On the heels of its latest quarterly report showing a doubling profits, News Corp. is still reeling from the fallout from the phone hacking scandal as six former News of the World journalists were arrested on February 13 for allegedly intercepting voice mails. Two of those arrested are still employed at News Corp.
According to a February 13 Bloomberg article:
News Corp.'s phone-hacking scandal is widening after London police arrested six more former journalists at its now-defunct News of the World tabloid and uncovered a new conspiracy to intercept voice mail.
Three men and three women suspected of hacking phone messages in 2005 and 2006 were arrested today and some homes are being searched, the Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement. Two of the people arrested currently work at News Corp.'s other U.K. tabloid, the Sun, Britain's best-selling daily title.
News Corp. has settled about 200 civil phone-hacking lawsuits. It faces as many as 100 more as police continue to notify victims, lawyers said at a London court hearing last week.
At least 55 journalists have been arrested in the last two years in connection with the phone hacking investigation.
These arrests, the latest in a long string of arrests and charges for News Corp. employees, are a reminder that the media conglomerate is far from free of its ethical challenges. According to Bloomberg, lawyer Mark Lewis said, "It comes as no surprise that the lines of investigation are widening ... There is a lot further to go, and ultimately this is a problem that will continue to have reverberations at the top of News Corp."
The ongoing investigation hasn't stopped CEO Rupert Murdoch from exploring new business ventures or racking up billions in profits. News Corp. reported net profits of $2.4 billion in the last three months of 2012, mostly related to gains from cable TV and new channel acquisitions, effectively doubling its profits from the same period in 2011.
News Corp. has paid more than $340 million in costs related to the phone hacking scandal.
Last year, News Corp. announced plans to split the company into separate publishing and entertainment divisions. On a quarterly earnings call February 6, News Corp. executives said the planned separation was on track "to be completed in approximately one year from the date of announcement."
Karl Rove appeared on Fox News' Hannity to defend his new group, the Conservative Victory Project, against complaints from fellow conservatives that it would undermine the Tea Party movement. Rove, a Fox News contributor who regularly appears on the network advance his political agenda, insisted that the group is not an attempt to protect the GOP establishment over Tea Party candidates, but to promote "the most conservative candidate that can win."
The New York Times reported on February 2 that the Conservative Victory Project , which is backed by Rove and his allies who were also involved in his American Crossroads super PAC, is "the most robust attempt yet by Republicans to impose a new sense of discipline on the party."
During the February 5 edition of Hannity, host Sean Hannity noted that Rove's new effort has "drawn the ire of conservatives and the Tea Party," who are "accusing Karl Rove of putting the establishment ahead of conservative principles." Indeed, conservative media figures have been vocal about their opposition to Rove's new anti-Tea Party project.
Hannity expressed his own concern about the group, saying to Rove: "My fear is, is that if Karl Rove is fighting the Tea Party and conservatives are battling establishment candidates ... I am concerned that we're going to lose."
The Wall Street Journal published an editorial defending the latest report by StudentsFirst, an education reform group run by former Washington, D.C., schools superintendent Michelle Rhee, and failed to disclose the education interests of its parent company, News Corp., and its reported financial link to the advocacy organization.
In an editorial titled, "Where Failure Is a Virtue," the Journal is critical of Richard Zeiger, California's chief deputy superintendent, for making light of his state's "F" grade on the StudentsFirst report and calling it a "badge of honor." StudentsFirst ranked and graded each state's education policy on categories such as "value effective teachers" and "empower parents with information." California was one of 11 states to receive an "F." From the editorial:
Mr. Zeiger claimed to be elated by the failure. He called StudentsFirst "an organization that frankly makes its living by asserting that schools are failing," adding to the New York Times that "I would have been surprised if we had got anything else."
Mr. Zeiger is a factotum of the teachers unions that dominate California politics, so he naturally dislikes StudentsFirst because it advocates evaluating teachers based in part on student performance on standardized tests. Ms. Rhee and her reform group also want teacher evaluations to be made available to parents, among other policies to improve accountability. Unions don't like accountability.
In coming to Rhee's defense, the Journal failed to disclose links between News Corp. and the education reform industry. CEO Rupert Murdoch, who has expanded his media empire to include a digital education company, has reportedly donated to StudentsFirst. According to journalist Steve Brill's book Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools, Rhee "had gathered more than $100 million in donations or pledges from heavy hitters such as ... Rupert Murdoch." Fox News' Neil Cavuto has similarly reported that Murdoch is a StudentsFirst donor. Murdoch has also publicly supported Rhee in her advocacy efforts, reportedly calling her "a bona fide reformer."
