comments_image Comments

4 Ways the Murdoch Scandal Points To Rot at the Top

Gag money, lies, political warfare and conflicts of interest are all in a day's work at Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

Continued from previous page


Here in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal, under Hinton's watch, apparently sanctioned the involvement of an editorial board member in a political crusade to unseat Democrats in Wisconsin and elsewhere, via a program designed to indoctrinate employees of privately held businesses to vote against Democrats in the 2010 elections. As AlterNet reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore made numerous appearances on behalf of employers at workplaces in Wisconsin and elsewhere to persuade workers that Democratic policies would ultimately cost them their jobs.

Fox News has made no secret of its intimidation of perceived political enemies. During Amanda Terkel's tenure at ThinkProgress, the blog of the liberal Center For American Progress Action Fund, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly dispatched his producers to tail Terkel as she set out on vacation in 2009, and confronted her once she reached her destination.

2. Lying to public officials.
 There is enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that lying to public officials who are conducting investigations is part of the News Corp ethos. Les Hinton's testimony before the British Parliament -- in which he said that phone-hacking at News of the World was practiced only by a single reporter, despite an internal investigation that suggested otherwise -- echoes, notes Media Matters' Eric Boehlert, advice allegedly given by Fox News chief Roger Ailes to Judith Regan, then an editor at Murdoch's book-publishing company, HarperCollins.

At the time, Bernard Kerik, who had served as New York City police commissioner under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, had been nominated to the post of Homeland Security secretary by President George W. Bush. In the vetting process, investigators planned to interview Judith Regan, who had had an affair with Kerik. Revelation of the affair would have spoiled the nomination for Kerik and cast Ailes' friend Giuliani, who was floating a presidential bid, in a bad light. In a lawsuit against her employer, Regan alleged that a News Corp executive told her to lie to investigators. An investigation by the New York Times concluded that Roger Ailes was that executive.

3. Paying off troublesome employees to buy their silence.
 When Clive Goodman, the News of the World reporter who covered the royal family, lost his job after his arrest on phone-hacking charges, he began legal proceedings against his former employer, claiming he had been wrongfully dismissed. Les Hinton had told parliament that Goodman was the "lone reporter" responsible for the newspaper's phone-hacking scandal. Were Goodman to appear in court to tell the phone-hacking story he knew, it's likely that a whole lot of other people -- maybe even Andy Coulson, the paper's editor who would go on to become communications director for Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron -- would likely have been implicated. So News International bought his silence for an undisclosed sum.

When Judith Regan was canned from HarperCollins for her relationship with Bernard Kerik, she, too, prepared to take the matter to court -- which would have exposed Fox News chief Roger Ailes as the guy who told her to lie to the feds. Court documents as prepared asserted that Regan had a recording of the phone call in which Ailes told her to fib about her affair with Kerik. Regan's threats of a lawsuit earned her a cool $10.75 million, according to the New York Times, in exchange for her silence. That took place in 2007, right around the time that Goodman received his own gag money.

4. Lack of full disclosure. There's a fundamental tenet of journalism known as full disclosure, which requires a journalist to report any potential or apparent conflict of interest he or she may have in reporting a story. (For instance, if I report a story on Transportation Security Administration airport screeners, I must tell you that from 2002 - 2005, I worked for the labor union that was organizing those screeners.) In Murdochland, however, that tenet is routinely disregarded.