Video ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
Loading the player reg...
Loading the player reg...
Fox's Media Critic Gives News Corp. A Pass Despite Being Previously Critical Of Fox For Ignoring Its Parent Company's Own Scandals
In a report on the Murdoch restructure of Fox News' parent company, Fox's Howard Kurtz glazed over the 2011 phone hacking controversy that implicated the Murdoch family in England -- a stark contrast to Kurtz's critical reporting of how Fox News avoided coverage of the scandal while he worked for CNN.
Rupert Murdoch is reportedly planning to step down as CEO of Fox News' parent company 21st Century Fox. According to CNBC, Murdoch's son James will take over as CEO and son Lachlan will assume the role of "executive co-chairman" of the company in coordination with their father. James Murdoch previously resigned his role as the head of News International -- which published several tabloids and newspapers abroad -- amid the widespread scandal over phone hacking at News of the World, a since-shuttered UK tabloid he oversaw. As part of the fallout from that scandal, Murdoch also resigned his position as chairman of UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
On the June 14 edition of Fox News' Media Buzz, host Howard Kurtz used news of the company restructuring as an opportunity to highlight Rupert Murdoch's career, praising him for bringing "huge changes to the media landscape," including "conquering the world of British newspapers, revolutionizing TV sports here in the states, launching the fourth American broadcast network, and of course building a hugely successful and profitable cable news network." To highlight Murdoch's influence, Kurtz added that "when something goes wrong like the phone hacking scandal at the now defunct News of the World, he gets the blame."
Kurtz's report glazing over Murdoch's involvement in the phone hacking scandal and mentioning it only as a way to highlight the former CEO's influence stands in stark contrast to the way Fox's media critic covered the scandal while working for CNN.
In July 2011, as the host of CNN's Reliable Sources, Kurtz criticized Fox News for underplaying coverage of Murdoch's phone hacking scandal which involved Fox's then-parent company News Corp., and said that news networks that avoid covering their own controversies create "a double standard" and "undermine your credibility":
KURTZ: I feel very strongly about this. I mean, we do it on this program all the time when CNN has controversy, I always cover it. And otherwise, what you're signaling to viewers is there's a double standard. We're only aggressive when some other organization is in trouble. And I think that can undermine your credibility.
Kurtz has made a habit of ignoring controversies related to Fox News during his employment at the network, despite promising to bring an "independent brand of media criticism" to Fox.
Loading the player reg...
It's good to be the king. Or in the case of James Murdoch, it's good to be the son of the king.
In announcing that his sons James and Lachlan will be largely taking control of his sprawling media company, press baron Rupert Murdoch did what observers always knew he wanted to do: pass on to his children the worldwide conglomerate that he's built over the last five decades. In the United Sates, of course, that means handing over to his sons one of most important and influential voices in right-wing media and far-right politics, Fox News.
James Murdoch will soon be named CEO of 21st Century Fox, while Lachlan Murdoch will become executive chairman alongside their father, who for now will reportedly maintain a daily presence at the company. Fox News kingpin Roger Ailes will continue to report directly to the senior Murdoch. (Noticeably absent from the succession plans is daughter Elisabeth, a respected media executive who has at times been publicly critical of her brother James.)
That long-awaited changeover was thrown into doubt when the sweeping phone-hacking scandal in England rocked the Murdoch family and their media properties.
Watching father Rupert and son James testify before skeptical members of Parliament in 2011 as the duo did their best to explain away the media scandal raised some doubts about whether the sons would be best-suited to succeed their father. In 2011, more than a third of News Corp. shareholders who voted at a meeting declared that they were not. But of course, while being a publicly traded company, the Murdoch family controls about 40% of the voting shares of News Corp., the publishing operation (New York Post, Wall Street Journal), and 21st Century Fox, which contains the more profitable TV and film operations, including Fox News.
With James Murdoch's public reputation quickly sinking against the hacking backdrop in 2012, he was jettisoned far away from the scandal klieg lights of London and fitted for a Murdoch corporate job in Los Angeles, where he worked until his latest promotion. As the New York Times points out, "in hindsight, the departure of [James] Murdoch and his removal from involvement with News Corporation's British holdings can be seen as part of a calculated strategy to insulate him from the scandal there and resurrect him in the sprawling media company controlled by his father."
Still, UK media regulator Ofcom's report on the hacking debacle excoriated James' leadership, or lack thereof, and concluded that the younger Murdoch "repeatedly fell short of the conduct to be expected of as a chief executive and chairman" as the company engaged in phone hacking and that his failure to stop the wrongdoing was "difficult to comprehend and ill-judged.
