Fox News is deep in an ethics quagmire following a Washington Post report that the network's CEO Roger Ailes used Fox News analyst K.T. McFarland to try to recruit Gen. David Petraeus to run for the president as a Republican. While Ailes and McFarland made their secret overtures, McFarland appeared on Fox's airwaves to praise Petraeus as "one of the greatest generals in American history."
According to The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, Ailes had McFarland advise Petraeus that he "should turn down an expected offer from President Obama to become CIA director" and instead hold out for the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and to resign and run for president if he was not offered that post. In audio of the meeting obtained by Woodward, Petraeus also said to McFarland that he had been advised that Ailes might resign as Fox News chief and act as a Petraeus aide should the general run for president. He also said that Ailes might bankroll the campaign, although he added that maybe it was News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch who had made that offer.
Woodward also reported that Ailes has acknowledged that he did ask McFarland to make the pitch: "It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have." Ailes also called McFarland "way out of line" in some of her comments.
This would be an ethical problem by itself: Ailes -- the chief of a supposedly objective news network -- was advising an active general who was commanding U.S. troops in the middle of a war to make demands of the president, and if those demands were not met, to run for president with Ailes acting as his aide.
But the ethics problem is much worse than that. McFarland appeared on Fox's airwaves soon after meeting with Petraeus to praise him as "one of the greatest generals in American history" who will save us from defeat in Afghanistan. While McFarland was putting Petraeus on at least the same level as Ulysses S. Grant, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Dwight Eisenhower, she provided no disclosure of her and Ailes' advice that Petraeus should consider running for president.
From the April 21, 2011, edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
McFARLAND: When I was there two years ago, Jenna, I looked around and I concluded this is hopeless. Now with General Petraeus, who is one of the greatest generals in American history, he has gone in and he has devised a plan that will work. And the question is not, will it work, but the question is, should we be doing this? Is this an objective, is this a mission that we want? And as you have pointed out, it's expensive. And are we at this point -- you know, where is America's priorities?
JENNA LEE (co-host): Are we in this kind of stalemate [in Afghanistan] like it seems some are describing in Libya -- of course we're not there with combat troops -- but where no side is really gaining any ground and nothing really changes?
McFARLAND: Well the plan that -- the Petraeus plan is to really spend this summer -- they've diminished and decimated the middle ranks of Al Qaeda at the same time they've built up the middle ranks, the mid-level management of the Afghans. So the plan is to continue to make inroads into the Al Qaeda -- not the Al Qaeda so much as the Taliban, and then have slowly but surely the Afghans take over. And it will take a number of years to do that.
McFARLAND: We're doing the military part right, but it's a three-legged stool. And the other parts of the stool, the other legs, are the Afghan government and the Pakistani government, which has safe havens for the Taliban.
During the Happening Now segment, Fox even aired a photo of McFarland's meeting with Petraeus without disclosing what they discussed about Petraeus' future:
From the December 2 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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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."
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch rebuffed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's attempt not to politicize the response to Hurricane Sandy.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Christie praised President Obama's response to the storm. Murdoch responded by tweeting that Christie "while thanking O, must re-declare for Romney or take blame for next four dire years." The Murdoch-owned New York Post went further, demanding that Christie say that Obama's response to Sandy "would have been more than matched by Mitt Romney had he been president." The Post said that if Christie did not follow this advice, "the Republican Party will never forgive him."
Now, The New York Times has reported that Murdoch's tweet prompted Christie to call Murdoch on November 3 to personally explain that "amid the devastation, New Jersey needed friends no matter their political party." But Murdoch rebuffed Christie's explanation for why he had praised Obama and, according to the Times, bluntly told Christie that he "risked looking like a spoiler unless he publicly reaffirmed his support for Romney." Following the call, Christie reiterated his support for Romney the following day.
From the New York Times:
On Nov. 3, Mr. Christie called Rupert Murdoch, the influential News Corporation chief and would-be kingmaker, who had warned in a biting post on Twitter that the governor might be responsible for Mr. Obama's re-election.
Mr. Christie told Mr. Murdoch that amid the devastation, New Jersey needed friends, no matter their political party, according to people briefed on the discussion. But Mr. Murdoch was blunt: Mr. Christie risked looking like a spoiler unless he publicly affirmed his support for Mitt Romney, something the governor did the next day.
Despite Christie's re-endorsement of Romney, personalities at Fox News -- which Murdoch owns -- and other right-wing media figures lashed out at Christie following Obama's reelection.
From the November 18 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch criticized the "Jewish owned press" for its coverage of the conflict in Gaza in a November 17 tweet:
The Anti-Defamation League writes of the "anti-Semitic lie" that "Jews control the banks, the media, and the government":
This myth originates with The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, a proven forgery. The forgery continues to promote the stereotype that Jews own the banks and control the media. The reality is, in societies, like the United States, individuals who identify as Jews have succeeded. But in almost every other country where Jews have lived, they have been a small minority and experienced centuries of persecution.
The Daily Beast's Peter Beinert writes that Murdoch's comment is offensive to journalists as well as to Jewish people and suggests that Murdoch believes reporters for his publications should conform their reporting to his political views:
It's offensive to journalists because it implies that institutions of the "press" should reflect the ideological biases of their owners. Reading Murdoch's tweet, it would be logical to conclude that he believes that any newspaper he owns should reflect his right-wing views, even in its news coverage. The FCC might want to consider that when evaluating Murdoch's reported bid to buy the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.
In the wake of the Mitt Romney's loss in the 2012 presidential election, Fox News personalities are urging the Republican Party to reach out to Latinos and immigrants. But these same figures have spewed anti-immigrant rhetoric for years.
New York Magazine's Gabriel Sherman reported that after Fox News initially made the call that President Obama had won Ohio, Karl Rove -- a contributor to the network and the head of a pro-Mitt Romney super PAC -- fought against the decision, causing "Fox News' top producers" to call a meeting with Rove and two of the people in charge of making the Ohio call, Arnon Mishkin and Chris Stirewalt.
Ultimately, Fox decided to have Mishkin and Stirewalt explain their reasoning on-air. But rather than have the duo appear on camera, producers decided to have Fox anchor Megyn Kelly "walk through the office and interview" Mishkin and Stirewalt in a conference room. Sherman reported that an anonymous Fox insider said: "This is Fox News ... so anytime there's a chance to show off Megyn Kelly's legs they'll go for it."
From Sherman's article:
Shortly after 11 p.m., Bret Baier went on-camera to read a script written by Fox's Washington managing editor Bill Sammon, based on an analysis by the network's decision desk, announcing Ohio for Obama. "That's the presidency, essentially," Baier said.
Instantly, Fox phones lit up with angry phone calls and e-mails from the Romney campaign, who believed that the call was premature, since tallies in several Republican-leaning Southern counties hadn't been been fully tabulated. "The Romney people were totally screaming that we're totally wrong," one Fox source said. "To various people, they were saying, 'your decision team is wrong.'" According to a Fox insider, Rove had been in contact with the Romney people all night. After the Ohio call, Rove -- whose super-PAC had spent as much as $300 million on the election, to little avail -- took their complaints public, conducting an on-air primer on Ohio's electoral math in disputing the call.
This time, it was the network divided against itself, and Fox News' top producers held a meeting to adjudicate. The decision desk stood their ground. They knew how momentous the call was. Earlier in the night, according to a source, before making the call, Arnon Mishkin, who heads the decision desk, told Fox brass, "let's remember this is Fox News calling Ohio. This will say something beyond Ohio going for Obama." Fox brass told Mishkin to get the numbers right and ignore the politics: "If we think Ohio has gone Obama, we call Ohio," said a Fox News executive.
With neither side backing down, senior producers had to find a way to split the difference. One idea was for two members of the decision team, Mishkin and Fox's digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt, to go on camera with Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier to squelch the doubts over the call. But then it was decided that Kelly would walk through the office and interview the decision team in the conference room. "This is Fox News," an insider said, "so anytime there's a chance to show off Megyn Kelly's legs they'll go for it."
PBS' Frontline recently aired a documentary titled "Climate of Doubt," examining how conservative groups, frequently funded by the fossil fuel industry, have pushed Republicans to reject the scientific consensus on manmade global warming. Here, Media Matters looks back at how Fox News has contributed to that "Climate of Doubt," often teaming up with industry to misrepresent science and attack all efforts to address this threat.
