Rupert Murdoch

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  • Why The Murdochs Have To Clean House At Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Butts being grabbed, women being kissed against their will, female employees being ogled at work, promotions being offered in exchange for sex, and the looming threat of being fired for anyone who complained about the degrading harassment.

    Is it just me, or does the recent ugly portrait of Fox News these days in the wake of Roger Ailes’ departure amidst allegations of sexual harassment sound more like a caricature of a sexist work environment at a record company in the 1970s than it does at a news outlet in the 21st century? Not to mention a conservative news outlet that has branded itself the champion of wholesome, Republican values for years. As Fox News’ own Howard Kurtz conceded, “this has been a painful and embarrassing period for the network."

    Indeed. “Current and former employees described instances of harassment and intimidation that went beyond Mr. Ailes and suggested a broader problem in the workplace,” The New York Times reported. “The Times spoke with about a dozen women who said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment or intimidation at Fox News or the Fox Business Network, and half a dozen more who said they had witnessed it.”

    Fox News’ July fiasco first detonated on the sixth when former anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against former network chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. Since then, it’s been a steady stream of allegations aired in the press as current and former employees speak out.

    Ailes was shown the door on July 21, but the stain remains. And that’s why Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, who have taken oversight of Fox News, need to clean house.

    On Monday it was reported that longtime Fox News executive Michael Clemente had left the network. His exit was approved by the Murdochs, according to CNN’s Dylan Byers. Byers added, “Network insiders say the move was unrelated to the recent sexual harassment allegations surrounding Ailes, though it's also true that Clemente showed no signs of leaving the network prior to the scandal.”

    For now, James and Lachlan are saying all the right things about wanting to fix Fox News: “We continue our commitment to maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect. We take seriously our responsibility to uphold these traditional, long-standing values of our company.”

    And to their credit, they quickly hired an outside law firm to investigate harassment allegations. The looming question now is, how do the Murdochs deal with the alleged pattern of abuse? Do they hope the story fades away with Ailes’ departure, or do they actually try to make Fox News a place where women feel comfortable working?

    New York’s Gabriel Sherman noted over the weekend that according to people he had spoken to inside the company, “the only way to change the Fox News culture is to move out all of the executives that Ailes had elevated into positions of power.” And he’s right, in part because some of those Ailes-affiliated executives reportedly tried to defend their boss this month by getting Fox hosts to disparage Carlson and her harassment claims.

    The sheer number of allegations swirling around Fox News, as recently reported by New YorkNew York Timesand The Washington Post (among others), remains startling.

    According to a former staffer, Ailes made “jokes that he liked having women on their knees.” Women did not want to be alone with Ailes in closed-door meetings. Ailes allegedly grabbed the buttocks of a young intern in 2002 after she rebuffed his sexual advances. One former employee says Ailes tried to kiss her in 2004, after telling her, “Do you know how to play the game?” According to Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit, he told her in 2015, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago.” And at a company picnic, Ailes allegedly asked a former “rising star at the network” if she was wearing “panties” while she jumped on a trampoline. 

    But it wasn’t just Ailes.

    Former correspondent Rudi Bakhtiar has detailed how she was fired after she complained that Fox News’ then-D.C. bureau chief offered her a promotion if she agreed to sleep with him. (“I’d like to see the inside of your hotel room.”)

    Meanwhile, Fox News managers tried to set up their employees on dates with their superiors. One current employee alleged a supervisor said she could work on a new assignment if she agreed to give him oral sex.

    And of course in 2004, Bill O’Reilly was accused of sexual harassment by a former producer. The harassment came in the form O’Reilly diving into detailed discussions with a female employee about masturbation, climaxing, and shower fantasies. (The case was quickly settled out of court.)

    Your move, Murdochs.

    The behind-the-scenes story being told is that the Murdoch sons have been embarrassed by Ailes and Fox News for years and have been trying to oust the entrenched chief from his corner office. “This is not principally about sexual harassment,” Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff told the Washington Post. “This is an internal coup.”

    Noted Financial Review columnist Neil Chenoweth, based in Murdoch’s home country of Australia, “It looked like an excuse to dump Ailes, for the minor Murdochs to have their revenge.”

