Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox announced today that it had withdrawn its bid to acquire the Time Warner entertainment conglomerate.
In a statement, Murdoch said, "Time Warner management and its Board refused to engage with us to explore an offer which was highly compelling. Additionally, the reaction in our share price since our proposal was made undervalues our stock and makes the transaction unattractive to Fox shareholders."
Time Warner had initially rejected the $80 billion offer from Murdoch, but he initially announced intentions to continue pursuing the acquisition.
21st Century Fox is the parent company of Fox Television, Fox News Channel, 20th Century Fox film studios, and several cable and satellite television networks.
Media Matters urged Time Warner shareholders and its Board of Directors to oppose the sale, arguing that the combined company, which would have created the world's second-largest media conglomerate, would reduce the viable options and opinions available for consumers.
News Corp., Murdoch's print-focused company (parent of the Wall Street Journal and Murdoch's U.K.-based newspapers), has recently had executives convicted for their role in the widespread phone hacking scandal, and has had to issue millions in payouts for privacy violations. As Murdoch's bid to buy Time Warner was revealed, two more News Corp. editors were charged with phone hacking.
UPDATE: In a statement, Media Matters Vice President Angelo Carusone said, "The prospect of Rupert Murdoch buying Time Warner presented real harms to the U.S. and global media landscape. It would have given him control of 40% of the cable market and 30% of the movie market. No one should hold that much influence but Murdoch, in particular, has demonstrated that he is far too irresponsible for that amount of power. Today's decision was a victory for the thousands of people who signed our petition urging shareholders to oppose the sale as well as media consumers across the country."
Numerous conservative radio, cable news, and Internet media stars provided testimonials and other support to Move America Forward, a purported "pro-troop" charity that funneled money to the GOP consultants who run it.
In an exposé for ProPublica and The Daily Beast, reporter Kim Barker lays out how Move America Forward (MAF), a charity that collects millions of dollars purportedly to send care packages to troops overseas, "has repeatedly misled donors and inflated its charitable accomplishments, while funneling millions of dollars in revenue to the men behind the group and their political consulting firms."
Various MAF transgressions highlighted by Barker include: claiming to send hundreds of care packages to a battalion fighting in Afghanistan while the battalion in question was actually deployed in Japan; misleading donors about a non-existent partnership between MAF and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center; appropriating "images and stories from other groups and from veterans themselves without permission to use in fundraising appeals"; and using group assets to apparently "subsidize three conservative political action committees."
As Barker explains, MAF has gotten a major fundraising boost from leading conservatives like George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and numerous conservative media figures like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin.
The group's ties to conservative media run deep. Move America Forward was co-founded by Melanie Morgan, a right-wing radio host. And based on a review of MAF's website, YouTube page, and fundraising materials, the amount of support from conservative media figures for the group is staggering, particularly through its annual "Troopathon" fundraisers.
While the media figures who supported MAF undoubtedly thought they were aiding a legitimate group that was helping troops overseas, there were several warning signs surrounding Move America Forward.
Barker points out that MAF has "earned zero stars out of a potential four from the rating organization Charity Navigator" and notes that Republican consultant Sal Russo, the "driving force" behind the group, has previously come under criticism for shady use of political funds. Russo's Tea Party Express, which has also gotten a helping hand from numerous media outlets, has repeatedly been criticized for directing money to Russo-connected consulting firms. Questions about Russo's spending practices date back to at least 2009.
Some previous supporters of MAF and Troopathon in the conservative media are already calling foul. Hot Air writer Ed Morrissey, who describes himself as "a donor and sponsor of Troopathons" for years, responded that Barker's investigation "disappoints" him "profoundly." He adds that if the allegations are true, it "saddens, angers, and sickens me -- and I'm sure I'm not alone."
Below is a list of various conservative media figures who have helped Move America Forward fundraise in the past few years (note: the list of participation by conservative media figures is just a sampling and is not intended to be comprehensive).
Just as News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch was attempting to put scandal behind him and acquire a major media corporation, two more of his former editors were charged with phone hacking while working at his now-shuttered tabloid News of the World.
According to Reuters, former deputy editor Neil Wallis and former features editor Jules Stenson have been charged with "conspiracy to intercept voicemails on mobile phones of well-known figures or people close to them." The tabloid's widespread hacking of the voicemails and phones of crime victims, celebrities, politicians, and British royalty in order to find fodder for stories became major international news after it was reported that News of the World had accessed the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a murdered teenager.
Murdoch was forced to shutter News of the World in 2011 when the scandal broke, and his company News Corp. has admitted that they have paid out millions in legal fees relating to the scandal. In June, former editor Andy Coulson was found guilty of conspiring to intercept communications at the end of a lengthy trial, though his fellow News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Stuart Kuttner were acquitted at the time.
