims were backed up by a 2018 Wall Street Journal report, which revealed that U.S. counterintelligence officials warned Jared Kushner that Wendi Deng Murdoch could be using their friendship "to further the interests of the Chinese government.” Deng was encouraging the construction of a $100 million walled garden in D.C., which some feared could be used for spying.
Our advice? Set a Google alert for Wendi Deng — The Loudest Voice gives all too small a glimpse of this towering figure.