    Now that the sons have finally succeeded, thanks to the threat of outside legal action, are they going to simply remove Ailes, read an outside investigation about rampant sexual harassment allegations, shelve the lecherous findings, and carry on without any kind of radical shift in leadership? It doesn’t seem possible that just one man was responsible for that much alleged harassment.

    Meaning, if James and Lachlan make no concerted effort to fix the widespread problems facing the women working at Fox News, that means James and Lachlan will soon own that problem and that stigma.

    I’m under no illusions Murdoch and his sons will start poaching top scribes from the New York Times or National Public Radio and clean away the dreck and the sludge that now line the editorial halls at Fox News. Boss Murdoch has made his career peddling ugly lies and marketing falsehoods, and he’s happy to make a buck playing the partisan game.

    So no, I don’t expect Fox News to become a beacon of journalism anytime soon. But it's hard to justify allowing Fox News to continue to reward an outdated, hands-on, Mad Men culture. 

  • Fox Figures React To Roger Ailes Resignation Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations With “Tears”

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Following reports that Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes had resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment, Fox News figures reacted with disbelief, “tears,” and calling the decision an example of “the grotesque unfairness of life.”

    In a July 21 statement from Fox News’ parent company 21st Century Fox, it was announced that Ailes “has resigned from his role effective immediately,” and that Executive Chairman of 21st Century Fox “Rupert Murdoch will assume the role of Chairman and acting CEO of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.” 

    Previously multiple Fox figures came out in support of Ailes and attacked his accuser. Following the news of Ailes’ resignation, Fox personalities responded with support for Ailes:

  • Report: Fox News CEO Roger Ailes Is On His Way Out

    Media Matters' Brock: Fox News "Undisputed Champion Of Sexism," No Surprise It "Starts At The Top"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
    Ailes
     
    Rupert Murdoch and his sons Lachlan and James, the heads of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox, have decided to give embattled Fox CEO Roger Ailes the choice to resign or be fired, according to a report from New York’s Gabriel Sherman.

    Ailes, who has led the conservative network since its inception, has been under fire since July 6, when Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against him alleging sexual harassment and retaliation. As other women have come forward to levy similar accusations against Ailes, the network’s hosts and anchors -- along with Republican presidential  nominee Donald Trump -- have rallied around him.

    But the Murdochs have taken the charges more seriously, hiring the law firm Paul, Weiss to conduct an investigation of the allegations. According to Sherman, the investigation has expanded to cover Ailes’ “controversial management style,” and based on its initial findings the Murdochs have decided that "Ailes needs to go," with the only question being the timing. From New York:

    Roger Ailes's tenure as the head of Fox News may be coming to an end. Rupert Murdoch and sons Lachlan and James — co-chairmen and CEO, respectively, of parent company 21st Century Fox — have settled on removing the 76-year-old executive, say two sources briefed on a sexual harassment investigation of Ailes being conducted by New York law firm Paul, Weiss. After reviewing the initial findings of the probe, James Murdoch is said to be arguing that Ailes should be presented with a choice this week to resign or face being fired. Lachlan is more aligned with their father, who thinks that no action should be taken until after the GOP convention this week. Another source confirms that all three are in agreement that Ailes needs to go.

    While Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes sparked the investigation, sources say it has expanded into a wide-ranging inquiry into Ailes’s controversial management style. The interviews are now being conducted at Paul, Weiss’s midtown offices because of concerns that the Fox offices could be bugged, sources say. The lawyers are seeking to interview former female employees of Fox News in addition to current staff. They are also looking into the appropriateness of Ailes’s pressuring employees to speak out on his behalf, against his accusers.

    In response to the news, Media Matters chairman David Brock released the following statement:

    Fox News has been the undisputed champion of sexism and misogyny in the media and as the head of Fox News, it's not shocking that this culture of sexism -- on and off the air -- starts at the top with Roger Ailes.  If this report is accurate, there is a special irony in 21st Century Fox preparing to remove Ailes as the Republican National Convention gets ready to nominate known misogynist Donald Trump, the candidate that Fox News created.

    UPDATE: 21st Century Fox has released a statement that does not deny Sherman's report.

