Media Matters documented that Fox News hasn't spent much time reporting on what is undeniably one of the biggest news stories percolating in the recent news cycle -- News Corp.'s phone-hacking scandal. The scandal is so large that even the FBI has gotten involved, reportedly opening a preliminary investigation into News Corp., stemming from allegations that News Corp. journalists sought to hack 9-11 victims' phones. Fox & Friends, in particular, has made scant mention of the scandal, regulating its coverage mainly to news briefs. Until today.
In what could be seen as a sign that News Corp. is actually terrified about the unfolding and far-reaching hacking scandal, Roger Ailes sent out his favorite attack dogs to defend Fox's parent company. Fox & Friends hosted a segment with Robert Dilenschneider, head of a communications firm, to discuss the issue. In a nutshell, co-host Steve Doocy and Dilenschneider argued that everyone just needed to get over the scandal and move on.
Here are their arguments:
1) The "public" and the "media" are "piling on" News Corp., and that needs to stop.
2) The scandal is no big deal because the Pentagon and other major corporations have been hacked.
3) News Corp. has done "all the right things" in response to the scandal.
4) We've got "serious problems in this country right now," so why is the media "talk[ing] about this?"
5) This happened years ago, so what's the big deal?
6) Everyone just needs to "move on and deal with the important topics of the day."
From the July 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends
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From the July 14 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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News Corp.'s long-simmering phone-hacking scandal has reignited, throwing its global media empire into turmoil. As allegations of hacking into private citizens' voicemail increase, media and tabloid practices have been called into question. With a large and influential presence in the United States, News Corp. and its subsidiaries (including Fox News) should be under intense scrutiny in the American press. A Media Matters analysis has found great disparity in the amount of coverage given to the scandal by CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News.
As we've documented, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have called on U.S. authorities to investigate whether the News Corp. phone hacking and bribery scandal violated U.S. law.
Now George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr -- a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a former special counsel for Supreme Court nominations to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), and an expert in computer crime law -- has written that News Corp.'s hacking of individuals in the United Kingdom may violate the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. (And this doesn't even take into account the issue of whether, in addition to victims in the United Kingdom, News Corp. hacked 9/11 victims or other Americans.)
From Kerr's post on the libertarian Volokh Conspiracy blog:
The hacking has had huge ripple effects, ranging from its impact on UK politics to Rupert Murdoch. I wanted to blog about one angle to the story I haven't seen covered elsewhere: Did these intrusions violate U.S. federal criminal law? Put another way, could the federal government prosecute individuals for the hacking in the U.K.?
We don't know all the details yet, but I think it's possible. I've blogged a lot about the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. 1030, which prohibits unauthorized access to protected computers. I've regularly pointed out that this statute is extraordinarily broad, and its breadth is relevant here. Some of the analysis is easy: Hacking in to another person's voicemail box is clearly an unauthorized access, and the computers that host voicemail files are clearly "computers." See, e.g., United States v. Kramer (8th Cir. 2010). But more interestingly, the fact that the hacking was probably all done outside the U.S. probably doesn't matter, even if all the computers that were hacked are outside the U.S. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act extends to computers outside the United States in most circumstances. Here's the key statutory language:
the term "protected computer" means a computer . . . which is used in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or communication, including a computer located outside the United States that is used in a manner that affects interstate or foreign commerce or communication of the United States;
One significant uncertainty is how much if any nexus to the United States is required under the Foreign Commerce Clause to constitute a channel of foreign commerce: Does that mean a channel of commerce with the United States, or just among foreign nations? And in the case of an international network like the phone network or the Internet, is the relevant question whether the communications involved the United States at that time or whether the channels themselves interacted with United States networks more generally? These issues don't come up often because prosecutions of foreign conduct are rare. And in the case of the "News of the World" hacks, we don't know what role any U.S. networks or computers played. But depending on how the foreign commerce clause arguments are resolved, there's a chance that the intrusions may be chargeable under United States criminal law in addition to under the law of the UK. [italics in the original]
An oil shale company that counts Rupert Murdoch as both a key investor and member of its "strategic advisory board" is standing by the embattled News Corp. chairman as public outrage grows over allegations that his British tabloids illegally hacked the voicemails of thousands of people and bribed the police.
"Rupert Murdoch is a valued member of Genie Energy's Strategic Advisory Board, and we hope and expect that he will continue in that capacity," Genie Energy chairman Howard Jonas told Media Matters in an emailed statement today.