In the end, James Murdoch had the right last name and survived the scandal; the type of criminal and political upheaval that not many media companies have had to endure in recent memory. Then again, not many media companies at times resemble a low-level criminal enterprise, which is what Murdoch's empire looked like for years as it hacked into private phone voicemails of the royal family, star athletes and celebrities in search of juicy gossip. In recent years, Murdoch employees have allegedly not only hacked into phones, computers and emails, but also paid off news sources.
UPDATE: Roger Ailes Will Report To James And Lachlan, New Report Also Indicates Ailes Aired Rogue Statement On Fox
Rupert Murdoch is reportedly planning to step down as CEO of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox "and hand that title to his son James," according to CNBC. James Murdoch previously resigned his role as the head of News International -- which published several tabloids and newspapers abroad -- amid the widespread scandal over phone hacking at News of the World, a since-shuttered UK tabloid he oversaw. As part of the fallout from that scandal, Murdoch also resigned his position as chairman of UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
According to CNBC, "Rupert Murdoch will continue to be the executive chairman of Fox, while his son Lachlan would also become an executive co-chairman of the company."
James Murdoch has reportedly drawn the ire of Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who allegedly called him a "fucking dope" over his inability to contain the hacking scandal. (Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz claims that despite James Murdoch's new position, "Ailes will still report to Rupert.")
A source quoted by CNBC claims "James will have the primary role in running Fox while Lachlan will take on a broader strategic role from his co-chairman position." Lachlan Murdoch has also reportedly butted heads with Ailes in the past.
As Media Matters previously noted, James Murdoch donated between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000 to the Clinton Foundation, which has been the target of a smear campaign by conservative media figures, including near-constant scandal-mongering on Fox News.
According to federal filings, James Murdoch donated $2,300 -- the maximum amount allowed for an individual -- to Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. A review of the OpenSecrets database shows Murdoch has donated to both sides of the aisle, including multiple donations to the National Republican Congressional Committee and various elected Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Lindsey Graham, as well as Democrats like Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Steny Hoyer.
Contrary to what Fox News reported last week, 21st Century Fox released a statement to the Hollywood Reporter saying that Ailes will not report directly to Rupert Murdoch. Instead, the Fox News chief "will report to Lachlan and James but will continue his unique and long-standing relationship with Rupert."
New York magazine writer Gabriel Sherman reports that Ailes himself ordered Fox Business to read "what now appears to be a rogue statement" on-air last week that suggested he would not be directly affected by the change in management:
Just five days earlier, Ailes released what now appears to be a rogue statement to his own Fox Business channel declaring that he would be unaffected by the announcement that Lachlan and James will take control of Fox as part of Rupert's succession plan. "Roger Ailes will continue to run the news network, reporting directly to Rupert Murdoch," Fox Business reported. According to a well-placed source, Ailes directed Fox Business executive Bill Shine to tell anchor Stuart Varney to read the statement on air. "Ailes told Shine to write the announcement of the move for Varney to say," the source said. "In it, Ailes inserted language that he would report to Rupert."
This was, apparently, news to Rupert. And now the Murdochs are correcting the record. "Roger will report to Lachlan and James," a 21st Century Fox spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter.
Watch the video of Varney reading the "rogue" statement below:
CNBC panelist Jeffrey Sonnenfeld suggested that 21st Century Fox's effort to acquire Time Warner is driven by a nepotistic desire to provide Rupert Murdoch's "poor performing" sons with pieces of the family business and highlighted News Corp.'s phone hacking scandal as an example of the Murdoch family's questionable management record.
Time Warner's board of directors took measures to prevent a hostile takeover by Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox by "eliminating a provision in its bylaws that let shareholders call special meetings" -- a move that would prevent shareholders from forcing a vote on the takeover until June 2015.
Panelists on the July 22 edition of Squawk Box suggested Fox's offer undervalues Time Warner. Sonnenfeld, also a dean at the Yale School of Management, went on to say the takeover effort was part of the Murdoch family's plan to "deal with potential succession" by acquiring large businesses to hand over to Murdoch's sons, James Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch. But Sonnenfeld described the sons as "poor performing" managers, saying in particular that James Murdoch had been tainted by the phone hacking scandal at News Corp.
SONNENFELD: This is basically a deal for Rupert to eventually -- an 83-year-old guy who's run the company for 62 years -- to try to deal with these perpetual succession questions by giving, you know, Lachlan, one son one piece of the business -- one, you know, poor-performing son -- the other poor-performing son, James, another piece of the business in the News Corp.-21st Century Fox split here. But all this [unintelligible] --
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN (host): So you are not a fan of the Murdoch family, it sounds like.
