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.
From the July 25 edition of CNBC's Squawk on the Street:
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Australia last week became "the world's first developed nation to repeal carbon laws that put a price on greenhouse-gas emissions." The country's carbon tax, which has been a passionate political topic there for more almost a decade, was finally instituted in 2012. But after a new conservative prime minister, Tony Abbott, was elected in September 2013, the carbon tax was aggressively targeted and then successfully repealed by Australia's Senate on July 17.
The retreat represents a win for climate deniers in Australia who dismiss the looming dangers of climate change and the science behind it. (It's "absolute crap," claimed Abbott, echoing Tea Party-type rhetoric in the United States.) It's a win for energy and mining interests who claimed the Australian tax was too burdensome
The retreat also signals a victory for Rupert Murdoch, the Australian native whose media empire, News Corp., did everything in its power to elect Abbott last fall and to attack the tax. Days before the repeal vote, Murdoch spoke out again against climate change science, telling an Australian interviewer it should be treated with great skepticism. Murdoch's dismissal stands in stark contrast to his 2007 proclamation that "climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats."
Murdoch's anti-climate change crusade in Australia certainly mirrors his company's commitment to misinformation in America, and highlights the dangers of having news media moguls who are dedicated to propaganda efforts regarding pressing public policy issues. (Murdoch is currently eyeing a bid to buy media giant Time Warner.) Indeed, Murdoch's media properties in Australia have been shown repeatedly to be wildly unfair and unbalanced when it comes to the topic of climate change.
Australia's carbon emissions repeal represents a dramatic U-turn for a country that just a few years ago was seen as a leader on the global issue under the guidance of previous Labor Party prime minsters, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. "The Brookings Institution has previously described Australia as an "important laboratory and learning opportunity" for U.S. thinking about climate change and energy policy, as it was one of the first major countries outside Europe to adopt a carbon price," The Wall Street Journal recently noted.
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.
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.
From the June 19 edition of MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes:
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Rupert Murdoch, CEO of Fox News' parent-company 21st Century Fox, penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, a stance in stark contrast to Fox's callous coverage of the immigration system and immigrants, which frequently disparages migrants as akin to garbage, criminals, and terrorists.
In a June 18 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Murdoch, also the executive chairman of the Journal's parent company News Corp, urged legislators to pass comprehensive immigration reform, citing it as "one of the most immediate ways to revitalize our economy." Murdoch emphasized:
Immigrants enrich our culture and add to our economic prosperity.
I don't believe that people come to America to sit on their hands. The vast majority of America's immigrants are hardworking, family-minded individuals with strong values. They are drawn here from many different places by a common belief that this is still the land of opportunity for those willing to work hard.
Murdoch even urged lawmakers to provide "a path to citizenship" for "those individuals who are already here," and called it "suicidal to suggest closing our doors to the world's entrepreneurs, or worse, to continue with large-scale deportations."
It's a stance that runs in stark contrast to his news organization's recent extreme immigration rhetoric.
Last month, Fox reported on President Obama's speech urging immigration reform by deceptively editing footage to pretend the president was advocating for the release of criminal immigrants.
Evoking connections between immigrants and garbage, criminals, and terrorists is standard fare for the network, especially in light of a recent surge in migrant children entering the US to flee growing violence in Central America.
The June 4 edition of Fox & Friends reported on the undocumented immigrant children being dropped off at a Phoenix bus station awaiting deportation proceedings with on-screen text that read "illegal dumping," a phrase commonly used to describe the unlawful disposal of garbage or other unwanted items.
Fox has used the humanitarian crisis to attack President Obama and hype fears that the migrant children may be terrorists and violent cartel members. One Fox host said she "wouldn't be surprised" if the unaccompanied immigrant children were fronts for drug dealers or terrorists.
On June 13, Fox News reported on news that some military bases would open up to house immigrant families by portraying the immigrants as "whining" and accusing them of complaining "of conditions in free lodging," while denouncing the administration for "serving illegals while soldiers wait."