From the July 13 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Hollywood stars, according to Reuters, have been "largely silent" on Rupert Murdoch's widening News of the World phone-hacking scandal in part because "few American stars appear to have been targeted" and -- perhaps more significantly -- because many have ties to the Murdoch empire.
An anonymous "industry source" reportedly told Reuters: "'Murdoch touches everybody in some way, so nobody is standing up' to speak publicly."
As celebrities and politicians in the U.K. have already learned, this is a dangerous game to play. For years, investigations into News of the World's illegal activities there were slow-walked, and people of influence remained "largely silent." But after the Guardian broke the news earlier this month that Murdoch's tabloid apparently hacked the voicemails of a teen murder victim, it became impossible to look the other way.
From the July 13 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the July 13 edition of NBC's Today:
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Massachusetts Congressman John Tierney joined Congressman Bruce Braley to call on Congressman Darell Issa, Chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, to hold a hearing on the allegations that News Corp. attempted to hack 9/11 victims and other Americans.
You can read their follow-up letter to Chairman Issa here.
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin called for congressional hearings and criminal investigations into News Corp.'s alleged hacking activites in the U.S. on Meet the Press. He added that "there are questions about whether the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has been violated by Rupert Murdoch and his news empire and what's going on in England is startling."
Michigan Congressman John Conyers, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, announced on Friday that "the Democratic Staff of the House Judiciary Committee will review allegations that News Corp. has engaged in serious and systemic invasions of privacy."
Under intense pressure from its widening phone-hacking scandal, News Corp. today issued the following statement:
NEWS CORPORATION WITHDRAWS PROPOSED OFFER FOR BRITISH SKY BROADCASTING GROUP PLC
News Corporation ("News Corp") announces that it no longer intends to make an offer for the entire issued and to be issued share capital of British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC ("BSkyB") not already owned by it.
Chase Carey, Deputy Chairman, President and Chief Operating Officer, News Corporation, commented: "We believed that the proposed acquisition of BSkyB by News Corporation would benefit both companies but it has become clear that it is too difficult to progress in this climate. News Corporation remains a committed long-term shareholder in BSkyB. We are proud of the success it has achieved and our contribution to it."
From the July 12 edition of MSNBC's News Live:
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This weekend, Fox News Watch, Fox News Channel's media criticism show, covered the following issues: The media's coverage of the Casey Anthony trial verdict; MSNBC's suspension of Mark Halperin for making vulgar comments about the president; the media's role in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case; the cancellation of In the Arena, Eliot Spitzer's CNN television show; and Vice President Joe Biden's new Twitter account.
The glaring omission from this list is any mention of the shuttering of the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World, billed as the largest English-language newspaper in the world, which published its last edition today. The paper is folding following allegations that it hacked the voicemails of a slain teen girl in the United Kingdom, an action which potentially impeded the police investigation and gave the girl's family false hope that she was still alive. There are also allegations that family members of soldiers who died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and families of victims of the 2005 subway bombings have been phone hacked.
Murdoch's News Corp. owns Fox News, and Fox News has been slow to cover the phone hacking scandal, but how could Fox's media criticism show get away with not mentioning News of the World at all?
As Eric Boehlert explained yesterday, the revelations of widespread phone-hacking at News of the World -- and News Corp.'s quickly unraveling cover-up -- are starting to look a lot like Rupert Murdoch's Watergate.
But new allegations suggest an increasingly apt comparison to the actions of another right-winger as well: Oliver North. North (who, interestingly enough, is a current News Corp. employee) "shredded stacks of memoranda and messages" in an effort to cover up the Iran-Contra scandal.
Today, the Guardian reported that "[p]olice are investigating evidence that a News International executive may have deleted millions of emails from an internal archive, in an apparent attempt to obstruct Scotland Yard's inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal." According to the Guardian:
The archive is believed to have reached back to January 2005 revealing daily contact between News of the World editors, reporters and outsiders, including private investigators. The messages are potentially highly valuable both for the police and for the numerous public figures who are suing News International.
According to legal sources close to the police inquiry, a senior executive is believed to have deleted 'massive quantities' of the archive on two separate occasions, leaving only a small fraction to be disclosed. One of the alleged deletions is said to have been made at the end of January this year, just as Scotland Yard was launching Operation Weeting, its new inquiry into the affair.
The story gets stranger from there. According to the Guardian, News Corp. "originally claimed that the archive of emails did not exist," and one News of the World editor reportedly insisted "that the emails had been lost en route to Mumbai." Several months ago, News Corp.'s attorney was forced to retract these claims. Still, the Guardian reports that police believe a company executive tried to delete large portions of the email archive before it was handed over to investigators: