Rupert Murdoch has apologized for everything, but admitted responsibility for nothing.
The 80-year-old multi-billionaire and Chairman of News Corp. International, appeared before a special investigations committee in the British parliament yesterday to answer charges and allegations that his tabloid newspaper News of the World, had engaged in illegalities ranging from bribing police authorities, to the telephone hacking of murder victims, celebrities, politicians and members of the British royal family.
The scandal has gained larger attention here in the United States, where News Corp is headquartered, after it was revealed that specific hacking victims included a murdered 13-year old girl, Milly Dowler, relatives of deceased British soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and victims of the 7/7 London bombings of 2005. Public outrage ensued and the British prime minister, David Cameron, immediately called for parliamentary action. Murdoch was forced to cease production of the News of the World, a 168-year-old British publication.
WATCH RACHEL MADDOW’S COVERAGE OF THE MURDOCH SCANDAL:
But the questions have only just begun. Murdoch’s media empire is vast and international. Among his holdings are the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Fox News Network. Rumors surfaced that the corrupt hacking practices were not limited solely to the News of the World tabloid, but systemic throughout the Murdoch empire. And when allegations arose that the phone records of victims of the 9/11 attacks and their family members may have also been hacked, United States Senators John D. Rockefeller, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez each sent letters to the Justice Department calling for a formal inquiry into whether the privacy of United States citizens had been violated. On July 15th, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that the Department of Justice was following up calls for an investigation into the company.
But for those of us already aware of the tactics used by Murdoch’s Fox News Network, none of the present allegations seem all that shocking.
Fox, admittedly, is the most successful cable news network in America. But its journalistic integrity is largely non-existent, with the entire operation geared toward promoting a conservative political agenda and platform. Facts are written and re-written to fit the story that Murdoch, Roger Ailes and their cronies are invested in promoting. Ailes, Fox’s president served as a media consultant to Republican presidents Nixon, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush.
Nearly every potential Republican presidential candidate either has or had a contract as a Fox News Contributor: Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. Ailes’ conservative loyalty is evident and so is his tolerance for suspect news practices, with African-Americans often the intended victims.
Besides the fact that all the Fox News Network presenters and anchors are all white — hardly a coincidence — the network often seems to have a decidedly anti-Obama, anti-black agenda. This was perhaps best articulated by former Fox star Glenn Beck, who in response to Obama’s remarks on the Henry Louis Gates controversy in 2009, argued that Obama had displayed “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture”, saying “I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people. I’m saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.”
In many ways Beck and his fellow presenters helped fuel the worst elements of the Tea Party movement. Often giving voice to the far-right, and often racist elements evident at their rallies and gatherings. Although Beck would eventually lose many of the advertisers for his daytime show, the damage was already done, and he continued to spew his rhetoric all under the watchful and forgiving eye of Rupert Murdoch.
In the same month, July 2009, Beck began his one-man attack machine against Van Jones, Obama’s Special Advisor for Green Jobs for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Beck devoted hours of airtime to criticize Jones’ past involvement in STORM, a left wing non-governmental group, and his support for death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, who had been convicted of killing a police officer. And highlighted old videos in which Jones had used profanity when referring to Republicans. Beck took a lesson directly from fellow Fox presenter Sean Hannity, who had used similar tactics during the 2008 presidential campaign to stir up controversy over Obama’s supposed links to Bill Ayers. Ayers, a professor, had once had ties to a domestic terrorist group in the 1970s. Much like the Ayers allegations, there wasn’t much to the faux-conspiracy, but the incessant media attention led Jones to resign from Obama’s White House, and he later told the Washington Post the attacks were a “vicious smear campaign” and an effort to use “lies and distortions to distract and divide”.
Fox drove much of the attention which led to the dismantling of ACORN, advocacy group which assisted low-income communities with voter registration, healthcare and affordable housing. Beck, O’Reilly and Hannity all devoted months throughout 2009 criticizing ACORN’s efforts to register mostly black and latino voters in the 2008 election.
In September 2009, Beck broadcast a series of heavily edited undercover videos by conservative activists James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, which seemed to portray ACORN organizers offering inappropriate tax advice to people who said they were engaged in illegal activities.
Although both the Massachusetts and California Attorney Generals found the videos had been “substantially” edited, and that there was no evidence of criminal conduct by ACORN employees, the media fire storm Fox successfully created had framed ACORN and its Democratic supporters in Congress as corrupt. Following endless investigations, ACORN’s organizational structure buckled under the pressure and threats of defunding.
This is perhaps the worst and most manipulative of all Fox’s corrupt news efforts. It essentially dismantled an organization specifically designed to broaden the voter base among the poor, minority and disadvantaged, and as such helped remove an obvious threat to Republican efforts to win back the Congress and the White House in 2012. ACORN’s demise served as a perfect storm of disenfranchisement.
To add to a long line of mischaracterizations, failure to provide due diligence and responsible reporting, Fox News was the first news source to release Andrew Breitbart’s videos of Shirley Sherrod, which sought to frame her as racist against the white farmers she worked to help. Sherrod was forced to resign from her position as Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture, after a video of her speaking at an NAACP event in March 2010, was edited to make her seem racist, when in fact Sherrod was sharing a personal story of racial reconciliation and solidarity.
Although Sherrod was later exonerated and offered a new role, she is now suing Breitbart, for “defamation, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
Rupert Murdoch has a bigger problem than mere phone hacking. The scandal surrounding the questionable practices of Murdoch’s newspaper endeavors in the UK, seem to belie the status quo of the Fox News Network in the U.S.: manipulating the facts to create a story that sells.
Undoubtedly, investigations will follow to ensure that the privacy of American citizens, soldiers and 9/11 victims has not been compromised. But the relentless attacks against President Obama, coded racism and race-baiting by Fox News contributors and hosts means that Murdoch will find very few friends in the African-American community. The 24-hour Republican political machine disguised as a “fair and balanced” journalist organization has been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.