Despite admitted trouble with advertisers, 21st Century Fox co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch tells shareholders he's "proud" of Fox News
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Companies are distancing themselves from Sean Hannity’s Fox News program in response to his ongoing public support for reported child predator and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.
On November 9, The Washington Post published an extensive investigative report, compiled with more than 30 sources, with accounts from four women who said Moore had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior toward them when they were teenagers. One woman, Leigh Corfman, was just 14 years old when 32-year-old Moore sexually assaulted her, she said. In the days following the Post’s report, Hannity used his radio and television platforms to offer several inexplicable defenses of Moore, insinuating repeatedly that the women are lying and hosting others who did the same. He even hosted Moore on his radio show the day after the Post report came out.
In recent days, several companies have announced they were either removing ads from Sean Hannity’s Fox News program or that they would not advertise on his show in the future. In August, Media Matters called on Hannity’s advertisers to stop financially supporting his lies and extremism and warned that Hannity’s volatility made him a business risk.
Among those companies was realtor.com, a real estate search engine site. As Hannity began encouraging a counter effort against companies that said they would no longer advertise on his show, realtor.com deleted its Twitter announcement and published a statement saying the company would "continue to place ads across a broad range of networks, including Fox News and its top shows."
Realtor.com is “operated by News Corp subsidiary Move, Inc.” under a license from the National Association of Realtors. In other words, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. which manages the operations of realtor.com, has decided to continue advertising on a program airing on Fox News, part of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.
In an article published just last month, Murdoch backed his decision to acquire Move Inc. and emphasized the advertising potential: “We live in an age when more people than ever are going to portals like Realtor.com when they’re serious about property. There’s a lot of advertising to be had.”
Media Matters for America issued a follow-up memo to the U.K.’s chief competitions watchdog, Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), outlining further evidence that a full 21st Century Fox takeover of Sky PLC would portend trouble for the British media landscape. It also called on the CMA to approach Sky’s warning about shutting down Sky News with skepticism.
The submission follows an October 27 CMA hearing at which Media Matters President Angelo Carusone testified alongside other media experts and advocates. Prior to the hearing, Media Matters submitted a report to the CMA detailing concerns with the merger.
Today’s submission highlighted the following concerns and recommendations:
Media Matters has actively opposed 21st Century Fox’s proposed takeover of Sky PLC since it was first announced. On March 30, Media Matters submitted, in partnership with global activism group Avaaz, a report to Ofcom that detailed the risks the Murdochs' desired takeover of Sky pose to British broadcasting standards. Media Matters and Avaaz had previously submitted a report to Karen Bradley, U.K.’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, demonstrating that the risk of “Foxification” of Britain’s public debate is too great for Bradley to simply rubber-stamp a Murdoch takeover of Sky.
Rupert Murdoch abandoned a previous bid for full ownership of the company in light of an investigation into a mass phone hacking scandal at his U.K.-based newspapers. Following an investigation, a parliamentary report found that Murdoch was “not a fit person” to run a major corporation and that his son James had showed “wilful ignorance” of the industrial-scale hacking.
A CNN report discussed Media Matters President Angelo Carusone’s recent testimony to the U.K.’s chief competitions watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), against 21st Century Fox’s bid to take over satellite broadcasting company Sky plc, which oversees Sky News. The CMA invited Carusone along with Media Matters’ U.K. partners to testify last week as part of its investigation into 21st Century Fox’s bid, citing Media Matters as “a relevant third party.” On October 24, Media Matters had submitted a report to the CMA illustrating the havoc 21st Century Fox would wreak on the British media landscape if its bid is approved.
At the October 27 hearing, Carusone testified alongside media experts and advocates from Avaaz, Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, the Media Reform Coalition, Hacked Off, and 38 Degrees. As CNN reported, Carusone detailed the widespread culture of pushing politically and financially-motivated misinformation and intimidating critics at Fox News and other Murdoch-owned outlets:
Carusone told CNN that he hammered 21st Century Fox on several fronts during the hearing. He cited examples of Fox News publishing inaccurate information as a problem. He also said he told the regulators it's troubling that Fox has commentators who have a direct interest in the matter they speak about, but do not acknowledge the conflict of interest, and said he brought up what he says are Fox's blurred lines between what is news and what is commentary on air.
Carusone said he also testified about issues of corporate governance at Fox and 21st Century Fox, and brought up an instance in which he said Fox News tried to obtain the phone records of one of their staffers who was reporting on the network. The incident, Carusone said, is reminiscent of another Murdoch company's phone hacking scandal in which News of the World staffers were accused of hacking the phones of celebrities, including those in the Royal Family. Fox News has denied it sought the phone records of the Media Matters staffer.
"[The company] can be influential in terms of going after and attacking and they also can be retaliatory," Carusone said.
Media Matters has actively opposed 21st Century Fox’s proposed takeover of Sky plc since it was first announced. On March 30, Media Matters submitted, in partnership with Avaaz, a report to Ofcom that detailed the risks the Murdochs' desired takeover of Sky poses to British broadcasting standards. Media Matters and Avaaz had previously submitted a report to Karen Bradley, U.K.’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, demonstrating that the risk of “Foxification” of Britain’s public debate is too great for Bradley to simply rubber-stamp a Murdoch takeover of Sky.
Rupert Murdoch abandoned a previous bid for full ownership of the company in light of an investigation into a mass phone hacking scandal at his U.K.-based newspapers. Following an investigation, a parliamentary report found that Murdoch was “not a fit person” to run a major corporation and that his son James had showed “wilful ignorance” of the industrial-scale hacking.
Media Matters for America submitted a report to the United Kingdom’s chief competitions watchdog illustrating the havoc that 21st Century Fox and the owners, the Murdochs, would wreak on the British media landscape if their bid to take over Sky PLC is approved. The report was submitted amid revelations that Rupert Murdoch, his sons, and 21st Century Fox attempted to suppress another wave of public scrutiny around Fox News’ sexual harassment epidemic in January of this year.
Dealing a blow to the Murdochs’ hope for a swift approval, U.K. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley referred 21st Century Fox’s bid to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for investigation on grounds of both broadcasting standards and media plurality. This followed an investigation by the U.K.’s chief broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, and calls for further investigation by members of Parliament and advocacy groups. Marking the second phase of an in-depth investigation, the CMA announced on October 10 that it would conduct a thorough look into the impact of a Fox-Sky merger on broadcasting codes and media plurality.
Media Matters raised the following issues for the CMA to consider in its investigation:
In the report, Media Matters also recommended that the CMA request further information from 21st Century Fox about the status and findings of internal investigations regarding the now-retracted FoxNews.com Seth Rich story, workplace harassment and discrimination, and new compliance standards the Murdochs claimed to implement in May of this year.
Media Matters has actively opposed 21st Century Fox’s takeover of Sky News since it was first announced. On March 30, Media Matters submitted, in partnership with global activism group Avaaz, a report to Ofcom that detailed the risks Murdochs' desired takeover of Sky poses to British broadcasting standards. Media Matters and Avaaz had previously submitted a report to Bradley demonstrating that the risk of “Foxification” of Britain’s public debate is too great for Bradley to simply rubber-stamp a Murdoch takeover of Sky.
Rupert Murdoch abandoned a previous bid for full ownership in light of an investigation into a mass phone hacking scandal at his U.K.-based newspapers. Following an investigation, a parliamentary report found that Murdoch was “not a fit person” to run a major corporation and that his son James had showed “wilful ignorance” of the industrial-scale hacking. In September 2016, it was reported that Fox News had engaged in similar tactics, hacking the phone of a Media Matters reporter.
A new report from The New York Times has revealed still more horrifying details of both former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s serial sexual misconduct and the almost equally horrifying extent to which 21st Century Fox executives attempted to keep his pattern of harassment from the public eye. The Times report, detailing actions taken earlier this year, offers compelling evidence of an entire infrastructure of misogyny and abuse still at work at 21st Century Fox.
On October 21, The New York Times’ Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt reported that 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, had known of a recent settlement O’Reilly made following sexual harassment claims when it renewed his contract at the start of this year.
The case was settled with now-former Fox legal analyst Lis Wiehl for an astounding $32 million, and it reportedly addressed complaints of “repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material.” The extraordinarily high sum that O’Reilly paid, along with the limited reporting on the contents of the case, suggest very serious reports of assault were made. (As a condition of the settlement, Wiehl signed an affidavit saying she “would no longer make the allegations contained in the draft complaint.”)
The $32 million settlement is shocking because of its amount, but arguably less so in what it suggests about the extent of O’Reilly’s misconduct. The public is, after all, all too familiar with the toxic patterns of abusive, powerful men.
The truly astounding aspect of this new report is the way the settlement was handled at 21st Century Fox and by its leaders, the Murdochs: with the uncompromising goal of preserving business (and profit) as usual. As the report says:
In January, the reporting shows, Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, the top executives at 21st Century Fox, made a business calculation to stand by Mr. O’Reilly despite his most recent, and potentially most explosive, harassment dispute.
Their decision came as the company was trying to convince its employees, its board and the public that it had cleaned up the network’s workplace culture. At the same time, they were determined to hold on to Mr. O’Reilly, whose value to the network increased after the departure of another prominent host, Megyn Kelly.
But by April, the Murdochs decided to jettison Mr. O’Reilly as some of the settlements became public and posed a significant threat to their business empire.
