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.”
To start, it is absurd to compare the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal to security breaches at the Pentagon or Bank of America or Citi or any other company that had their customers' information compromised. Why? Well, because they were the victims of hackers, not the hackers themselves. News Corp. employees have been arrested for their involvement in hacking the phones of celebrities, politicians, a teenaged murder victim, and potentially thousands of others. Hacking into the phone of a missing teenager and deleting messages in her voicemail -- thus giving police and her family the false hope that she was still alive all so your tabloid could get a scoop -- is not the same thing as having your credit card information stolen by hackers. Not even close.
Perhaps the media is “piling on” because the story is continuing to evolve, getting more scandalous by the day. Recent developments include the fact that Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International -- News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper subsidiary -- has finally resigned. Brooks was formerly the editor of News of the World, the now-defunct tabloid at the center of the phone-hacking scandal, and has had nothing but News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch's total support throughout all of this drama. After initially trying to claim scheduling conflicts, Murdoch and his son James are set to testify before British Parliament next week. The number of Congressional members calling for an investigation into News Corp. is growing by the day. And the FBI has reportedly opened a preliminary investigation into News Corp. in response to allegations that its journalists sought to hack the phones of 9-11 victims. Reporting on such issues is not “piling” it “on.” It's simply reporting -- something a real news outlet does.
Further, how has News Corp. done “all the right things?” After all, as Vanity Fair has reported, News Corp. may have engaged in a rather serious cover-up operation, but the scandal proved to be too large to contain:
In 2006 a reporter at the News of the World, Clive Goodman, and a private investigator who worked for the newspaper, Glenn Mulcaire, were found guilty of illegally listening in on the voice-mail messages of the royal household. The two men received short prison terms. The editor of the newspaper, Andy Coulson, resigned from his position, though he stated that he had no personal knowledge of phone hacking being done by anyone in his newsroom. Coulson described the phone hacking of the princes as the work of a “rogue reporter.” He was backed up by other executives at News Corp., which owns Fox Entertainment, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and several of the biggest newspapers in Britain, including the News of the World.
But the “rogue reporter” story wasn't true. Phone hacking was common practice at the News of the World, and News Corp.'s stance finally crumbled amid a raft of lawsuits, a serious police investigation, and a steady stream of departures from the paper.
Nobody knows exactly how many people were targets altogether -- a conservative estimate would be 2,000, but the true figure could be double or triple that number. The scandal has touched some of the most prized executives at News Corp., such as Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive for its U.K. newspapers, and Les Hinton, the chief executive of Dow Jones & Co., who used to have Brooks's job. Rupert Murdoch, 80, now must deal with allegations that some of his editors encouraged criminal activity and then repeatedly lied about it -- sometimes under oath -- to cover it up. The possible ramifications extend to British politicians of all stripes, who have for decades done what they could to curry favor with Murdoch, and to Scotland Yard, which has its own cozy relationships with the tabloids and is widely suspected of having tried to keep a lid on the revelations.
Fox & Friends' segment on the scandal was smoke-screening at its finest, but it shouldn't be that surprising. After all, the network as a whole has barely covered the topic. Its own so-called media criticism show wouldn't “touch” the issue, despite the fact that it's one of the biggest stories of the day. So it makes sense that when it finally decided to devote more than 30 seconds of coverage to the issue, Fox & Friends would bend over backward to obscure the facts and defend its corporate overlord. It's what they do best.