Rupert Murdoch and his Fox family have a history of conflicting on immigration -- Murdoch has been consistent in his support for immigration reform and has built a reputation for breaking with the network to back such reform, while Fox has been known to temporarily clean up their act when the boss is around.
Just today, Fox News' America's Newsroom took a uncharacteristically sympathetic stance on immigrants to report on Murdoch's op-ed, emphasizing the man's entrepreneurial success as an immigrant himself. The hosts followed suit with the network's tradition of abandoning typical anti-immigration rhetoric for more positive coverage when it comes to Murdoch, underscoring Murdoch's focus on America's entrepreneurial history of imagination and ambition and highlighting the importance of strengthening border security. No mention was made of Murdoch's advocacy for a path to citizenship for immigrants already residing in the U.S.
The defense continued to present its case in the fifth month of the trial of several News Corp. employees for allegedly compromising the privacy of crime victims, British royalty, entertainers, and politicians.
Former News International editors and executives -- including Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson, and Stuart Kuttner -- are on trial in England for their accused roles in conspiring to hack phones and voicemails to find fodder for news stories.
On the stand in April, Kuttner denied paying off the investigator who did the phone hacking, while Coulson testified at length about his actions surrounding the disclosure of the hacking.
The race is on to win the support of Fox News ahead of the 2016 Republican presidential primary. Republican Senator Rand Paul, often listed among likely 2016 presidential contenders, is apparently trying to court News Corp. executive chairman Rupert Murdoch, hosting the media mogul at this weekend's Kentucky Derby.
The New York Times quotes Paul saying he "thought it would be fun to have [Murdoch] come down," and Murdoch explained his presence by clarifying he had never been to the Derby and offering that he finds Paul to be a "very interesting man." But as the Times explains, the context for the day at the track is much grander than the two men's mutual interest in the event: the looming 2016 presidential race and Paul's desire to win the support of "arguably the most powerful broker in Republican politics."
The Times lays out how Paul's "libertarian brand of politics" has prompted some concern among commentators at the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal and Fox News Channel. Indeed, Murdoch himself has spoken out against Paul's views on foreign policy, telling Fortune magazine [subscription required] last month, "I agree with [Paul] on a great number of things but disagree strongly on some things -- too strongly perhaps to vote for him." According to the Times, the day at the Derby was "part getting-to-know-you and part political audition, and marked a potential turn in the race for president."
Murdoch and Paul's Kentucky Derby hangout isn't their first meeting, either. Paul reportedly met with Murdoch and Fox News chief Roger Ailes last November -- according to Politico, that meeting was similarly part of Paul's effort to "smooth concerns among Republicans and influencers about whether he shares his famous libertarian father's views on issues like national security."
Winning the support of Murdoch and his sprawling media empire -- particularly Fox News -- has been a top priority for Republican candidates for the past decade, and with good reason.
Arriving on the scene of the wreckage days late, a number of conservative voices, including some Fox News employees, announced that it had been an "appalling" error in judgment for movement activists, media players, and Republican leaders to embrace and elevate the cause of rogue Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his law-breaking crusade against the federal government. The commonsense warnings were dated, of course, because by then Bundy had already uncorked his racist rant and had thoroughly embarrassed backers who had portrayed him as a folk hero, a "patriotic, heroic American," and a symbol of mighty resistance.
At the peak of the Fox-hyped Bundy frenzy (i.e. when irresponsible Sean Hannity wondered on-air if the federal government would kill the Bundy) those voices of dissent about the rancher were hard to hear. Back when The Drudge Report recklessly hyped the fear of a violent standoff between federal forces and anti-government militia members who had rallied to Bundy's side and uncorked insurrectionist rhetoric, cool-headed conservative observations about not cheering a rancher who refused for decades to pay his grazing fees were mostly muted. (Here's an exception.)
Why? Because at the time, the overblown Bundy controversy nicely fit the right wing's beloved Phony Outrage programming slot. Because the story provided Fox and others with easy, free content to obsess over for days and to stoke far-right paranoia about "government overreach" during the Age of Obama.