Sources told Steel and Schmidt that 21st Century Fox executives knew of the Wiehl settlement as they moved to renew O’Reilly’s contract in the beginning of the year. In a statement to the Times, 21st Century Fox said that it was not privy to the unusually high amount paid in the settlement. Even if the Murdochs were somehow not taking into account any other report made about O’Reilly’s serial harassment -- the earliest known incident of which took place in 2004 -- they were undoubtedly aware of this very new and specific reported misconduct as they oversaw contract matters at the start of the year. On the Times podcast The Daily, Steel and Schmidt further explained:
MICHAEL SCHMIDT: The larger context here is that Fox knew about all of [O’Reilly’s settlements for misconduct], except they say they didn’t know about the size of the Lis Wiehl deal, when they gave him a contract extension in February. Now the important thing is that Fox News never investigated these accusations, and they never asked O’Reilly’s lawyers what the dollar figure was.
EMILY STEEL: Something interesting about that, though, is that the woman that he reached the settlement with was a 15-year legal analyst at Fox News.
MICHAEL BARBARO (HOST): So there was, it sounds like, a pretty meticulous attempt by Fox to take this out of the realm of employment law and of employee relations.
21s Century Fox and the Murdochs’ response to Wiehl’s alarming report and the news of a settlement was not to raise said alarm, but to encourage active silence. They simply decided to add language to O’Reilly’s new contract that would allow Fox to fire him should new reports of harassment surface. This was more or less the same course of action taken elsewhere in the entertainment industry just two years earlier, when we now know that members of The Weinstein Co. board similarly added language to serial sexual predator Harvey Weinstein’s 2015 employment contract to account for any new reports of misconduct.
A statement from O’Reilly’s attorney, in response to the October 21 Times report, bafflingly offers the claimed defense that Fox itself has paid nearly $100 million in settlements for workplace sexual harassment to “dozens of women [who] accused scores of male employees.” If this statement is accurate, not only is it not a defense in any way, but it also magnifies how structural and cultural misogyny has flourished at Fox for so long.
What we’re seeing now at Fox, more and more clearly with each new revelation about O’Reilly and many other employees, is what Times culture writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris called an “infrastructure of abuse” when describing the Harvey Weinstein reports. Of course, workplace sexual harassment is prevalent across industries and communities, and to some extent said “infrastructure,” unfortunately, simply seems to be society at large. But on a micro scale, 21st Century Fox, like Weinstein’s Hollywood, is a remarkable case study of how privilege for powerful men is embedded into entire institutions, from top to bottom, department to department, in public and in private.
21st Century Fox has developed an entire cultural infrastructure of actors and systems that enabled misogyny and abuse to continue for decades without interruption. And the details of the Times report, focused on actions taken just months ago, reveal this infrastructure has yet to be removed. This is how we know it operates, in practice.
Fox leaders, like former CEO Roger Ailes, and on-air personalities, spewing misogyny in their daily work, sometimes translate that hatred for women into real-life harassment or worse. Like the on-air actions, it is also often repeated behavior.
Fox decision-makers create systems where reporting to human resources doesn’t feel like a real option or has proven itself not to be. In a Times report from July 2016, nearly a dozen women who experienced harassment at Fox told the Times that “they were reluctant to go to the human resources department with their complaints for fear that they would be fired.” And just this morning, former Fox News host Megyn Kelly agreed that “Fox News was not exactly a friendly environment for harassment victims who wanted to report, in my experience,” and said O’Reilly was “permitted, with management’s advanced notice and blessing, to go on the air and attack the company’s harassment victims.” She also noted the “vindictiveness” of Irena Briganti, who still works as media relations chief at Fox and is known for pushing negative stories about women who reported Ailes.
And yet, in his statements about the sexual harassment reports, O’Reilly has chosen to use this structural flaw at his workplace as though it’s evidence of his innocence: “In the more than 20 years Bill O'Reilly worked at Fox News, not one complaint was filed against him with the Human Resources Department or Legal Department by a coworker, even on the anonymous hotline.” (This fear and distrust of a weak internal reporting system is also one we’ve heard in the reports about Harvey Weinstein, whose company’s human resources department was described as “utterly ineffective” -- and it’s another aspect of the Fox infrastructure that’s reflected in society at large. One study concluded that about 70 percent of women who experience workplace harassment do not report it, for fear of retaliation.)
If Fox employees do choose to report sexual harassment or other misconduct, they may face internal attempts to keep them silent. During Ailes’ reign, those attempts reportedly included personal meetings and surveillance designed to intimidate women into withdrawing complaints, as well as individual efforts to bury reports. After Ailes left Fox, he was replaced, at the Murdochs’ command, by two individuals who were reportedly implicated in these efforts. One, Bill Shine, was forced out of the network. The other remains on staff, along with many others who were complicit in silencing employees who came forward, all under the continued leadership of the Murdochs.