The Los Angeles Times is giving credence to claims that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has feigned injury as an attempt to avoid testifying on Benghazi, posing the question to its readers in an online poll: "Did she fake it?"
Following reports that Clinton suffered a concussion after fainting, right-wing media figures, led by Fox News contributor John Bolton, speculated that she was faking in order to escape giving testimony on the September 11 attack on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Fox News hosts and contributors mocked Clinton as "suffering from acute Benghazi allergy" and downplayed her condition, with Bill O'Reilly stating, "I think she can make a phone call."
In a December 19 article, reporter Paul Richter gave credence to Bolton's claims. The article did cite a State Department spokeswoman, who slammed the speculation and called these rumors "completely untrue" and coming from "people who don't know what they're talking about." But the Times leaves the matter as a matter of legitimate debate between the conspiracy-minded critics and the State Department.
Emphasizing the point that the Times considers the concussion attack legitimate, posted above the article's text the paper posted a "Your take" online poll, asking readers "Did she fake it?"
As News Corp. seeks to move on from the phone hacking scandal that rocked the company last year, two former editors of Rupert Murdoch's now-shuttered News of the World have been charged with bribery.
Former tabloid editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson have been accused by British prosecutors of conspiring to pay public officials in exchange for information, according to the Associated Press. Those charges stem from the wide-ranging hacking scandal that has brought down company executives, journalists, and politicians and resulted in a British parliamentary panel declaring Murdoch "not a fit person" to run a major media group, and come as News Corp. attempts to shed the scandal and make new acquisitions.
The British criminal investigation began following the revelation that journalists and editors at the British tabloid, The News of the World, had hacked into phones to uncover information in order to report stories. Now, Brooks is being charged with conspiring to pay a Ministry of Defense employee for a series of stories for Murdoch's The Sun tabloid, and Coulson is accused of conspiring to pay officials for access to a royal phone directory. Brooks and Coulson, who have been brought up on other charges associated with the scandal, have repeatedly denied any criminality.
Brooks served as an editor of The News of the World, The Sun, and most recently as the CEO of News International, until she resigned in July 2011. She was arrested two days after her resignation. Coulson was an editor at The News of the World until 2007, when he left to become a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron. He resigned that position in 2011 amid the hacking scandal.
In July 2011, The News of the World shut down.
These latest charges of bribery come on the heels of several indications that News Corp. is attempting to move past the scandal; indeed, The New York Times reported November 19 that the company "is starting to look like its old self again" and is looking to make acquisitions after having "been on its heels for more than a year because of the phone hacking scandal in Britain."
On October 30, Fox & Friends hosted game show host and Generation America spokesperson Chuck Woolery to slam AARP as a partisan organization that has lobbied in support of President Obama's health care reform law. That Fox would host Woolery to slam the AARP as "partisan" simply isn't credible, given that Generation America is itself a conservative advocacy group that lobbied stridently against the Affordable Care Act. Generation America also has a financial stake in attacking AARP, as both groups compete to offer the same services and discounts to senior citizens.
Host Steve Doocy began the interview by questioning AARP's nonpartisan stance and introduced Woolery as a spokesperson for Generation America, the "largest conservative alternative to AARP."
Woolery slammed AARP for engaging in the fight for health care reform, calling it "disgusting" for the organization to say it is nonpartisan. He claimed that AARP coordinated with Obama administration officials to orchestrate the passage of the bill, and said that health care reform "would not be a law today if it were not for AARP."
CNN has continued to bolster the national profile of Tea Party Express in the lead up to the presidential election despite widespread reporting that the supposed grassroots organization exists largely to funnel money into the coffers of the group's founders.
During the 2010 election cycle, Our Country Deserves Better, the political action committee that launched the Tea Party Express, was repeatedly criticized for its spending practices. According to Talking Points Memo, from July through November of 2009, almost two-thirds of the group's expenditures went to the GOP consulting firm whose lead partner co-founded the PAC.
Since the midterm elections, CNN has hosted Tea Party Express spokespeople numerous times and even co-hosted a Republican presidential primary debate with the group.
While receiving this heavy promotion from CNN, Our Country Deserves Better PAC has continued to engage in dubious spending practices.
A recent Politico piece labeled Our Country Deserves Better as "perhaps the best example" of "scam PACs," groups that spend only a fraction of their revenue for their stated purpose of helping political candidates. According to Politico, Our Country Deserves Better has spent more than 91 percent of its revenue on "fundraising expenses, travel, and other overhead costs":
In the presidential race, too, a handful of outside groups have popped up to raise millions of dollars and spend them with jaw-dropping inefficiency. Perhaps the best example is a group dubbed Our Country Deserves Better PAC, a rebooted version of the Tea Party Express, which spent heavily in Senate races in the 2010 cycle. In the 2012 election, Our Country Deserves Better has collected $7.8 million, so far, with more than three-quarters of that money coming in through small increments that the FEC does not itemize.
