“Not A Fit Person” To Lead: Rupert Murdoch's Indifference To Unethical Behavior Infects Fox News

A British government panel investigating the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal has released a report concluding that Rupert Murdoch is “not a fit person” to lead a major company, citing his “willful blindness” to unethical behavior. At Fox News, which is a division of News Corp., this indifference has consistently manifested itself as an absence of journalistic ethics.

Parliamentary Inquiry: Murdoch “Exhibited Willful Blindness” To Ethics Problems

Inquiry Conclusion: Murdoch “Not A Fit Person To Exercise The Stewardship Of A Major International Company.” From the House of Commons committee report on the phone-hacking scandal:

228. Rupert Murdoch told this Committee that his alleged lack of oversight of News International and the News of the World was due to it being “less than 1% of our company”. This self-portrayal, however, as a hands-off proprietor is entirely at odds with numerous other accounts, including those of previous editors and from Rebekah Brooks, who told us she spoke to Rupert Murdoch regularly and 'on average, every other day'. It was, indeed, we consider, a misleading account of his involvement and influence with his newspapers.

229. On the basis of the facts and evidence before the Committee, we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone-hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications. This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International. We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company. [British House of Commons, “News International and Phone-Hacking,” 4/30/12]

Fox News Regularly Crosses The Line On Ethics

Tea Party Promotion

Murdoch: Fox Shouldn't Be “Supporting The Tea Party.” In April 2010, Murdoch said: “I don't think we should be supporting the Tea Party or any other party. But I'd like to investigate what you're saying before I condemn anyone.” [Media Matters, 8/17/10]

Fox Heavily Promoted 2009 Tea Party Events. In April 2009, Fox News frequently aired segments encouraging viewers to get involved with Tea Party protests across the country, which were promoted on-air as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties.” In the buildup to the events, Fox News featured at least 20 segments on the Tea Party protests and aired at least 73 in-show and commercial promotions for their April 15 coverage of the events. [Media Matters, 4/8/09, 4/15/09]

Tea Party Participants Said They “Saw It On Fox.” Dozens of articles about tea parties in various cities reported that Fox News and its hosts helped influence, start, or turn out participants to local protests. [Media Matters, 4/16/09]

Fox Contributors, Hosts Took Part In 2010 Tea Party Events. Fox News hosts and contributors were scheduled to participate in more than a dozen Tea Party events in April 2010. The Fox Newsers were scheduled to give speeches, partner with Tea Party planners and, in the case of Sean Hannity, tape an edition of his Fox News show to financially benefit a local Tea Party. Fox News later reportedly forced Hannity to withdraw from his Tea Party event. [Media Matters, 4/15/10, 4/15/10]

NY Times Poll Reveals Fox News' Influence On Tea Partiers. A New York Times poll found that a majority of “Tea Party supporters” named Fox News as the television network they “watch most for information about politics and current events.” [Media Matters, 4/15/10]

Newsmax's Ruddy: “Fox Gave The Tea Party The Oxygen To Prosper.” Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax Media, told New York magazine: “Fox gave the tea party the oxygen to prosper. ... Politically, it was brilliant. There were so many disaffected people after the Bush years.” [New York, 5/22/11]

Bill Sammon

Fox Executive Slanted News Coverage, Boasted About Pushing Lie About Obama On-Air. Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon issued numerous memos to Fox staff guiding them on how to slant the network's news coverage to the right. Sammon also boasted in a speech that he repeatedly lied during the final days of the 2008 presidential campaign when he speculated on-air “about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism.” [Media Matters, 3/29/11]

Sammon Apparently Still Shaping Fox's Political Coverage. Despite criticism from journalism professionals that Sammon had violated ethical standards, Sammon apparently still plays a role in shaping Fox's political coverage, helping to shape the channel's preparation for Republican presidential debates hosted by Fox. [Media Matters, 9/26/11]