Only after Bundy revealed his ugly beliefs ("I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro") did many conservatives concede that cheering him represented a political and public relations debacle. That it was a "net-negative." (The Republican National Committee certainly thinks so.)
In the wake of that mess, recall that just this month Rupert Murdoch announced that his Fox News channel had "absolutely saved" the GOP by giving a "voice and hope to people who didn't like all that liberal championing thrown at them on CNN." Yet it's hard to see any Republican positives following the Bundy debacle, which is now widely seen as having been another botched Fox News presentation.
These kinds of flops have become a bruising routine for conservatives. Instead of scoring points on its behalf, Fox News seems to be in the business of delivering black eyes to the GOP and its most devoted followers.
Today marked the seventh straight year that The Wall Street Journal has not won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting. It also marks the seventh straight year the newspaper has been owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
Does one have anything to do with the other? Perhaps.
During my time at Editor & Publisher magazine from 1999 to 2010, I covered the Pulitzer Prizes each year, corresponding with members of the juries to determine who would win the awards and why.
Anyone who knows the Pulitzers can tell you it is a fierce competition. Failing to take home the prize in no way suggests one's reporting was unworthy.
But for the Journal, which has garnered dozens of the awards during its celebrated history, that stretch of failure cannot go unnoticed. In the history of the Pulitzers, only The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and Associated Press have won more.
And during the past seven years as the Journal has remained winless, those four news outlets have won a combined 33 reporting Pulitzers.
While the newspaper has won two Pulitzers since Murdoch took over, they were for editorial writing and commentary. The heart and soul of any news operation, its reporters and photographers, have been repeatedly denied in the competition that remains the most prestigious award in journalism.
With today's winners ranging from The Tampa Bay Times to Reuters, the Journal's name is sorely missed by many, its staff likely as much as anyone.
A look at the Journal's history finds the paper's great journalism winning acclaim and top awards, all pre-Murdoch.
From its first reporting award in 1961 for uncovering problems in the timber industry to its last two in 2007 for digging into the scams of backdated stock options and the negative impact of China's growing capitalism the Journal had never gone more than five years without a win, with that stretch in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the five years before Murdoch's purchase, the paper won Pulitzers for public service and international reporting and two each for beat reporting and explanatory journalism.
The Pulitzer Prize is not the ultimate judgment of a newspaper. And many in the industry often criticize editors who appear to assign stories specifically with the goal winning a Pulitzer in mind.
But for a newspaper of the Journal's size and stature, such a long stretch may be a sign of its goals. Murdoch has reportedly made clear that he does not prioritize the kind of in-depth, long form journalism that often wins these awards.
In response to Media Matters' documentation that a group pushing climate change denial has also rejected the known health impacts of tobacco and secondhand smoke, Fox News is suggesting that secondhand smoke is not dangerous.
On the April 9 edition of Special Report, Fox News correspondent Doug McKelway pointed to a report by the "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change" (NIPCC), which was written in an attempt to debunk the United Nations' recent consensus report, to claim that "a torrent of new data is poking very large holes" in climate science. In an accompanying article at FoxNews.com, McKelway responded to a Media Matters blog post documenting that the group behind the report, the Heartland Institute, has previously denied the health impacts of tobacco, by claiming that the "Heartland's denial of the dangers of second hand smoke was re-affirmed by a large scale 2013 study":
The NIPCC ["Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change"] report was immediately assailed by administration supporters. The website Media Matters reported that the NIPCC study was published by the conservative Heartland Institute, which previously denied the science demonstrating the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke. (In fact, Heartland's denial of the dangers of second hand smoke was re-affirmed by a large scale 2013 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute which found "no statistically significant relationship between lung cancer and exposure to passive smoke.")