Meanwhile, Murdoch's other company, 21st Century Fox (which owns Fox TV and Fox News), is trying to take over Time Warner, which would make it one of the largest media conglomerates in the world. However, his initial offer of $80 billion was rejected, and voices in media have suggested that putting the phone-hacking scandal behind him is key to his ability to expand and maintain his empire.
Now that more charges have emerged reminding the media of his past ethical blunders, whether such a risky merger could go forward remains to be seen.
Andy Coulson, a former editor of the now-shuttered Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid News of the World, was found guilty of conspiring to intercept communications, concluding a lengthy trial focused on criminal activity at the British paper. According to the Associated Press, fellow News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Stuart Kuttner were acquitted.
Coulson and fellow former News of the World employees Brooks, Kuttner, and royal editor Clive Goodman were on trial for charges stemming their alleged roles in the tabloid's widespread hacking of the voicemails and phones of crime victims, celebrities, politicians, and British royalty in order to find fodder for stories. The scandal became major international news after it was reported that News of the World had accessed the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a murdered teenager.
Brooks' personal assistant Cheryl Carter, her husband Charlie, and Mark Hanna, a former security official for News International, were "acquitted of perverting the course of justice by attempting to hide evidence from police."
The AP reports that the jury is "still considering two further charges of paying officials for royal phone directories against Coulson and former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman."
While the hacking allegations gathered steam in 2011, News of the World, which had been operating for 168 years, was shut down.
The Washington Free Beacon responded to media criticism over the fact that it paid tens of thousands of dollars to GOP operatives to conduct research by declaring that it is "standard practice" for its reporting to rely on such consultants without disclosure, and comparing Media Matters' David Brock to a Nazi.
Business Insider released documents last week revealing that the Free Beacon hired a Republican operative to obtain information for a series of anti-Hillary Clinton stories which failed to disclose this financial relationship to readers. The conservative outlet attempted to attack Clinton based on tapes obtained from the University of Arkansas archives that depict interviews Clinton gave in the early 1980s. Though Free Beacon reporter Alana Goodman's byline appeared on the pieces, according to Business Insider it was Shawn Reinschmiedt, the former research director for the Republican National Committee and founding partner of a GOP opposition research firm, who requested and received the tapes on which the reports were based.
The Free Beacon failed to disclose the partisan source of its anti-Hillary stories, and the dishonest journalism prompted Media Matters founder David Brock to caution the media against validating the journalistic legitimacy of the outlet as a source for accurate information. In a letter to editors and reporters, Brock likened the reports to "similar right-wing dirt-digging operations disguised as journalism conducted against the Clintons in the 1990s," and told Buzzfeed that "The M.O. is the same. This is the Arkansas Project redux."
In response, Free Beacon founder Michael Goldfarb doubled down on the underhanded practice, calling it "standard practice" for Free Beacon reporters to rely on outside consultants such as the GOP operative for stories' research components. Buzzfeed noted that the Center for American Freedom, which houses the Free Beacon, paid Reinschmiedt's partisan firm $150,000 for research services in 2012.
After blaming CBS News' supposed political bias for her decision to leave the network, Sharyl Attkisson represented her recent affiliation with a conservative online blog as little more than a freelancer, a description seemingly at odds with the blog's explicit designation of Attkisson as a contributor.
Atkisson left CBS News in March, reportedly because of a perceived political bias at the network, and in June began work for the conservative Heritage Foundation's online news outlet, The Daily Signal. On The Daily Signal's authors page, Attkisson is currently listed as a "Senior Independent Contributor."
Yet Attkisson appeared to downplay her relationship with The Daily Signal during a Q&A interview with CSPAN on June 22. She presented her position as akin to that of a freelancer, telling host Brian Lamb "I don't have an ongoing obligation" with the outlet after they purchased one particular story:
Media Matters chairman David Brock is cautioning the media against validating the journalistic legitimacy of The Washington Free Beacon for accurate information, particularly with regard to its recent reports on Hillary Clinton.
The Free Beacon has published several pieces in recent days that attack Clinton based on tapes obtained from the University of Arkansas (UA) archives that depict interviews Clinton gave in the early 1980s.
In a memo to news editors and reporters that was reported by Buzzfeed, Brock delineated unethical practices and methods of The Free Beacon, and urged credible media outlets to refrain from validating The Free Beacon's journalistic legitimacy. Among other concerns, Brock pointed to The Free Beacon's hidden reliance on an opposition research firm headed by GOP operatives to obtain the information relied on for its recent anti-Clinton stories.