Fox News implicated its own parent company, News Corp., in a pro-President Obama conspiracy theory.
Fox host Steve Doocy questioned the National Geographic Channel's decision to air a film about the Osama Bin Laden raid days before the election. Doocy stated: "They say it has nothing to do with politics ... But a controversial movie about the Osama Bin Laden raid will air on the National Geographic Channel two days before our general election. The channel says the air date was picked to promote its fall season. Hmm, coincidence. Right."
The documentary, produced by Obama supporter Harvey Weinstein is to air on the National Geographic Channel on November 4. But News Corp., Fox News' parent company, is the majority owner of the National Geographic Channel.
Nevertheless, during the segment, on-screen text stated: "Political Premiere? UBL Film To Air 2 Days Before Election":
Fox News frequently accuses media of a liberal bias. Now it seems to have found liberal bias within its own parent company.
In 89 segments between September 10 and 16, Fox News reported on the Chicago Teachers Union's strike without disclosing its financial ties to the educational technology company administering the standardized tests with which the union takes issue.
Fox News parent company News Corp. acquired a 90-percent stake in Wireless Generation in 2010. Last May, the company agreed to provide Early Mathematics Assessment Services and Early Literacy Assessment Services to Chicago Public Schools. These contracts total $4.7 million. A central reason the Chicago Teachers Union decided to strike is their objection to the school district's call for heavily weighing such standardized testing to ultimately determine teacher pay and layoffs.
But Fox News anchors and reporters never once disclosed its parent company's ties to Wireless Generation even as the network routinely criticized the strike and the Chicago Teachers Union.
The programs that covered the story most often:Fox & Friends (including the First, Saturday, and Sunday editions) with 31 segments over the entire week; America's News Headquarters aired 12 segments this last weekend alone; America Live was next with 7 segments; and Fox Report with Shepard Smith and Special Report followed with 6 segments each. Not one segment disclosed News Corp.'s business relationship with Wireless Generation despite repeated mentions and discussions of the teacher evaluations at the heart of the strike.
During Monday's Special Report with Bret Baier, correspondent Steve Brown reported of the strike: "At issue, says the union president, is trust." Indeed. It's also an issue for Fox News. How can Fox's viewers trust that the network has provided a "fair and balanced" overview of events unfolding in Chicago when it won't disclose its financial interests?
Americans who rely on Fox News or conservative radio as their main sources of information are more likely to have negative views of Latinos and immigrants than those who watch more mainstream outlets. That's according to a new study by the National Hispanic Media Coalition, which found that "[c]onservative talk radio and Fox News audiences hold significantly more anti-immigrant and anti-Latino opinions." NHMC stated that Fox News audiences are "more likely to agree that Latinos are on welfare (56%), take jobs from Americans (43%) and have too many children (42%)."
The study, done in conjunction with Latino Decisions, explained that "[c]onservative radio and Fox News program viewers are less familiar and less favorable toward Latinos and immigrants on nearly every measure included in the survey," adding:
Only 54% of those who trust Fox News, and 56% of those who trust talk radio give Latinos favorable marks. That is ten points lower than those who trust National Public Radio (NPR).
News source differences are even more dramatic when evaluating responses to the term "illegal alien", as shown below. The share of NPR audiences that rate illegal aliens poorly is 46%, compared to 70% of FOX News audiences, and 67% of talk radio listeners. About one third of NPR's audience rates illegal aliens favorably, but less than half of conservative media audiences do the same (13%).
Indeed, as NHMC noted, "language matters." But Fox News has refused to abandon the offensive terms even as other news outlets recognize it skews public debate and reinforces negative stereotypes of immigrants.
Media critic Howard Kurtz wrote in the Daily Beast today that News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch gave vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan "a strong nudge" onto the Republican ticket.
Kurtz explained that Murdoch "used a combination of private persuasion, newspaper crusading, and Twitter talk to urge Mitt Romney's campaign to shake things up. And soon after Romney unveiled his running mate on Saturday morning, Murdoch posted a 140-character message of approval."
From Kurtz's Daily Beast piece headlined "Rupert Murdoch Gets His Man As Mitt Romney Picks Paul Ryan":
It would be too much to say that Rupert Murdoch pushed Paul Ryan onto the Republican presidential ticket. But he certainly gave the conservative congressman a strong nudge.
