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.
Across the Atlantic, elected officials here are taking notice. In a statement issued yesterday evening, Sen. Jay Rockefeller said:
The reported hacking by News Corporation newspapers against a range of individuals--including children--is offensive and a serious breach of journalistic ethics. This raises serious questions about whether the company has broken U.S. law, and I encourage the appropriate agencies to investigate to ensure that Americans have not had their privacy violated. I am concerned that the admitted phone hacking in London by the News Corp. may have extended to 9/11 victims or other Americans. If they did, the consequences will be severe.
This morning, Sen. Frank Lautenberg called on the Attorney General and SEC to investigate whether News of the World reporters employed by News Corp. -- a U.S. based company -- violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by bribing law enforcement officials.
And this afternoon, family members of 9/11 victims echoed calls for an investigation of News Corp.
It remains to be seen if Hollywood will change its tune and stand up to Murdoch as well. But whether you're a celebrity or not, here are three things you should know about the News of the World Hollywood operation:
1. NOTW Had A U.S. Bureau For Hollywood Gossip. During the time period that Murdoch's U.K. NOTW reporters were engaging in alleged and admitted hacking, the tabloid had a U.S. outpost. U.S. NOTW editors are reportedly credited with scoops ranging from “a string of Lindsay Lohan exclusives” to “the news of Britney Spears' short-lived marriage to Jason Alexander.”
2. U.S. Celebrities Have Previously Taken Stands Against NOTW, And Won Financial Settlements. In 2005, Murdoch's tabloid apologized to Justin Timberlake for reporting “untrue” allegations about him the previous year. On August 25, 2005, NOTW reported that they -- along with model Lucy Clarkson, whom they paid for the story -- “have agreed to pay [Timberlake] a substantial sum which he has said he will donate to a charity of his choice.” More recently, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt sued NOTW for printing false allegations that they were separating. In July 2010, the couple reportedly “accepted undisclosed damages” to settle their claim, which they donated to their charity, the Jolie-Pitt Foundation.
3. Starring In A Murdoch Movie Didn't Give You A Pass. In the spring of 2011, Hugh Grant -- reportedly a phone-hacking victim himself -- secretly taped a conversation he had with a former NOTW journalist who has publicly described the paper's extensive and repeated use of phone hacking. The reporter told Grant that at the precise time Hollywood star Nicole Kidman was promoting the News Corp. movie Moulin Rouge!, he was assigned to see who she was “shagging” and “what she was doing, poking through her bins and get some stuff on her” at the Cannes premiere. This is what he told Grant:
So I was sent to do a feature on Moulin Rouge! at Cannes, which was a great send anyway. Basically my brief was to see who Nicole Kidman was shagging - what she was doing, poking through her bins and get some stuff on her. So Murdoch's paying her five million quid to big up the French and at the same time paying me £5.50 to fuck her up . . . So all hail the master. We're just pawns in his game. How perverse is that?
Kidman reportedly became godmother to Rupert Murdoch's two youngest daughters in 2010, when the girls were baptized beside the River Jordan.