Political Fundraising

Fox News Employees Support GOPCandidates In600-Plus Instances. During the 2009-2010 election cycle, more than 30 Fox News personalities endorsed, raised money, or campaigned for Republican candidates or organizations in more than 600 instances. The Republican support was given to more than 300 different races or party organizations in at least 47 states. Fox News personalities and hosts also helped start pro-Republican organizations, which raised tens of millions of dollars. [Media Matters, 10/27/10]

Fox Contributor Dick Morris Uses Fox Appearances To Promotes Candidates, Causes That Have Paid Him. Morris has repeatedly appeared on Fox News to tout Republican candidates and Republican causes to which he had a financial connection -- typically payments to Morris or his consulting firm -- without disclosing the relationship. [Media Matters, 3/20/12]

News Corp.'s Political Donations

News Corp. Donated Millions to Republican Governors Group, U.S. Chamber. In the months preceding the 2010 midterm election, News Corp. donated $1.25 million to the Republican Governors Association. News Corp. also donated $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has aggressively campaigned in support of Republicans. Journalism ethics experts said such donations create a conflict of interest for a news organization. [Media Matters, 8/18/10, 9/30/10, 10/16/10]

Chamber Bought Ads On News Corp.-Owned Stations. An analysis found that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $20 million on ads in 2010, $1.2 million of which went toward local broadcast stations owned by News Corp. [Media Matters, 12/1/10]

Fox's Defense Of Glenn Beck

Fox VP: Beck Has “The Freedom To Express His Opinion” That Obama Is A “Racist.” When Beck called President Obama a “racist” with “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture,” Bill Shine, then Fox's senior vice president of programming, said: “During Fox & Friends this morning, Glenn Beck expressed a personal opinion which represented his own views, not those of the Fox News Channel. And as with all commentators in the cable news arena, he is given the freedom to express his opinions.” [TVNewser, 7/28/09]

Murdoch Spun Advertiser Defections From Beck's Show. In the wake of a protest that prompted dozens of advertisers to withdraw their support of Beck's Fox News show, Murdoch insisted that Fox wasn't “subsidizing” the show, calling it “a terrific kickoff” to the Fox News evening lineup. He also said: “They're not boycotting watching it because it's getting incredible numbers,” adding that “We have not lost any business at all; some [advertisers] may have moved to other programs,” but “it has not affected the total revenues or the profits.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/4/10; TV Newser, 8/4/10]

Ailes Defends Beck's Smear Of Soros: “Have You Ever Heard Of Freedom Of Speech?” After Beck's attacks linking financier George Soros to the Nazis, Esquire magazine quoted Ailes as saying : “I think Rupert got a few letters. ... He sent them down to me. I answer them -- I just say, Well have you ever heard of freedom of speech? It's in the Constitution, we do it, and I'm sorry you didn't like, but if Mr. Soros would like to come on our channel and present an alternative view, we would be happy to have him.” [Esquire, 1/21/11]

Fox President Roger Ailes, A Former Republican Operative, Uses Fox To Promote GOP Agenda

Ailes Previously Worked For Nixon, Other Republicans. Before joining Fox News, Ailes worked as Richard Nixon's “executive producer for television during his 1968 campaign, helped form a right-leaning TV network in the 1970s, and worked as a political consultant to Republican candidates and presidents. [Rolling Stone, 5/25/11]

New York Profile: Ailes “Is Also, In A Sense, The Head Of The Republican Party.” A New York magazine profile of Ailes noted that in addition to running Fox News, he “is also, in a sense, the head of the Republican Party, having employed five prospective presidential candidates and done perhaps more than anyone to alter the balance of power in the national media in favor of the Republicans.” The profile quoted an anonymous Republican staffer as saying, “You can't run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger. ... Every single candidate has consulted with Roger.” [New York, 5/22/11]

Fox's Weeklong Attack On Government Regulations -- A GOP Talking Point -- Was Reportedly Dreamed Up By Ailes. In September 2011, Fox's “straight news” division launched a weeklong attack on government regulations, including child labor, workplace safety, and civil rights laws -- an attack that echoed Republican talking points. Fox's war on regulation, which mirrors Republican talking points, was later revealed to be the brainchild of Ailes. [Media Matters, 9/26/11]