SONNENFELD: Well, they've not distinguished themselves as leaders. You know, Lachlan had a temper tantrum and left a couple years ago and just came back in this spring with this deal for News Corp. liberation of sorts. And then the 21st Century Fox, we have James, who certainly has soiled himself in the whole scandal -- the phone hacking and all the rest in the U.K. And at minimum, a failure of management oversight is awful. Even Fox's shareholders were pretty upset with him.
As part of the ongoing fallout from the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal, James Murdoch, who earlier this year resigned as head of Murdoch's UK newspaper empire, today appeared at a judicial inquiry about press culture in the UK.
In keeping with his (and his father's) pattern of denying knowledge of the extent of the hacking at the News of the World tabloid, Murdoch reportedly told the inquiry that News of the World executives kept him in the dark about the scale of the hacking problem.
He has consistently maintained that the paper's management failed to alert him to the scale of the problem.
"Knowing what we know now about the culture at the News of the World in 2006, and from what we know about the alleged widespread nature of these poor practices, then it must have been cavalier about risk and that is a matter of huge regret," James Murdoch told a packed courtroom.
Asked if he read the weekly News of the World, he said "I wouldn't say I read all of it," and asked about its daily sister paper, the Sun, he said he had "tried to familiarize myself with what was in it".
Murdoch was also pressed on a 2008 email chain that mentioned a "nightmare scenario" involving potential legal consequences of phone hacking at News of the World. When these emails first surfaced in December, Murdoch released a statement admitting to both receiving and replying to the email, but also denying having read "the full e-mail chain." According to the BBC, Murdoch repeated this defense today:
In December, another email from 2008 was released indicating Mr Murdoch had been copied into messages referring to the "rife" practice of phone hacking at the News of the World and also citing the "For Neville" email.
Mr Murdoch has said although he was copied into the email, he did not read it fully.
He told the inquiry: "I didn't read the email chain. It was a Saturday, I had just come back from Hong Kong, I was with my children. I responded in minutes."
He said he now accepts that the "For Neville" email was "a thread" that raised the suspicion of wider phone hacking at the News of the World.
"The fact it suggested other people might have been involved in phone hacking - that part of its importance was not imparted to me that day," he said.
News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch is scheduled to appear before inquiry on Wednesday and Thursday.
A former editor for Rupert Murdoch's shuttered tabloid News of the World is defending the publication's routine use of the fictional byline "Edward Trevor," a practice which is reportedly under investigation by Scotland Yard.
Over the weekend, The Independent reported that "[d]etectives are interested in Trevor because this 'house byline' appeared on work that for various reasons the real author did not want to be associated with." Trevor's byline appears on hundreds of stories published in the infamous British newspaper, which Murdoch closed last year amidst allegations that reporters there engaged in widespread phone hacking and police bribery.
But Stuart White, who served as News of the World's LA-based American Editor from 1994 to 2003 and is now a novelist, tells Media Matters there is nothing unique or nefarious about the use of a "house byline" like Edward Trevor, adding, "the back story to this is that both The Independent and the Guardian are obsessed with ravaging the corpse of the News of the World."
Due to the ongoing investigation of the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal, James Murdoch has stepped down as chairman of UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB. BBC reported:
James Murdoch has resigned his role as chairman of UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB, but will remain on the board.
His father Rupert founded its parent company News Corporation, which had to drop its bid for BSkyB amid a phone-hacking scandal at a UK newspaper.
James Murdoch said in a statement that he did want want BSkyB to be undermined by "matters outside this company".
Sources told Robert Peston, the BBC's business editor, that it was Mr Murdoch's own decision to leave.
Mr Murdoch said on Tuesday: "As attention continues to be paid to past events at News International, I am determined that the interests of BSkyB should not be undermined by matters outside the scope of this company.
"I am aware that my role as chairman could become a lightning rod for BSkyB and I believe that my resignation will help to ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organisation."
In February, James Murdoch resigned as chairman of News International.
Loading the player reg...
More than eight months after News Corp.'s long-simmering phone-hacking scandal erupted in Britain last July, and eight months after Rupert Murdoch and his top lieutenants insisted the law-breaking inside his London tabloids had been limited to a rogue element, the scandal yet again this week has accelerated with surprising force.
Two days after Scotland Yard revealed that Murdoch's tabloid The Sun had engaged in a sweeping pattern of illegal activity, and one week after it was alleged that News Corp. had implemented a policy of deleting sensitive emails regarding hacking at News of the World, today Murdoch's son James resigned as chairman of News International, a coveted post that oversees Murdoch's U.K. newspaper empire.
Prior to the hacking humiliation, the 39-year-old Murdoch was seen as the likely heir to his father's global media throne. In making the announcement today, News Corp. made no mention of the hacking investigation, instead noting that Murdoch had resigned his position as part of a previously announced relocation from London to News Corp.'s world headquarters in New York. But it's impossible to view the resignation outside of the scandal that continues to eat away at the Murdoch family reputation.
