This past week's edition of Fox News Watch demonstrated just how toxic Fox News' media reporting has become and just how big a mess newly hired media reporter Howard Kurtz is walking into. On July 3, there was a major development in the investigation into the British tabloid phone hacking scandal and the role of Rupert Murdoch, head of News Corp. and 21st Century Fox (Fox News' newly reorganized parent company after a split from News Corp.). A recording of Murdoch was released in which he railed against the police inquiry into phone hacking and corruption at News Corp. tabloids, waved off the practice of bribing public officials for news tips as "part of the culture of Fleet Street," and promised to support journalists convicted as part of the investigation.
It was a major development in one of the biggest media stories of the past few years, and Fox News Watch -- ostensibly a media criticism program -- ignored it, just as it has ignored almost every aspect of the scandal that makes the guy signing the paychecks look bad. The show did, however, find time to cover Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes' brief suspension from Facebook.
On July 3, the UK's Channel 4 News broadcast a "secret recording" of Murdoch (obtained by the investigative news website ExaroNews) purportedly captured at a March 2013 meeting between Murdoch and journalists from The Sun, a News Corp. tabloid, who had been arrested as part of the hacking inquiry. On the tape, Murdoch bashes the investigating authorities as "totally incompetent" and says: "But why are the police behaving in this way? It's the biggest inquiry ever, over next to nothing." He promises "total support" to the journalists "even if you're convicted and get six months or whatever," and even suggests their jobs will be secure: "What happens if some of you are proven guilty? What afterwards? I'm not allowed to promise you -- I will promise you continued health support -- but your jobs. I've got to be careful what comes out -- but, frankly, I won't say it, but just trust me."
As reported by USA Today, Murdoch also dismissed corruption charges as just part of the culture of British journalism:
On the recording, which Exaro says was made by a participant in the meeting, a Sun journalist asks Murdoch, "I'm pretty confident that the working practices that I've seen here are ones that I've inherited, rather than instigated."
The voice identified as Murdoch responds, "We're talking about payments for news tips from cops: that's been going on a hundred years. You didn't instigate it."
Earlier in the tape, The Guardian reports, Murdoch tells the journalists: "I don't know of anybody, or anything, that did anything that wasn't being done across Fleet Street and wasn't the culture."
None of that showed up on Fox News Watch's radar. Instead, guest host Eric Shawn and his panel discussed whether the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald is a journalist, whether the media are "pressing their agenda" in the trial of George Zimmerman, and whether "bad boy behavior" of professional athletes is the fault of the "adoring media." They closed out the show with a brief report on Facebook's brief, mistaken suspension of Todd Starnes, leaning once again on the lazy "liberal bias" crutch the show has limped along on for years.