Media Matters had actually pointed out that the Heartland Institute once claimed that smoking "fewer than seven cigarettes a day" -- not just secondhand smoke -- was not bad for you, while simultaneously being funded by the tobacco giant Philip Morris. Regardless, secondhand smoke is unequivocally dangerous and causally linked to cancers including lung cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, the American Lung Association, and the Centers for Disease Control. McKelway cherry-picked one study that found no statistically significant link between secondhand smoke and cancer but did find a trend of "borderline statistical significance" among women who had lived with a smoker for 30 years or more. Meta-analyses have previously found that the "abundance of evidence ... overwhelmingly support the existence of a causal relationship between passive smoking and lung cancer." The Environmental Protection Agency states that it does not claim that "minimal exposure to secondhand smoke poses a huge individual cancer risk," but that nonetheless secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths a year in U.S. nonsmokers:
The evidence is clear and consistent: secondhand smoke is a cause of lung cancer in adults who don't smoke. EPA has never claimed that minimal exposure to secondhand smoke poses a huge individual cancer risk. Even though the lung cancer risk from secondhand smoke is relatively small compared to the risk from direct smoking, unlike a smoker who chooses to smoke, the nonsmoker's risk is often involuntary. In addition, exposure to secondhand smoke varies tremendously among exposed individuals. For those who must live or work in close proximity to one or more smokers, the risk would certainly be greater than for those less exposed.
EPA estimates that secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year among nonsmokers in the U.S.; of these, the estimate is 800 from exposure to secondhand smoke at home and 2,200 from exposure in work or social situations.
In an interview with Fortune, News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch credited Fox News with having "absolutely saved" the Republican Party, praising the network for giving "voice and hope to people who didn't like all that liberal championing thrown at them on CNN." But Fox News has not just given "voice and hope" to conservative news watchers. The network has been instrumental in helping Republicans for years by actively promoting and fundraising for GOP candidates, serving as a staging ground for numerous network employees to prep runs for office, championing Republicans' legislative goals, and systematically smearing and lying about an immeasurable number of Democrats, progressives, and any policy initiatives the network found insufficiently conservative.
During the same exchange, Murdoch reportedly bristled at the suggestion that Fox promotes the tea party, potentially at the expense of the GOP:
Does it bother you at all, Rupert, that there is a view that Fox News has contributed in a big way to the political discontent in the U.S., degraded the political process, and maybe, in spotlighting the Tea Party, even hurt the Republican Party? I think it has absolutely saved it. It has certainly given voice and hope to people who didn't like all that liberal championing thrown at them on CNN. By the way, we don't promote the Tea Party. That's bullshit. We recognize their existence.
But Murdoch's assertion that it's "bullshit" that Fox News promotes the tea party is, well, bullshit. Simply put, today's tea party probably wouldn't exist -- at least not at its level of influence and notoriety -- without the integral role Fox News played in promoting the first round of tea party events during Obama's first year in office.
Even given the warped standards by which Fox News' journalistic ethics are often viewed, the network's early promotion of the tea party is still staggering to revisit. In the early months of 2009, Fox News personalities on several different programs aggressively plugged the supposedly upstart tea party movement. The network even held its own events on April 15 of that year that they branded "FNC TAX DAY TEA PARTIES." Fox News hosts Glenn Beck (who has since left the network), Neil Cavuto, Sean Hannity, and Greta Van Susteren all broadcast live that day from various tea parties around the country.
Guinness announced that it will not participate in the New York City St. Patrick's Day parade due to the parade's exclusion of LGBT groups, prompting outrage and calls for boycott from right-wing media figures.
News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch charged that gay groups had "bullied" Guinness into pulling out of New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade, calling for a boycott of the Irish brewer.
Guinness announced on March 16 that it would not participate in the parade, citing the event's exclusion of gay and lesbian groups. "Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all. We were hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year's parade," the company said in a statement.
Murdoch denounced the decision on Twitter, writing that he hoped "all Irish boycott the stuff":
Murdoch's attack on Guinness' pro-equality stance comes after Fox News personalities repeatedly assailed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for not participating in the event and justified the parade's anti-gay discrimination by citing the existence of gay pride parades: