After UK Crisis, is Rupert Murdoch Getting into Another Phone Hacking Crisis with Fox News?

April 3, 2017

A grand jury has been seated in a federal investigation into Fox News, despite the fact Trump has fired the prosecutor in charge—and might replace him with Roger Ailes’ personal attorney. Ailes is the former Fox boss who left Fox in disgrace after sexual related scandal.

Among other, the investigation was looking into whether Rupert’s Murdoch’s Fox News executives broke laws by allegedly obtaining journalists’ phone records or committed mail and wire fraud by hiding financial settlements paid to women who accused Roger Ailes of sexual harassment.

If the investigation is talking about phone taps, this is not the first for Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

In July 2011, Murdoch, along with his son James, provided testimony before a British parliamentary committee regarding phone hacking. In the U.K., his media empire remains under fire as investigators continue to probe reports of other phone hacking.[75]

On 14 July, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons served a summons on Murdoch, his son James, and his former CEO Rebekah Brooks to testify before a committee on 19 July.[76] After an initial refusal, the Murdochs confirmed they would attend after the committee issued them a summons to Parliament.[77] The day before the committee, the website of the News Corporation publication The Sun was hacked, and a false story was posted on the front page claiming that Murdoch had died.[78] Murdoch described the day of the committee “the most humble day of my life”. He argued that since he ran a global business of 53,000 employees and that the News of the World was “just 1%” of this, he was not ultimately responsible for what went on at the tabloid. He added that he had not considered resigning,[79] and that he and the other top executives had been completely unaware of the hacking.[80][81]

On 15 July, Murdoch attended a private meeting in London with the family of Milly Dowler, where he personally apologized for the hacking of their murdered daughter’s voicemail by a company he owns.[82][83] On 16 and 17 July, News International published two full-page apologies in many of Britain’s national newspapers. The first apology took the form of a letter, signed by Murdoch, in which he said sorry for the “serious wrongdoing” that occurred. The second was titled “Putting right what’s gone wrong”, and gave more detail about the steps News International was taking to address the public’s concerns.[83] In the wake of the allegations Murdoch accepted the resignations of Rebekah Brooks, head of Murdoch’s British operations, and Les Hinton, head of Dow Jones who was chairman of Murdoch’s British newspaper division when some of the abuses happened. They both deny any knowledge of any wrongdoing under their command.[84]

Media Matters reported (source)

[O]n Saturday Trump oversaw the firing of Preet Bharara, the U.S attorney for the Southern District of Manhattan, whose office is in the middle of a high-profile federal investigation of Fox News. The probe, according to sources, is looking at a number of potential crimes, including whether Fox News executives broke laws by allegedly obtaining journalists’ phone records or committed mail and wire fraud by hiding financial settlements paid to women who accused Roger Ailes of sexual harassment. Sources told me that prosecutors have been offering witnesses immunity to testify before a federal grand jury that’s already been impaneled.

Trump’s decision to fire Bharara ignited speculation that it was designed to blunt investigations like the Fox News probe. In November, Trump had promised Bharara he could remain in the job. But on Friday, he reversed course and requested Bharara’s resignation along with 45 other Obama-appointed U.S. attorneys. (Adding to the intrigue, Trump’s prosecutor purge came less than 24 hours after Sean Hannity said on Fox News that Trump should “purge” the Justice Department of Obama-appointed officials.)

Given that Fox News is Murdoch’s most profitable division, the prospect of indictments is a serious problem. “They’re really worried,” one source close to the network said. Another insider said that Fox News executives considered the investigation “political” because Bharara had been appointed by Barack Obama. Which is why, for Murdoch, it must be a relief that Bharara’s replacement could be an ally. According to the Times, Trump’s shortlist to replace Bharara includes Marc Mukasey — who just happens to be former Fox News chief Roger Ailes’s personal lawyer.

Considering Mukasey’s close relationship with Ailes, he would surely come under pressure to recuse himself from the Fox News probe if he was appointed by Trump to succeed Bharara. “I have no comment,” Mukasey said when I reached him Sunday evening and asked if he planned to do so, should he get the job. [New York magazine, 3/12/17]

NYT reported (source)

The political drama around the federal courthouse in Manhattan did not end with the sudden, unexplained turnabout of President Trump in firing Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.

While that prominent post always gets attention, one candidate frequently mentioned as a possible successor to Mr. Bharara could sharpen the scrutiny to new levels: Marc L. Mukasey, a former prosecutor who now works in white-collar criminal defense.

As it happens, Mr. Mukasey has represented Roger E. Ailes, the former chairman of Fox News, who has long had a mogul-to-mogul relationship with Mr. Trump.

Whomever Mr. Trump nominates to replace Mr. Bharara will inherit an investigation of Fox News.

A federal grand jury sitting in Manhattan is expected to soon hear testimony from at least two witnesses about business practices at Fox News when it was led by Mr. Ailes, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. Mr. Ailes, who was forced out in July amid revelations of multiple accusations of sexual harassment, has denied those charges.

The current inquiry, which began in September and appears to be in an early stage, may be focused, at least in part, on settlement payments, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

Marc L. Mukasey leaving Manhattan federal court last month. Mr. Mukasey, who has represented Roger E. Ailes, the former Fox News chairman, has been named as a possible successor to Mr. Bharara. Credit Nate Raymond/Reuters

One of those subpoenaed, according to the two people, is Mark Kranz, the former chief financial officer for Fox News who oversaw the network’s finances when it paid millions of dollars in settlements. Mr. Kranz was appointed to his position by Mr. Ailes in 2004, and resigned last year, a week after Mr. Ailes had done so.

Mr. Ailes helped prepare Mr. Trump ahead of debates in last year’s campaign. In 2014, Mr. Trump intervened in a dispute between Mr. Ailes and a former aide who said he had damaging information about Mr. Ailes and the network.

Mr. Trump negotiated a settlement on behalf of Mr. Ailes, and later boasted of his work, telling the journalist Gabriel Sherman, “When Roger was having problems, he didn’t call 97 people, he called me.”

The existence of the grand jury investigation of Fox News was disclosed in a state court proceeding last month by Judd Burstein, a Manhattan lawyer representing a former daytime host for Fox, Andrea Tantaros, who said her career suffered after spurning advances from Mr. Ailes. She charged that the network operated like a “sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult.”

 Wikipedia Reports

Main article: News International phone hacking scandal

In July 2011, Murdoch, along with his son James, provided testimony before a British parliamentary committee regarding phone hacking. In the U.K., his media empire remains under fire as investigators continue to probe reports of other phone hacking.[75]

On 14 July, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons served a summons on Murdoch, his son James, and his former CEO Rebekah Brooks to testify before a committee on 19 July.[76] After an initial refusal, the Murdochs confirmed they would attend after the committee issued them a summons to Parliament.[77] The day before the committee, the website of the News Corporation publication The Sun was hacked, and a false story was posted on the front page claiming that Murdoch had died.[78] Murdoch described the day of the committee “the most humble day of my life”. He argued that since he ran a global business of 53,000 employees and that the News of the World was “just 1%” of this, he was not ultimately responsible for what went on at the tabloid. He added that he had not considered resigning,[79] and that he and the other top executives had been completely unaware of the hacking.[80][81]

On 15 July, Murdoch attended a private meeting in London with the family of Milly Dowler, where he personally apologized for the hacking of their murdered daughter’s voicemail by a company he owns.[82][83] On 16 and 17 July, News International published two full-page apologies in many of Britain’s national newspapers. The first apology took the form of a letter, signed by Murdoch, in which he said sorry for the “serious wrongdoing” that occurred. The second was titled “Putting right what’s gone wrong”, and gave more detail about the steps News International was taking to address the public’s concerns.[83] In the wake of the allegations Murdoch accepted the resignations of Rebekah Brooks, head of Murdoch’s British operations, and Les Hinton, head of Dow Jones who was chairman of Murdoch’s British newspaper division when some of the abuses happened. They both deny any knowledge of any wrongdoing under their command.[84]

On 27 February 2012, the following day after Murdoch’s controversial release of the Sun on Sunday, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers informed the Leveson Inquiry that police are investigating a “network of corrupt officials” as part of their inquiries into phone hacking and police corruption. She said that evidence suggested a “culture of illegal payments” at the Sun newspaper and that these payments allegedly made by the Sun were authorised at a senior level.[85]

In testimony on 25 April 2012, Murdoch did not deny the quote attributed to him by his former editor of The Sunday Times, Harold Evans: “I give instructions to my editors all round the world, why shouldn’t I in London?”[86][87] On 1 May 2012, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee issued a report stating that Murdoch was “not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company”.[88][89]

On 3 July 2013 Exaro and Channel 4 news broke the story of a secretly recorded tape. The tape was recorded by Sun journalists and in it Murdoch can be heard telling them that the whole investigation was one big fuss over nothing, and that he, or his successors, would take care of any journalists who went to prison.[90] He said: “Why are the police behaving in this way? It’s the biggest inquiry ever, over next to nothing.”[91]

See also: Racial bias in criminal news § Fox News

Fox News Channel has long been accused of promoting conservative political positions[58] and has been widely criticized for biased reporting.[8] Critics of the channel have stated Fox News has a bias favoring the political right and the Republican Party.[9] Fox News host Chris Wallace has said, “I think we are the counter-weight [to NBC News] … they have a liberal agenda, and we tell the other side of the story.”[59][60][61][62] Timothy Noah stated in an editorial in Slate Magazine that Fox News had a conservative bias.[63] Fox News has publicly denied such statements.[64] Murdoch and Ailes’ replies have included Murdoch’s statement that Fox has “given room to both sides, whereas only one side had it before”.[65][66] In 2004, director Robert Greenwald produced the documentary film Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, which argues that Fox News has a conservative bias.[67] The film includes clips from Fox News and internal memos from editorial vice president John Moody directing Fox News staff on how to report certain subjects.[68]

A leaked memo from Fox News vice president Bill Sammon to news staff at the height of the health care reform in the United States debate has been cited as an example of the pro-Republican Party bias of Fox News. His memo asked the staff to “use the term ‘government-run health insurance,’ or, when brevity is a concern, ‘government option,’ whenever possible”. The memo was sent shortly after Republican pollster Frank Luntz advised Sean Hannity on his Fox show that “If you call it a public option, the American people are split. If you call it the government option, the public is overwhelmingly against it”.[69]

A Pew Research poll released on October 29, 2009 found that Fox News is viewed as the most ideological channel in America. 47 percent of those surveyed said Fox News is “mostly conservative”, 14 percent said “mostly liberal” and 24 percent said “neither”. In comparison, MSNBC had 36 percent identify it as “mostly liberal”, 11 percent as “mostly conservative” and 27 percent as “neither”. CNN had 37 percent describe it as “mostly liberal”, 11 percent as “mostly conservative” and 33 percent as “neither”.[70] A 2004 Pew Research Center survey showed that FNC was cited (unprompted) by 69 percent of national journalists as a conservative news organization. The survey showed that 34 percent of national journalists describe themselves as liberal, compared with 7 percent who describe themselves as conservative.[71]

A poll by Rasmussen Reports found that 31 percent of Americans felt that Fox News has a conservative bias, and 15 percent that it has a liberal bias. The poll also reported that 36 percent believed Fox News delivers news with neither a conservative or liberal bias, compared with 37 percent who said NPR delivers news with no conservative or liberal bias and 32 percent who said the same of CNN.[72] A 2007 study looked at the introduction of Fox News into local U.S. markets between 1996 and 2000, and found that in the 2000 presidential election “Republicans gained 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points in the towns that broadcast Fox News”. The study’s estimates “imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 28 percent of its viewers to vote Republican, depending on the audience measure”.[73]

A 2010 study by Sean Aday comparing Fox News Channel’s Special Report With Brit Hume and NBC’s Nightly News coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan during 2005 found that both underplayed bad news; it concluded that “Fox News was much more sympathetic to the administration than NBC”, suggesting that “if scholars continue to find evidence of a partisan or ideological bias at FNC…they should consider Fox as alternative, rather than mainstream, media”. Aday also stated, however, that the data used in his study may have come late enough in the war to be consistent with accepted practice.[clarification needed][74]

David Carr, media critic for The New York Times, praised the 2012 presidential election results coverage on Fox News for the network’s response to Republican adviser and Fox News contributor Karl Rove challenging its call that Barack Obama would win Ohio and the election. Fox’s prediction was correct. Carr wrote:

Over many months, Fox lulled its conservative base with agitprop: that President Obama was a clear failure, that a majority of Americans saw [Mitt] Romney as a good alternative in hard times, and that polls showing otherwise were politically motivated and not to be believed. But on Tuesday night, the people in charge of Fox News were confronted with a stark choice after it became clear that Mr. Romney had fallen short: was Fox, first and foremost, a place for advocacy or a place for news? In this moment, at least, Fox chose news.[75]