Employees reporting sexual misconduct may also face legal challenges stemming from their employment contracts or from powerful lawyers hired by Fox itself or the men they’ve reported. Former Fox host Gretchen Carlson, who reached a $20 million settlement following her reports that Roger Ailes had repeatedly sexually harassed her, has discussed the legal difficulties she faced in coming forward. Her activism now specifically focuses on combating forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts, which can keep survivors of harassment or assault from pursuing legal justice publicly.
Such legal challenges mean that the women who are harassed at Fox often quietly reach settlements and leave. They may have signed nondisclosure agreements designed to keep them from speaking up. They may have written letters or affidavits rescinding their reports as conditions of the settlements. (These were also common tactics used by Harvey Weinstein.) Or they may simply have recognized what little power they really had and decided not to speak publicly.
Fox executives then do whatever else they can to keep news of sexual misconduct from becoming public information. They commit their company to paying over $100 million, according to O’Reilly’s lawyer, in settlements. Perhaps they work to bury those settlements from public view, or hide them through financial tricks that may be improper or even illegal. And they add clauses to new contracts to keep it from happening again, maybe, hopefully.
If news of sexual misconduct does become public at any point, Fox News executives take action only in so much as they must to save their bottom line. Fox fired O’Reilly only when he began to cost the network too much money -- not just in the settlements it may have helped him to pay, but in advertising dollars. He was also making 21st Century Fox look bad in a very public way, at a time when it was eager to appear “fit and proper” to expand its reach in the U.K. by taking over Sky news.
When 21st Century Fox is forced to publicly act as a “fit and proper” employer might, as during the height of the O’Reilly reports in the spring, it has launched “independent investigations.” But these examinations are almost always conducted by the same law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, that conducted its sham investigation after Ailes was fired.
The proof that these actions -- the suspensions, investigations, and even firings -- have only ever been about the bottom line is all too clear: With that U.K. bid still under review, but with Fox News’ Hannity now up against the very popular MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, O’Reilly was invited back onto the network for a ratings-thirsty appearance on the show last month.
When Fox is forced to fire someone reported for serial sexual harassment, it pays him millions of dollars on the way out and speaks only nicely of him going forward. Its other on-air talent, however, is left to publicly take sides (actually, just the one side) and smear at will anyone who came forward. Scottie Nell Hughes, a conservative commentator who stepped up earlier this year to say Fox Business host Charles Payne raped her, told The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan she’s now being ostracized by media writ large. (Payne was reinstated at the network following an internal investigation by, you guessed it -- Paul Weiss -- stemming from earlier reports made by Hughes.)
And the men who Fox was forced to suspend or fire are allowed to defend themselves, and publicly attack the women who reported them, by all means available, sometimes with the active encouragement of current Fox employees. Fox's Sean Hannity, for example, not only hosted O'Reilly on his show just last month, but also hosted O'Reilly on his radio program to attack one of the women who reported him. Today, Hannity promoted an appearance by O'Reilly on fellow former Fox news host Glenn Beck's radio program -- an appearance in which the former host claimed his firing was a "hit job" by biased media. O'Reilly continues to enjoy a platform to speak his mind, courtesy of the media and his friends at Fox.
This is what it means to have an entire infrastructure working against you, as a survivor: Imagine that you work at Fox News, and tomorrow you are sexually harassed by a supervisor at work. What paths would seem like real options for justice?
What you’re thinking right now? That’s how we know nothing has changed at 21st Century Fox.
Media Matters President Angelo Carusone released the following statement after U.K. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley announced that she is minded to refer 21st Century Fox’s bid to take over Sky PLC to the Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) on broadcasting standards in addition to media plurality grounds:
We are cautiously optimistic that Secretary Bradley is starting to acknowledge that the Murdochs and 21st Century Fox (21C Fox) have failed to demonstrate a commitment to abiding by the U.K.’s broadcasting standards.
21C Fox's demonstrated culture of malfeasance and poor governance should have been more than sufficient to warrant outright rejection of 21C Fox’s bid to takeover Sky News without further investigation.
One need not look too far to find near daily examples of 21C Fox’s rank political machinations and broken governance. For example, just recently 21C Fox’s CEO James Murdoch issued a public letter decrying white supremacy and intolerance and declared the necessity of combatting those forces. Yet, either because he is unwilling or unable, he has done nothing to address those very forces at Fox News, the network he runs.
We urge Secretary Bradley, the CMA and all members of Parliament to continue to take serious the most recent developments at Fox News and 21C Fox that bring to light the Murdochs’ negligence in adhering to broadcasting standards and establishing strong compliance procedures and corporate governance systems.
In August, Carusone wrote a letter to the British broadcasting regulator Ofcom sharing new evidence showing that 21st Century Fox and owner Rupert Murdoch’s family are not serious about complying with U.K. broadcasting standards should they be allowed to take over British satellite broadcaster Sky PLC.
Carusone’s letter provides further evidence that 21st Century Fox and the Murdochs have not demonstrated a commitment to broadcasting standards, pointing to the corporation’s failure in recent months to:
publicly address revelations that the Trump administration met with a GOP operative and Fox News contributor about a now-debunked FoxNews.com report that pushed false claims about the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich;
take disciplinary action against Fox News host Sean Hannity for his aggressive promotion of the debunked Rich story even after Fox News retracted it; and
address several other prominent instances of Fox News misleading its audience and promoting state-run propaganda that flies in the face of the compliance standards 21st Century Fox established on May 15 in accordance with Ofcom's recommendations.
Previously, Carusone and Media Matters had issued a letter to Ofcom on June 13. 21st Century Fox's latest exhibition of tacit support for politically motivated misinformation and Fox News' pattern of uncritically promoting state propaganda should be enough to determine that the Murdochs' bid is not worth approving.
The letters from Carusone follow a March 30 report Media Matters submitted, in partnership with global activism group Avaaz, to Ofcom that detailed the risks Murdoch’s desired takeover of Sky poses to British broadcasting standards.
Before that, Media Matters and Avaaz submitted a report to Bradley demonstrating that the risk of “Foxification” of Britain’s public debate is too great for Bradley to simply rubber-stamp a Murdoch takeover of Sky. On March 16, Bradley referred Murdoch's takeover bid to Ofcom for a thorough investigation regarding concerns about "media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards."
21st Century Fox already owns 39.1 percent of Sky. Murdoch abandoned a previous bid for full ownership in light of an investigation into a mass phone hacking scandal at his U.K.-based newspapers. Following an investigation, a parliamentary report found that Murdoch was “not a fit person” to run a major corporation and that his son James (who at the time ran the parent company of News Of The World and The Sun; he is now the CEO of 21st Century Fox) showed “wilful ignorance” of the industrial-scale hacking. In September 2016, it was reported that Fox News had engaged in similar tactics, hacking the phone of a Media Matters reporter.
The anti-establishment trolls have lost their biggest White House ally and are starting to go after Pence. Prepare for the right-wing media food fight.
Stephen Bannon is no longer the White House chief strategist. His departure, in addition to furthering the narrative of a Trump administration in constant chaos, is likely to become a source of acrimony between right-wing anti-establishment outlets and online trolls and those who remain in the Trump administration.
Bannon’s departure has prompted a shift in amongst pro-Trump outlets and far-right trolls -- like The Gateway Pundit and Mike Cernovich -- who are now reporting that the White House is being taken over by a “deep state” coup led by Vice President Mike Pence. Cernovich is a right-wing opportunistic troll who rode to prominence by supporting President Donald Trump but has recently announced “a big pivot” away from the president. In response to the news about Bannon getting fired, Cernovich took to Periscope to claim that “there’s a full-on coup” organized by Pence but that Trump doesn’t deserve any sympathy because he’s “a 71-year old man” who chose to listen to his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner instead of Bannon. Pro-Trump troll Jack Posobiec (who has also recently tried to move away from the “alt-right” movement) pushed the coup narrative as well, suggesting that the “RNC is counting impeachment votes from Congress against Trump,” adding, “They want rid of him.” Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing troll who was formerly employed by Breitbart.com, celebrated Bannon’s departure by launching Bannon 2020 merchandise on his online store and saying he looks forward to “having Steve back in the trenches again.” Yiannopoulos also said he wants to see “Bannon the Barbarian crush his enemies.”
Pence's coup nears completion. pic.twitter.com/bMNEEHNXBp
— Mike Cernovich (@Cernovich) August 18, 2017
Bannon’s departure has other possible impacts for the far-right media universe. According to reports, Bannon might be returning to Breitbart, the Mercer-funded outlet he once claimed was “platform for the ‘alt-right,’” a term its current editors (much like former proud supporters of the movement) are trying to move away from. With Bannon in the White House, Breitbart behaved like any other pro-Trump outlet, showing little editorial independence and supporting Trump’s agenda (including his war on the press). But this support lasted as long as Trump’s agenda aligned with Bannon’s: Breitbart did not shy away from attacking Kushner, who is a White House senior adviser, to defend Bannon. With Bannon out, it seems like Breitbart will hold no punches in a war against a White House it now perceives as controlled by globalists.
The right-wing media landscape is about to shift once more, putting the Bannon-loyalists, nationalist ideologues, and opportunistic trolls in a war against an establishment Republican Party faction they think is being led by Pence and, likely, Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of Fox News and owner of the Wall Street Journal. It remains to be seen whether Trump and his White House will be caught in the middle.