The media mogul used a combination of private persuasion, newspaper crusading, and Twitter talk to urge Mitt Romney's campaign to shake things up. And soon after Romney unveiled his running mate on Saturday morning, Murdoch posted a 140-character message of approval:
"Thank God! Now we might have a real election on the great issues of the day. Paul Ryan almost perfect choice."
The enthusiastic tone was a marked contrast from last month, when Murdoch huddled privately with the GOP nominee and seemed to come away distinctly unimpressed.
"Met Romney last week," he tweeted. "Tough O Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless he drops old friends from his team and hires some real pros. Doubtful."
Romney declined to fire anyone, and Murdoch's Wall Street Journal continued to ding him in editorials. On Thursday, the editorial page dropped the subtlety and practically demanded: Why not Paul Ryan?
Mitt Romney's selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate marks yet another surrender by the Republican nominee to the right-wing media. On the ropes after a brutal month and with his conservative media allies threatening to abandon him, Romney was left with no choice but to pick a favorite of that crowd, even though, as the Washington Post's Ezra Klein notes, that pick both drives his candidacy further to the right and represents an abandonment of his campaign strategy to date.
Why else would a candidate who had built his campaign around the idea that business experience trumped public sector experience choose someone who had spent his life in government? Why else would a candidate who had studiously avoided giving any policy details lash himself to someone so closely associated with complex proposals to slash the social safety net?
Over the past week the leading lights of the right-wing media have demanded that Romney prove his conservative principles by selecting Ryan as his running mate, with praise for the potential pick coming from the editors of The Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal, and National Review.
Fox News, the most powerful right-wing media outlet in the country, has spent years praising Ryan as a "star," a "genius," and a man of "courage." News Corp. was ground zero for the GOP's rollout of Ryan's budget, which their networks heavily touted. Last year Fox contributors called for Ryan to run for president in his own right. Fox News Sunday even made Paul Ryan a birthday cake for an appearance he made on the program.
Romney leapt at the opportunity to please those opinion leaders and their audiences.
It couldn't come at a better time for the Republican nominee, who seemed to have lost the trust of his base in recent days, as woeful polls and gaffe after gaffe unfolded. What could have been the final straw came when Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul dared to tout the health care plan Romney passed as governor of Massachusetts - probably his signature accomplishment in government. The response from the right-wing media was swift and brutal, with CNN contributor Erick Erickson suggesting that the comments could have cost Romney the election and Ann Coulter calling for a boycott on Romney contributions until the campaign fired Saul.
Expect such criticisms to die away now that Romney has picked their "rock star."
Fox News is not disclosing its clear conflict of interest in defending Chick-fil-A against criticism over the fast-food restaurant's stance on marriage equality, as the controversy stands to benefit HarperCollins, a publishing company owned by Fox News' parent company, News Corporation.
Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy set off a controversy when, during a July 16 interview, he said that his company supports "the biblical definition of the family unit." Cathy later said in a radio interview, "As it relates to society in general, I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.' "
Amid calls to boycott the company over the anti-marriage equality remarks, The Jim Henson Company, which created toys for Chick-fil-A, spoke out against the restaurant, writing on Facebook: "[W]e have notified Chick-Fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors. Lisa Henson, our CEO is personally a strong supporter of gay marriage and has directed us to donate the payment we received from Chick-Fil-A to GLAAD." Chick-fil-A then announced it had pulled the Henson toys, citing safety concerns.
Following the split with The Jim Henson Company, Chick-fil-A replaced the toys with the children's books The Berenstain Bears. As reported by NBC News, a statement on the Berenstain company website "said the books' publisher, HarperCollins, has been working on this marketing project for more than a year." The statement read, in part:
The Berenstain family does not at this time have control over whether this program proceeds or not. We hope those concerned about this issue will direct their comments toward HarperCollins and Chick-fil-A.
While all this has been going on, Fox has been defending Chick-fil-A while not disclosing that it has an interest in doing so. Both Fox and HarperCollins, the publisher of the Berenstain Bears books, are subsidiaries of News Corporation. If the HarperCollins marketing project suffers as a result of a decline in sales brought about by the Chick-fil-A controversy, News Corp. stands to take a hit to its bottom line.