Media Matters for America, which bills itself as a “progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media,”[76] cataloged what it called the ten most “egregious examples” of “distortion” by both Fox News and its TV personalities.[77] Criticism includes several examples of cropping quotes from President Obama, Vice President Biden and Vice President Gore so they appear out of context, using image-manipulation software to edit the appearance of reporters from The New York Times and using footage from other events during a report on the November 5, 2009 Tea Party rally in Washington, D.C.; Media Matters said the intention of Fox News was to make it appear as if a larger number of protesters attended the event.[78] The group also called attention to the December 4, 2009 edition of Fox and Friends, accusing the program of misleading its viewers with a “questionable graphic” showing the result of a Rasmussen Reports climate-change poll totaling 120 percent.[79] Fox News disputed the claim that the graph was in error, saying that they merely took three pieces of polling data from Rasmussen Polls on the screen, and also pointed out that they never explicitly said on the screen that the climate change graph was supposed to equal 100%.[80]

In November 2009, Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett told viewers that a Sarah Palin book signing in Grand Rapids, Michigan had a massive turnout, showing footage of Palin with a large crowd. Jarrett stated that the former Republican vice-presidential candidate is “continuing to draw huge crowds while she’s promoting her brand-new book”, adding that the images being shown were “some of the pictures just coming in to us…. The lines earlier had formed this morning”.[81] The video was actually taken from a 2008 McCain-Palin campaign rally. Fox senior vice president for news Michael Clemente issued a statement saying, “This was a production error in which the copy editor changed a script and didn’t alert the control room to update the video”.[81] Fox offered an on-air apology the following day during the same Happening Now segment, expressing regrets for what it described as a “video error” with no intent to mislead.[82]

Fox also apologized for fabricated quotes attributed to John Kerry in an article on its website during the 2004 presidential campaign,[83] stating that the piece was a joke which accidentally appeared on the website.[84]

On March 14, 2017, Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News commentator, claimed on Fox & Friends that British intelligence agency GCHQ had wiretapped Donald Trump on behalf of Barack Obama during the 2016 United States presidential election.[85][86] On March 16, 2017, White House spokesman Sean Spicer repeated the claim.[85] When Trump was questioned about the claim at a news conference, he said “All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn’t make an opinion on it.”[87] On March 17, 2017, Shepard Smith, a Fox News anchor, acknowledged that the network had no evidence that Trump was under surveillance. British officials said the White House was backing off the claim, but the White House did not release a public statement expressing regret.[87] Napolitano was later suspended by Fox News for making the claim.[88]

About Murdoch

Keith Rupert Murdoch /ˈmɜːrdɒk/,[3] AC, KCSG (born 11 March 1931) is an Australian-born American media mogul. His father, Keith Murdoch, had been a reporter, editor, and senior executive of the Herald and Weekly Times newspaper publishing company, covering all Australian states except New South Wales. After his father’s death in 1952, Murdoch declined to join his late father’s registered public company and created his own private company, News Limited. Murdoch thus had full control as Chairman and CEO of global media holding company News Corporation, now the world’s second-largest media conglomerate, and its successors, News Corp and 21st Century Fox, after the conglomerate split on 28 June 2013.[4][5][6][7]

In the 1950s and 1960s, Murdoch acquired a number of newspapers in Australia and New Zealand, before expanding into the United Kingdom in 1969, taking over the News of the World, followed closely by The Sun. Murdoch moved to New York City in 1974, to expand into the U.S. market; however, he retained interests in Australia and Britain. In 1981, Murdoch bought The Times, his first British broadsheet, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen (and as a result, gave up Australian citizenship) in 1985 to satisfy the legal requirement for U.S. television ownership.[8]

In 1986, keen to adopt newer electronic publishing technologies, Murdoch consolidated his UK printing operations in Wapping, causing bitter industrial disputes. Murdoch’s News Corporation acquired Twentieth Century Fox (1985), HarperCollins (1989),[9] and The Wall Street Journal (2007). Murdoch formed the British broadcaster BSkyB in 1990, and during the 1990s expanded into Asian networks and South American television. By 2000, Murdoch’s News Corporation owned over 800 companies in more than 50 countries, with a net worth of over $5 billion.

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