  • Politico’s Morning Media: WSJ Editors Reminded To Be “Fair” To Trump

    Reminder Comes After Murdoch Reportedly Becomes “An Official Donald Trump Supporter”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerry Baker instructed editors “to be ‘fair’ to [presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald] Trump” during a recent meeting, according to Politico’s Morning Media tip sheet.

    It was recently reported that Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the Journal’s parent company News Corp., was throwing his full support behind Trump, and that Fox News -- also under the News Corp. umbrella -- “will go easy on Trump.” Murdoch took to Twitter in March to argue the GOP “would be mad not to unify” around the presumptive Republican nominee. And Murdoch’s New York Post was the third newspaper to endorse Trump, following The National Enquirer and The New York Observer (which is owned by Trump’s son-in-law).

    Politico reported that the Journal’s editor-in-chief Gerry Baker “took a couple minutes to remind editors to be ‘fair’ to Trump,” because “no matter what people think of him, Trump’s a serious candidate.” According to Politico, Baker’s comments were taken by some editors “as an insult or admonition,” and opened the argument over whether the Journal, which “is generally seen as impervious” to Murdoch’s influence, will start to signal support for Trump. From Politico’s May 27 Morning Media tip sheet: 

    TRUMP TREATMENT: Now that Rupert Murdoch is reportedly an official Donald Trump supporter (http://nym.ag/1V7TyF5), Murdoch Kremlinologists will be even more hyper-attuned to coverage of the GOP nominee in the News Corp. chairman’s American newspapers. Here’s something that might make their ears perk up: During one of The Wall Street Journal’s recent morning news meetings, editor in chief Gerry Baker took a couple minutes to remind editors to be “fair” to Trump, according to a source with direct knowledge of the remarks, because, Baker said, no matter what people think of him, Trump’s a serious candidate and lots of serious people are going to get behind his White House bid.

    The source described Baker’s Trump talk as a “surreal tangent” in a meeting normally reserved for ironing out the logistics of covering the day’s top stories.The source also said the comments were widely discussed among Journal editors and bureau chiefs, some of whom took them as an insult or admonition. A Journal spokeswoman declined to comment.

    While Murdoch is known for using some of his publications in the U.S., U.K. and Oz to influence politics, the Journal is generally seen as impervious. Plus Murdoch had appeared to be at odds with Trump for much of this election cycle, and Trump has railed against the Journal’s coverage of his campaign. But maybe that’s changing? Last week, the Journal’s right-leaning editorial board—which operates independently of the newsroom—seemed to signal support for Trump’s would-be Supreme Court nominees (http://politi.co/20rZHeK).

  • Report: Rupert Murdoch And Fox News All In On Donald Trump

    New York Magazine’s Sherman: Fox Has “Thrown In The Towel” And Won’t “Go After Trump”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a New York magazine article, Gabriel Sherman reported that Rupert Murdoch, executive co-chairman of Fox News' parent company, “has signaled he plans to fully back Trump in the general election against Hillary Clinton” in “a sharp reversal from the hostile view he held over much of the past year.”

    Sherman noted that Murdoch’s “flip flop” on Trump follows the presumptive Republican nominee’s months-long feud with Fox News in which Trump boycotted a network presidential debate, referred to Fox anchor Megyn Kelly as a “crazy” and “overrated anchor,” and even boycotted the network (for a week). Fox responded to Trump’s actions by openly mocking the candidate and accusing him of having a “sick obsession” with Megyn Kelly. It was also reported in the early days of Trump’s campaign that Murdoch and Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes were fighting over the network’s coverage of the candidate.

    According to Sherman, the network has reportedly “thrown in the towel” and will “go easy on Trump.” Sherman explained “That Murdoch flip flopped on Trump shouldn’t be all that surprising” because he’s repeatedly “sacrificed core principles to forge political alliances that advance his media empire’s interests” and "it’s clear Trump is good for business.” From the May 17 report:

    Call it the media equivalent of Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King: Tonight, Donald Trump finally sits down with his Fox News nemesis Megyn Kelly. The battle between Trump and Fox’s biggest star has been one of the most compelling story lines of the 2016 election, and the subject of much discussion in the run-up to Kelly’s prime-time broadcast special with the GOP frontrunner. But in all the coverage of the Trump-Kelly détente, a more important development has been overlooked: Trump has made peace with Kelly’s boss’s boss, Rupert Murdoch.