21st Century Fox paid a woman a “substantial” settlement in 1998 after she reported David Hill, former chairman of Fox Sports, for sexual misconduct. The case is one of the “earliest recorded” settlements by 21st Century Fox for sexual misconduct according to attorney Lisa Bloom.
Hill was reported by Paula Radin, a vice president for special events at Fox Broadcasting Company, for “sexually aggressive behavior,” leading to a “substantial” settlement. Hill was later promoted to chairman of Fox Sports Media group according to The Wrap.
Earlier this year, Bill O’Reilly was let go following a long history of sexual harassment reports by multiple women. In 2016, former Fox News chairman and CEO, Roger Ailes was reported for sexual harassment by 25 women and forced to resign. Recently, Fox Business host Charles Payne has been suspended while being investigated following a report of sexual harassment by a former political analyst at the network. And less than two weeks ago, Fox Sports president, Jamie Horowitz was let go under sexual misconduct allegations.
Lisa Bloom, an attorney who has filed multiple sexual harassment cases against Fox says that Fox’s failure to address these cases in an appropriate manner has allowed this behavior to continue for years. From The Wrap:
21st Century Fox paid off a woman who accused former top executive David Hill of sexual misconduct while he ran Fox Sports, two individuals with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap.
The payment happened in 1998, and suggests Fox had issues with sexual harassment long before the investigations that led to the exits of Fox News star Bill O’Reilly and founder Roger Ailes, and the ouster of Fox Sports President Jamie Horowitz last month.
The payment came when Hill was chairman of Fox Sports. Hill, part of Fox chief Rupert Murdoch’s inner circle, was promoted to chairman of Fox Sports Media Group the following year, and had a 24-year career with the company that ended in 2015.
“That’s the earliest recorded Fox case I’ve heard about,” attorney Lisa Bloom, who has filed several sexual harassment suits against Fox, said of the 1998 case. “If they’d cleaned house then, or simply monitored their staff to require compliance with the law, so many women could have been spared.
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Another day, another report of workplace sexual harassment perpetrated by a 21st Century Fox employee. Horrifyingly, this will probably keep happening -- because Fox has proven time and again that it only takes measures to protect women when others are watching.
Fox Business host Charles Payne has been suspended from the network after a frequent Fox guest reported that Payne had coerced her into a years-long relationship “under threat of reprisals.” The Los Angeles Times reported on July 6 that the Fox guest (whom the Times did not identify) reported sexual misconduct to Fox’s law firm in June, stating that “she believed she was eventually blackballed from the network after she ended the affair in 2015 and tried to report Payne to top executives at Fox News.” HuffPost reported that the woman who came forward is political analyst Scottie Nell Hughes, and that Hughes believes that not only did Payne retaliate against her for ending the relationship, but that then-Fox News and Fox Business co-President Bill Shine and the network itself were involved. (Payne is denying the report.)
Payne’s suspension was announced one year to the day after former Fox News personality Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against former Fox chief Roger Ailes, who died in May, for serial sexual harassment. At least 25 women came forward to report similar harassment by Ailes in the aftermath of the Carlson lawsuit, citing incidents that spanned decades. Carlson’s lawsuit helped to expose a hostile work culture of silence and harassment at 21st Century Fox that has undoubtedly persisted since Ailes was forced out.
In the year since Ailes resigned, Fox fired former host Bill O’Reilly (and paid him tens of millions on the way out) after news broke that five women had reported him for sexual harassment. On the same day that O’Reilly’s firing was announced, Fox News co-host Greg Gutfeld sexually harassed his fellow co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle on-air. Soon after, Ailes’ “right-hand man” Bill Shine was fired from his top executive spot at Fox amid reports that he had attempted to silence and retaliate against women who came forward to report harassment at the network.
In March, former Fox News contributor Tamara Holder reached a legal settlement with 21st Century Fox after she reported sexual assault by Fox News Latino executive Francisco Cortes at company headquarters in 2015. The company subsequently fired Cortes. Just days ago, Fox Sports fired Jamie Horowitz, its head of sports programming, amid an investigation into sexual harassment reports.
The common thread in this series of high-profile firings is that they were exactly that -- high-profile. Fox’s response to a systematic, decades-long workplace culture problem that transcends time, a single perpetrator, a single survivor, or any sort of isolating detail, has been to do the absolute bare minimum to make immediate criticism go away.
21st Century Fox has proven that it only cares about its women employees when the public -- or its bottom line -- forces the issue. It will continue to treat each report of workplace harassment as a singular incident, offering a response that categorically hinges on the number of bad headlines, threats of advertiser boycotts, dollar amounts of lawsuits, or persistence of public outcry a story has garnered.
O’Reilly was fired amid an activist-driven advertiser boycott, as hundreds of sexual harassment survivors publicly asked Fox to do better. The network has fired Cortes and Horowitz and suspended Payne as it faces intense scrutiny from British regulators who are weighing whether to approve its bid to acquire the Sky PLC television company (and thus allow Fox to expand its toxic workplace culture).
Shine was replaced by two longtime Fox executives from the Ailes era, one of whom, Suzanne Scott, was reportedly also involved in silencing, ignoring, and retaliating against women who reported harassment at the network. And it took Fox nearly a year to fire Shine, even after former Fox News personality Andrea Tantaros named him in a sexual harassment lawsuit last August; it took more pressure from advertisers and the public before Fox would start to hold Shine accountable.
To add insult to injury, Fox’s shallow attempt to address systemic culture issues in its office appears to have been a sham. After Carlson filed her lawsuit, Fox retained the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to lead an internal investigation into the claims. The agreement between Fox and the law firm allowed for both an investigation and for the firm to give “legal advice” to the company, leading some to doubt its true independence. And after the Carlson lawsuit was settled in September, Vanity Fair reported that the so-called investigation “never officially expanded to examine the broader culture of Fox News” but instead “simply got a revenue machine back on track.”
Paul, Weiss was also the law firm Fox retained in April to investigate at least one report of sexual harassment against O’Reilly. And Paul, Weiss is where Hughes went last month with her account of Payne’s misconduct -- around the same time Fox renewed Payne’s contract for multiple years. HuffPost reported the firm will lead another internal investigation into Hughes’ report.
If past behavior is any indication, this investigation, too, will end with some public lip service until the news cycle passes, maybe a high-profile firing, and little concrete action to actually protect the women who work at Fox. Have executives and on-air personalities begun to treat women and people of color with more respect yet? The results are inconclusive.
Here’s what is clear: Fox seems hellbent on only doing what is asked of them and nothing more. So don’t stop asking.
Media Matters for America President Angelo Carusone released the following statement after U.K. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley announced that she was “minded” to refer 21st Century Fox’s bid to take over Sky PLC to the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority on grounds of media plurality:
The government should not approve 21st Century Fox’s bid to take over Sky. It’s alarming that the company’s demonstrated culture of malfeasance and governance deficiencies borne out of Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch’s commitment to advancing his personal political agenda has not already been sufficient to warrant outright rejection.
The soft touch to which the government is treating Murdoch’s bid is also revealing -- it seems to come in part because of the disproportionate amount of political power and influence that Murdoch wields. As Secretary Bradley accurately notes, this takeover will give Murdoch even more power and influence. That kind of disproportionate control, especially in the hands of an already destructive entity, is not in anyone’s interest except Murdoch’s.
Beware Murdoch’s promises and assurances. As we have noted, he has made an awful lot of them in the past in order to a secure a deal, only to swiftly disregard his word once the deal was finalized.
In mid-June, Media Matters for America President Angelo Carusone sent a letter to the U.K.'s chief broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, highlighting a number of recent developments -- all of which concern Fox News -- that are pertinent to Ofcom’s investigation into the potential takeover of Sky PLC by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company.
The recent developments detailed in Media Matters' letter to Ofcom further underscore that Murdoch and his sons fail to satisfy the conditions necessary to acquire British satellite broadcasting company Sky in full and expose dangers that the bid for Sky would pose to the British public and media landscape.
The letter from Carusone follows a March 30 report Media Matters submitted in partnership with global activism group Avaaz to Ofcom that detailed the risks Murdoch’s desired takeover of Sky poses to British broadcasting standards.
Before that, Media Matters and Avaaz submitted a report to Secretary Bradley of the U.K. Department for Culture, Media and Sport that demonstrated that the risk of Foxification is too great to simply rubber-stamp a Murdoch takeover. On March 16, Bradley referred Murdoch's takeover bid to Ofcom for a thorough investigation on the grounds of "media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards." The findings of the Ofcom investigation are due by June 20.
21st Century Fox already owns 39.1 percent of Sky. Murdoch abandoned a previous bid for full ownership in light of an investigation into mass hacking at his U.K.-based newspapers. Following an investigation, a parliamentary report found that Murdoch was “not a fit person” to run a major corporation and that his son James (who at the time ran the parent company of News Of The World and The Sun; he is now the CEO of 21st Century Fox) showed “wilful ignorance” of the industrial-scale hacking. In September of 2016, it was reported that Fox News had engaged in similar tactics, hacking the phone of Media Matters reporter Joe Strupp.