Fox's Sean Hannity complained that Democrats are going "after a man with Parkinsons" in order to attack New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, but in 2006 when Rush Limbaugh mocked actor Michael J. Fox for his Parkinson's disease and claimed he was faking the effects of the ailment, Hannity defended him.
UPDATE: CBS News responded to this post by suggesting it doesn't need to disclose if its on-air talent is being paid by the people they're analyzing.
CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair claimed the network had provided adequate disclosure during the broadcasting, telling Washington Post reporter Erik Wemple: "His work as a strategist for Republicans was disclosed on the broadcast."
Wemple found that explanation wanting, writing that journalism ethics would require CBS to disclose the specific "consultant-client relationship" between Luntz and Cantor:
There's some logic here: Saying that Luntz strategizes for Republicans could be interpreted to encompass his work for Cantor, who is a Republican certainly in need of political strategy.
Yet this is an on-air title, not an on-air disclosure. When it comes to getting people to say favorable things about other people, there's nothing like a consultant-client relationship to facilitate things. When money changes hands, journalism ethics must pay heed.
CBS This Morning hosted its political analyst Frank Luntz to discuss House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's Republican primary loss to Dave Brat. An upset Luntz said that Cantor's defeat was "a great loss not just for Virginia, but for the country." But at no point did CBS News or Luntz disclose a major conflict of interest: Cantor has paid Luntz's firm thousands of dollars for consulting.
Frank Luntz is the CEO of the political consulting firm Luntz Global (Luntz sold his majority stake in the company in January, but continues to serve as an executive). According to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, Luntz Global has received over $15,000 in consulting fees since 2012 from Cantor for Congress: On February 27, Cantor paid Luntz Global $2,354 for "seminar expenses"; on December 12, Cantor paid Luntz Global $5,000 for "speech consulting"; on April 9, 2012, Cantor paid Luntz Global $8,000 for "speech writing."
CBS This Morning hosts Norah O'Donnell and Charlie Rose did not note the CBS News political analyst's financial connections to Cantor. Luntz hailed Cantor as a hero to the country whose loss shatters the "cooperation" between House Republicans and the White House. From the June 11 edition of CBS' CBS This Morning:
LUNTZ: Well you had Eric Cantor, who had a very good relationship with Joe Biden. Had open lines of communication. I think for the GOP it's going to be very dangerous now for a Republican to talk to Democrats, as it was Democrats to talk to Republicans a few years ago. That this a blow for conversation. This is a blow for some sort of cooperation and I think it's bad for the country, not just bad for the Republicans.
LUNTZ: I think this is such a great loss not just for Virginia, but for the country. Eric Cantor had the ability to negotiate. Eric Cantor had the ability to sit toe to toe and make concessions and make agreements. And maybe that hurt him in the primary, but that's exactly what we need in Washington, and now we're losing him.
After Rose noted Cantor "was a pipeline to Wall Street too in raising money," Luntz replied, "He was also a pipeline to Americans who just wanted people to get things done. And we've lost that leadership in Washington."
The Washington Post's new venture, PostEverything, featured a controversial author who published a piece urging women to "get hitched to their baby daddies" in order to prevent violence against themselves -- language that was removed from the post after editing. PostEverything aims to "expand the conversation," but changes to its latest piece post-publication indicate this effort must also include extensive editorial oversight.
PostEverything describes itself as a place for "freelance contributions, essays, news analyses and opinions" aimed to "expand the conversation" out from the Post's normal range of topics and authors." A June 10 article by W. Bradford Wilcox and Robin Fretwell Wilson claimed that the best way to end violence against women was for women to "stop taking lovers and get married," a headline that was subsequently changed. The post originally declared that women "would be safer hitched to their baby daddies." Later, it was changed to say that women "would be safer with fewer boyfriends around their kids."
According to a later report from Poltico, PostEverything editor Adam Kushner walked back his previous decision to run the controversial headline:
The headline we originally put on the piece distracted people from taking seriously a raft of social science that the authors discuss. That was my bad." Kushner tweeted. "Regarding the substance of the piece, we've said from the beginning that (Post Everything) is dedicated to publishing a wide range of perspectives about issues in politics and culture."
One of the post's authors is no stranger to controversy. W. Bradford Wilcox also played a role in putting together the controversial and deeply flawed 2012 study that claimed to uncover the dangers of same-sex marriage.
From the June 8 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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After reportedly leaving CBS News because of the network's supposed political bias, Sharyl Attkisson is now working for the conservative Heritage Foundation as a "senior independent contributor" to their online news outlet The Daily Signal.
Politico's Dylan Byers reported in March that sources said Attkisson left CBS because she "had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network's liberal bias," while some staffers characterized her work as "agenda-driven," leading "network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting." Attkisson had supported CBS' disastrous Benghazi reporting, which the network ultimately had to apologize for and retract, and CBS executives reportedly saw her as "wading dangerously close to advocacy on the issue." She also released an error-ridden report on clean energy, and relied on partial information from House Republicans in a botched story on the Affordable Care Act.