The pressing problem the Murdochs now face is that the blockbuster story has truly morphed into a hacking and bribery scandal, and James Murdoch is implicated in both.
What's telling is that when Rupert Murdoch's legal troubles mounted last year, he specifically devised a defense that he thought would help inoculate James, according to a recent report in BusinessWeek. That strategy, and the larger News Corp. cover-up, has failed.
The first News Corporation shareholders meeting since news of the company's scandalous widespread phone-hacking broke is scheduled for today in California. News Corp. is already facing a shareholder lawsuit and was recently placed on a list of risky investments as a result of poor corporate governance. The New York Times reports that shareholders will vote on the company's board members and speak directly to the Murdochs at the meeting:
The gathering is expected to be the company's most contentious in years, with frustrated shareholders taking the microphone to demand accountability after a phone-hacking scandal in Britain that has embarrassed the company.
Investors will also have the chance to vote on the company's board members, including Mr. Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan. While the family's 40 percent stake virtually guarantees they will be re-elected, the chorus of discontent has put the company in an uncustomary defensive position.
MP Tom Watson of the British Labour Party will also attend the shareholder meeting:
The most forceful, and potentially most ominous protest is likely to come from Tom Watson, the British Labour Party legislator who has led the investigation into phone-hacking at News Corporation's British newspaper unit. Mr. Watson, who acquired nonvoting proxy shareholder status to attend the meeting, said he planned to accuse the company of engaging in further criminal wrongdoing involving surveillance techniques that extend beyond the phone hacking. He did not discuss potential evidence.
"A lot of institutional investors do not know the scope nor the implications of what's happening in the U.K.," Mr. Watson said in a phone interview. "You can delegate power but not responsibility, and Rupert Murdoch for whatever reason has failed to put in corporate governance arrangements that prohibit crimes from being committed."
Loading the player reg...
"Climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats," Rupert Murdoch declared in a 2007 speech announcing News Corp.'s new climate initiative. "We may not agree on the extent, but we certainly can't afford the risk of inaction."
"We can do something that's unique, different from just any other company," said Murdoch. "We can set an example, and we can reach our audiences. Our audience's carbon footprint is 10,000 times bigger than ours.
"That's the carbon footprint we want to conquer."
Four years later, News Corp. has achieved its goal of carbon neutrality. Yet no media outlet in the United States does more to aggressively undermine climate science than Fox News. The network regularly distorts data, fabricates controversies, and smears climate experts. One of Fox's top editors has even ordered reporters to cast doubt on the basic fact that the planet is warming. And Sean Hannity has used his Fox show to tell viewers that global warming "doesn't exist."
The contrast between what News Corp.'s chairman says and what its employees actually do is a stark illustration of the company's attempt to play both sides of the climate issue.
When Murdoch launched his company-wide initiative to radically reduce News Corp.'s carbon footprint and combat climate change, one business expert said that it "could be one of the most brilliant strategic moves I've ever heard of."
With Fox News, explained Joe Priester of the University of Southern California, News Corp. had secured a lucrative spot with conservative consumers but had alienated those at the opposite end of the political spectrum. By launching its climate initiative, the company could make a play for more liberal consumers too.
But now Murdoch's attempt to promote -- and profit from -- contradictory messages on climate change could put News Corp. on a collision course with its green-conscious advertisers, as environmental organizations that have partnered with the company start to speak out on the damage being done by Fox News.
Like father's employee, like son?
Rupert Murdoch's son James reportedly crashed the London offices of The Independent because the paper had produced promotional ads stating, "Rupert Murdoch won't decide this election. You will."
The Guardian reports:
But [Rupert's] son James seems less ready to turn the other cheek, as it were. And this would seem to be the most plausible explanation for why Murdoch the younger, the chairman and chief executive News Corporation Europe and Asia, caused a media sensation on Wednesday by striding across the editorial floor at the Independent newspaper to berate its editor-in-chief, Simon Kelner.
In common with so many of the unpleasant episodes involving angry young men in modern London, it was a squall about reputation and respect. The newly relaunched Independent had produced a series of relatively innocuous promotional ads assuring readers: "Rupert Murdoch won't decide this election. You will."
There is no evidence that Murdoch senior has even seen the ads, but witnesses report that directly upon seeing Kelner, who was supervising the final production stages of that night's paper, Murdoch the younger began angry remonstrations. "What are you fucking playing at?" was his opening gambit.
The episode left experienced journalists shocked. "They strode in like a scene out of Dodge City," said one. "Murdoch scanned the room, you could almost hear him saying 'Where is he?'"
It looks like the younger Murdoch may be a big fan of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly who has become infamous over the years for ambushing those critical of the conservative network.