Despite its robust fundraising, Our Country Deserves Better PAC has reported just $488,907 in independent expenditures. A full 91.6 percent of its revenue went to "other federal operating expenditures" -- fundraising expenses, travel and other overhead costs. [Politico, October 17]
But despite its controversial spending habits, which have prompted questions about whether the group is too closely aligned with GOP operatives and less in line with the tea party's grassroots movement, CNN continues to regularly promote Tea Party Express. Amy Kremer, the chair of the Tea Party Express, has appeared on CNN at least 19 times since last October to discuss the group's political activities and offer her perspective on a number of policy issues, such as entitlement spending and health care reform. Kremer has also appeared on NPR and MSNBC, and made five appearances on Fox News.
And even though the PAC came under scrutiny a few years ago for reportedly serving as little more than a slush fund for the Republican consulting firm that started it, its spending strategy appears not to have changed much. According to a Media Matters review of Federal Election Commission filings, the PAC has disbursed about $2.4 million to Russo, Marsh and Associates, that same consulting firm, since January 2011, out of a total $7.2 million spending. The firm's founder, Sal Russo, was also a co-founder of Tea Party Express and is listed as a chief strategist for the Our Country Deserves Better PAC. Joe Wierzbicki, a principal at the consulting firm, is also the PAC coordinator for Our Country Deserves Better.
John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the UN and vocal critic of the Obama administration, is often sought after by the media for his opinion on foreign policy issues, but his stake in the presidential election -- as a foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney -- is rarely, if ever, disclosed by the outlets that publish him.
In addition to editorials in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, and appearances on Fox News that left Bolton's ties to Romney undisclosed, a Media Matters review found editorials in five additional publications written or co-written by Bolton that left out that key information.
In total, Bolton wrote seven editorials that were critical of Obama's policies for The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Examiner, The Weekly Standard and the National Review after he became affiliated with the Romney campaign. None of those op-eds identified Bolton as a member of the Romney team. However, three of those outlets -- the Times, Monitor, and the Examiner -- have reported separately on Bolton's position in the campaign.
The Washington Times has published op-ed pieces from five advisers to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign without disclosing their political ties.
According to a Media Matters review, the Times did not disclose the campaign ties for the following members of the Romney team: Ken Allard, John Bolton, Mary Ann Glendon, Kim Holmes, and Robert Joseph. In total, the Times published at least 14 op-eds from these writers that were critical of President Obama and his administration's policies or supportive of Romney while they were serving on the Romney campaign.
In its straight news section, however, the Times has reported that three of those advisers -- Joseph, Bolton, and Glendon -- were working on Romney's behalf.
Media Matters previously found that the Wall Street Journal had published op-eds from nine writers without disclosing their roles as advisers to the Romney campaign.
Fox Business' Neil Cavuto missed a prime opportunity last night to highlight the millions in federal loans and contracts that RNC speaker Sher Valenzuela received for her small business.
CAVUTO: A lot of business owners featured here. A lot even in the ads and the public ads that run in this auditorium, as well as the businessmen and women themselves. Very heavy, very heavy. Why is that?
VALENZUELA: Because we speak for America, Neil. I mean if we can't build jobs as businesswomen and families who are struggling to succeed. If we can't show the American people what it takes to build our businesses and share and communicate our experiences to encourage others forward that are having difficulty in this time, then nothing can.
But Valenzuela did not share the full story of what it took to build her business, and Cavuto did not press her for those details. As Media Matters reported last week, Valenzuela's business First State Manufacturing benefitted from more than $2 million in Small Business Administration loans and more than $15 million in federal contracts.
Cavuto did ask her to elaborate on what governments should do to help businesses and "people like you." Instead of pointing to the government programs that she has previously credited to her success, Valenzuela referred to "best practices" put in place by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie that "oversees the red tape cutting department."
At previous public appearances, Valenzuela has not only openly acknowledged her acceptance of government aid, but widely credits it to her success and encourages other small business owners to do the same. In a PowerPoint presentation given earlier this year, she advised business owners to "start with the no-cost/low-cost resources that you, the taxpayer, have already paid for."
She also appeared in a promotional video for the SBA -- titled "The Skinny on SBA Small Business Success" -- where she says, "We are an example of what can happen when good ideas connect with high impact resources like the SBA." The clip also features Ashley Wolfe, the company's executive director, who explains, "We owe so much of our success to the SBA. From the disaster loan we received right after 9/11, it kept our doors open, even up to the support we recently received to purchase our new facility and all points in between, the SBA have been there for us."