Following her departure from the network, Attkisson attempted to paint herself has a victim of media bias, floating baseless conspiracy theories suggesting Media Matters had been paid to attack her work. She was unwilling to provide specifics, but claimed there was a "political aspect" to her troubles at CBS and that her supervisors gave in to "well organized" outside campaigns that complained about coverage. Conservative media outlets, particularly Fox News, rallied to Attkisson's defense, with personalities showering praise on her shoddy work and indicating they wanted her to join the conservative network.
The Daily Signal debuted June 3 with a report from Attkisson and the first of three planned interviews with her, in which she said she hoped she could "bring under-served stories to a broad audience through an editorial process that doesn't censor, that doesn't try to direct a story to go in a certain unnatural direction."
The conservative outlet has said it plans to do "true, straight-down-the-middle journalism," while simultaneously attracting a younger audience that "will find themselves persuaded by the conservative commentary and analysis that will draw on the think tank's scholars and researchers." The Heritage Foundation, which the New York Times described as providing "the blueprint for the Republican Party's ideas in Washington," recently lost some if its "most prominent scholars." The Times added, "research that seemed to undermine Heritage's political goals has been squelched." The think tank also started the political group Heritage Action, which has proven to lean so far to the right that some congressional Republicans have reportedly distanced themselves from the group.
Bloomberg Businessweek reported that The Daily Signal will use Heritage's blog The Foundry as inspiration, which has in the past attempted to inject "its worldview into the mainstream press."
UPDATE: Media Matters founder David Brock released the following statement:
Sharyl Attkisson began auditioning for this role long before she left CBS. Her shoddy reporting on Benghazi, health care reform, and the Obama administration was relentlessly hyped by conservatives who then celebrated her hollow claims that her departure from the network was the result of liberal bias.
Media Matters has rebutted error-ridden reporting from Attkisson when she was part of the mainstream media and we look forward to continuing to do so now that she has found a happy home in the right wing.
Both prosecution and defense lawyers have begun to present their closing arguments as the trial against several News Corp. employees for compromising the privacy of crime victims, royalty, celebrities, and politicians.
From the May 24 edition of Fox News' Cavuto On Business:
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In recent months, Sean Hannity has repeatedly handed the reins of his national radio show to Dan Bongino, an active congressional candidate. During his guest hosting stints, Bongino used the prominent platform to promote his political views, send listeners to his campaign website and Facebook page, and encourage people to watch a campaign ad.
Bongino is a former Secret Service agent who left duty in 2011 to run for Senate in Maryland. The fact that he left the presidential detail during Obama's first term in order to run as a Republican immediately endeared Bongino to conservative radio and Fox News, though he drew criticism from his former Secret Service colleagues. After losing his 2012 Senate election by roughly 30 points, Bongino announced in June 2013 that he planned to run for Congress in Maryland's 6th district against Democratic Rep. John Delaney.
Bongino's campaign has since gotten a big publicity boost from conservative media outlets like Fox News, which has hosted him several times over the past twelve months. He's also been endorsed by Fox employees like Allen West and Sarah Palin. But perhaps his biggest ally has been Sean Hannity.
The media relationship between the two dates back to Bongino's 2012 run. In a Facebook post promoting an appearance on The Sean Hannity Show shortly before that year's election, Bongino wrote that Hannity had been a "good friend and great supporter to the campaign."
Since announcing his congressional bid last June, Bongino has been invited to guest host Hannity's three-hour national radio program at least five times (on August 22, November 27, December 23, February 20, and May 5). Bongino officially filed to run on February 21, 2014.
While he mostly avoided directly discussing his active congressional race, during Bongino's two most recent hosting gigs he railed against Democrats and touted conservative principles, both of which are naturally themes of his campaign.
Bongino also used the hosting opportunities to direct listeners to his campaign's Facebook page and his official campaign website.
For example, hosting the show on May 5, Bongino told listeners to "go to my Facebook page, give us a Like." Bongino's Facebook page is identified as the "Official page of Dan Bongino for Congress. Paid for by Citizens for Bongino," his campaign committee. Bongino asked listeners to "give me your comments on our ad." The same day, Bongino's campaign had released its first TV ad of the election cycle.
Talking to a show producer while on-air, Bongino asked, "you liked it, right? You thought it was good? Different, right?" She responded, "I loved the ad. It gave me chills." Bongino explained, "I like to do things a little different, kind of an outside the box operator here. But, yeah, give me a comment on it. I'd love to get your opinion. I promise, you haven't seen anything like it before."