Turns out internal Fox News talking points about what not to discuss on the air might be just as influential as the guidelines that coach hosts on which stories to push each day.
What else could explain the fact that it's been 52 weeks since Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. phone hacking scandal broke big, yet Sean Hannity has never addressed the story on his show, according to a search of Nexis.
And Hannity's primetime partner Bill O'Reilly isn't much better. To date, he's committed just seven minutes to the story. And during his single segment on the story, O'Reilly falsely claimed there hadn't been any "intrusion of this story thus far on News Corp. properties" in the United States. (There had; Les Hinton, CEO of News Corp.'s Dow Jones division, was forced to resign as a result of the widening scandal.)
The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity have aired more than 500 hours of programming in the last year, but set aside just a few minutes for the hacking story.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the shocking Guardian scoop about how Murdoch's News of The World tabloid hacked into the voicemails of an abducted schoolgirl who was later found murdered. The ghoulish revelation catapulted the News Corp.'s long-simmering British phone hacking scandal into the news stratosphere and uncorked a twelve-month ride that has been brutal for CEO Murdoch at every turn, as allegations have tumbled out about rampant phone hacking and the paying off of public officials. And there is no end in sight to his woes.
Since that scoop, the hacking story has been arguably the biggest media business news story of the year, as the controversy has completely roiled Rupert Murdoch's company, causing him to close an entire newspaper and jettison top lieutenants (including his own son) who became tainted by the scandal.
Government investigations were launched to determine whether News Corp. employees had hacked phones, computers and emails. In May, a scathing U.K. parliamentary report found Murdoch to be "not a fit person" to run a major media company.
Just last month Murdoch was forced to reorganize his entire News Corp. media empire in an effort to "quarantine" his now-toxic UK newspaper properties, as one Wall Street analyst put it.
Meaning, the scandal continues to reverberate throughout Murdoch's world, and deep into the heart of British politics. To date, it stands as one of the most sweeping and damaging corporate media eruptions in modern times.
In other words, the scandal nicely captures everything that's wrong with the culture of corruption that Murdoch has fermented at his partisan media titles. And so of course that's the reason Hannity and O'Reilly, who promote themselves as tough talkers willing to confront uncomfortable truths, are too terrified to mention the story while the cameras are on even though it's a story that intersects at the usual Fox sweet spot of media and politics.
Unable to mount even a feeble defense on Murdoch's behalf and the rampant lawbreaking that occurred in his name, Hannity and O'Reilly have simply played dumb on an epic scale, turning a blind eye to a story that has ravished their employer and permanently scared his reputation.
We usually think of Fox as a propaganda outlet because of the false stories and smears it relentlessly pushes. But as Murdoch discovered during his most difficult year, with Hannity and O'Reilly, sometimes propagandists prove their worth by not covering stories that embarrass the boss.