The Murdochs Must Stop Spinning and Resign Over the Phone-Hacking Scandal
In 2004, I created Outfoxed to expose Rupert Murdoch’s war on journalism. Focusing on Fox News, we examined how NewsCorp has long blurred the line between corporate interests and journalistic integrity. The film presented an in-depth look at the dangers of ever-enlarging corporations taking control of the public’s right to know. Those dangers were shown to include ethic-less journalism, as well as the role of public relations spin in replacing the honest presentation of facts.
Yesterday, as Rupert and James Murdoch appeared before parliament, this theme was repeated. Their testimony was less about true and honest answers and more about the script of a public relations firm, and an attempt to spin the public debate on issues of corporate disgrace.
If their testimonies presented any information at all, it would be how much the Murdochs want to promote the spin of willful ignorance. For two incredibly involved businessmen, their testimonies would lead you to believe that they have long had absolutely no idea about what happens within their company.
James Murdoch claimed to be “shocked and surprised” to learn about the payment of legal fees for the jailed phone-hacking investigator, Glenn Mulcaire. Rupert Murdoch claimed to be unaware of out-of-court settlements made with hacking victims.
This portrayed ignorance leads to the Murdochs shifting blame to anyone but themselves. Asked about whether he should resign, Rupert responded: “No, because I feel that the people I trusted, I don’t know at what level, let me down and I think they behaved disgracefully, betrayed the company and me and it’s for them to pay.”
It, apparently, in Murdoch’s mind, is not at all true that he was responsible for the company that behaved disgracefully and, in fact, betrayed the public and let the public down.
As has been recently reported, the Murdochs have hired Edelman Public Relations to help them try to weather this crisis. The same Edelman Public Relations firm that previously defended Walmart, in part by funding a pro-Walmart blog called Walmarting Across America, purported to be run by two regular individuals, who later were revealed to be hired PR hacks, spinning in the name of PR goals.
Since Edelman has been brought on, the Murdochs have apologised in various forms, introduced the word “humble” into their lexicon, and have yet equally strengthened their resolve to say they did nothing wrong, had no idea anyone else did anything wrong and that they definitely should bear no responsibility.
If this scandal makes one thing abundantly clear, it is the importance of honest information being presented to the public truthfully – a trend far too rare in the storyline of this corruption. We have no need for a further parade of public relations spinning, meant only to distract the public from facts and the truth. What we need right now is a thorough, just, legal and strong investigation into wrongdoings. The type of honest reporting NewsCorp has shown themselves incapable of doing. Outfoxed was the canary in the coal mine years ago. This recent scandal has been a loud siren of clear corruption.
It is time for the truth to come out. And it is time for the Murdochs and NewsCorp to stop their habitual addiction to spin and lies. The Murdochs bear responsibility for what occurred in their company, and the public deserves accountability around their failed and corrupt leadership. As increased revelations of corruption endlessly emerge within this scandal, the only way for justice and journalistic integrity to win out is for both Murdochs to resign. At that point, their public relations firm can spin all they want, without causing further harm to the public interest.