Murdochs could "Foxify" Sky News into a tool for meddling in British politics
Media Matters for America President Angelo Carusone sent a letter to the U.K.'s chief broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, highlighting a number of recent developments -- all of which concern Fox News -- that are pertinent to Ofcom’s investigation into the potential takeover of Sky PLC by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company. These developments include:
Murdoch and his sons have paid only lip service to the company’s toxic culture of sexual harassment and discrimination, which has prompted several lawsuits, a federal investigation, and the ouster of top executives
Fox News prime-time host Sean Hannity has gone without discipline after pushing baseless and irresponsible conspiracy theories, even as Hannity's volatility led to several major advertisers dropping their ads from his show
The recent developments detailed in Media Matters' letter to Ofcom further underscore that Murdoch and his sons fail to satisfy the conditions necessary to acquire British satellite broadcasting company Sky in full and expose dangers that the bid for Sky would pose to the British public and to the British media landscape.
The letter from Carusone follows a March 30th report Media Matters submitted in partnership with global activism group Avaaz to Ofcom that detailed the risks Rupert Murdoch’s desired takeover of Sky poses to British broadcasting standards.
Before that, Media Matters and Avaaz submitted a report to Secretary Karen Bradley of the U.K. Department for Culture, Media and Sport that demonstrated that the risk of Foxification is too great to simply rubber-stamp a Murdoch takeover. On March 16, U.K. Culture Secretary Bradley referred Murdoch's takeover bid to Ofcom for a thorough investigation on the grounds of "media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards." The findings of the Ofcom investigation are due by June 20th.
21st Century Fox already owns 39.1 percent of Sky. Murdoch abandoned a previous bid for full ownership in light of the investigation into mass hacking at his U.K.-based newspapers. Following an investigation, a parliamentary report found that Murdoch was “not a fit person” to run a major corporation, and that his son James (who at the time ran the parent company of News Of The World and The Sun and is now the CEO of 21st Century Fox) showed “wilful ignorance” of the industrial-scale hacking. In September of 2016, it was reported that Fox News had engaged in similar tactics, hacking the phone of Media Matters reporter Joe Strupp.
UPDATE: The FCC has voted to reinstate the "UHF discount," which will "clear the way for Sinclair Broadcasting Group Inc. to purchase Tribune Media Co.," according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote tomorrow to ease a media ownership rule that prevents greater consolidation of broadcast television stations. Two of the biggest expected beneficiaries of that decision will be Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Television Stations and the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, both key media allies of President Donald Trump.
To prevent the consolidation of too much power in too few hands, current rules prohibit “a single entity from owning commercial broadcast television stations that collectively reach more than 39 percent of the total television households in the nation.”
For more than 30 years, the FCC allowed station owners to count only 50 percent of the potential viewers in the markets where they owned stations that broadcast ultrahigh frequency (UHF) transmissions, rather than their entire potential audience. This “UHF discount” was granted because such transmissions had a more limited range at the time, but the transition to digital transmission eliminated this discrepancy, and in September 2016, the Obama-era FCC repealed that rule.
But the FCC has new leadership under President Donald Trump -- the president promoted to chairman FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, a fierce opponent of media regulations who opposed eliminating the “UHF discount" -- and today the commission will reportedly act to benefit the media moguls who supported Trump’s election. According to Variety:
That action, along with the prospect of deregulatory moves by the Republican-controlled FCC, have Wall Street analysts expecting consolidation among major station groups. Sinclair Broadcasting is reportedly eyeing Tribune Media, and other stations groups, like Nexstar, CBS Corp. and Fox Television Stations, seem to have found a sympathetic ear at the agency to their argument that the current regulations diminish investment.
After Murdoch’s television and newspaper properties gave Trump overwhelmingly positive coverage during the presidential campaign, Trump reportedly asked Murdoch to submit a list of potential FCC chairman nominees during the transition. Murdoch’s media entities have been the president’s biggest cheerleaders over the first months of his administration, and garnered praise and access from Trump in return. Now that cheerleading is getting paid back with dollar signs.
Through 21st Century Fox, Murdoch currently owns 28 television stations in 17 markets, including in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Houston, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Orlando and Charlotte. His stations reach roughly 37 percent of U.S. television households, just under the FCC’s cap.
The reinstatement of the “UHF discount” -- which 21st Century Fox has fought for in court -- will give the company more flexibility to purchase additional stations, increasing Murdoch’s grip on the media landscape. That will have a real impact for viewers, as Fox’s broadcast stations often adopt the same conservative talking points and story selection as Fox News.
Sinclair Broadcasting Group would also benefit from the rule change. Sinclair has drawn scrutiny in the past for its conservative bent, and the company reportedly made a deal with Trump’s campaign in which its journalists received access to Trump in exchange for broadcasting interviews with him without commentary. Earlier this week, Sinclair announced it had hired former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn as its “chief political analyst.”
As Variety noted, Sinclair is interested in purchasing television stations owned by Tribune Media. But such a deal would “would hinge on existing regulations being relaxed” because Sinclair is near the FCC ownership cap, according to Reuters.
Trump’s FCC is acting to put the control of the media in the hands of ever-fewer corporate giants. And Pai is just getting started.
Image by Sarah Wasko.