    According to a half dozen sources familiar with Murdoch’s thinking, the media mogul has signaled he plans to fully back Trump in the general election against Hillary Clinton. Murdoch’s embrace of Trump is a sharp reversal from the hostile view he held over much of the past year. In fact, according to one high-level Fox source, it was Murdoch himself who directed Kelly to hammer Trump during the debut GOP debate, in Cleveland, that sparked the feud in the first place. “Rupert told her to do that,” the source said.

    [...]
    That Murdoch flip-flopped on Trump shouldn’t be all that surprising. Yes, Trump’s stances on immigration and trade clash with Murdoch’s more moderate views (he's for comprehensive reform and trade deals). But throughout Murdoch’s career, he’s sacrificed core principles to forge political alliances that advance his media empire’s interests (after all, he backed both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair in the U.K.).

    And it’s clear Trump is good for business. According to one Fox News producer, the channel's ratings dip whenever an anti-Trump segment airs. A Fox anchor told me that the message from Roger Ailes's executives is they need to go easy on Trump. “It’s, ‘Make sure we don't go after Trump,’” the anchor said. “We’ve thrown in the towel.” Similarly, the New York Post has staked out a pro-Trump position in the marketplace while its rival the Daily News remains one of Trump’s loudest critics. The Post endorsed Trump last month and dubbed him “King Don!” after he won the New York primary. (The outlier among Murdoch’s properties is The Wall Street Journal. “They’re stupid people,” Trump told me back in March).

    Murdoch's strategy seems to be a win-win. If Trump gets into the White House, Murdoch will likely have an open line to the new administration (at least as open as anyone can have with Trump). And, if Trump loses to Hillary Clinton, then Murdoch's right-wing outlets have a ready-made enemy to beat up on for the next four years. That's a deal Trump can surely respect.

  • Rupert Murdoch’s NY Post Joins National Enquirer And Paper Owned By Trump’s Son-In-Law In Endorsing Trump

    New York Post Editorial Board: “Trump Is Now An Imperfect Messenger Carrying A Vital Message”

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

    Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post endorsed GOP candidate Donald Trump in the Republican race for the White House, joining The National Enquirer and The New York Observer as the only publications to endorse Trump in the Republican primary.

    Ahead of the April 19 New York GOP primary contest, the New York Post editorial board released a statement endorsing Trump as “an imperfect messenger carrying a vital message.” The Post ignored what it called Trump’s “amateurish, divisive — and downright coarse” rhetoric to praise his “political incorrectness”:

    Trump’s language, too, has too often been amateurish, divisive — and downright coarse.

    But what else to expect from someone who’s never been a professional politician and reflects common-man passions?

    Indeed, his political incorrectness is one of his great attractions — it proves he’s not one of “them.” He’s challenging the victim culture that has turned into a victimizing culture.

    In the general election, we’d expect Trump to stay true to his voters — while reaching out to those he hasn’t won yet.

    Trump is now an imperfect messenger carrying a vital message. But he reflects the best of “New York values” — and offers the best hope for all Americans who rightly feel betrayed by the political class.

    He has the potential — the skills, the know-how, the values — to live up to his campaign slogan: to make America great again.

    For those reasons, The Post today endorses Donald Trump in the GOP primary.

    Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the Post and the executive chairman of the Post’s parent company, News Corp. has supported Trump throughout the primary and called for GOP candidates to “close ranks to fight the real enemy.” News Corp. is also the parent company of Fox News, which has given Trump a disproportionate amount of media coverage and favorable interviews.

    The Post joins the The National Enquirer and The New York Observer as the only publications to endorse Trump in the election. The endorsements both received scrutiny due to the relationships Trump shares with both publications. Trump’s son-in-law is the publisher of The Observer and it has been reported that Trump is close friends with David Pecker, the CEO of The Enquirer’s publisher American Media, Inc.

  • Rupert Murdoch: GOP "Would Be Mad Not To Unify" Around Donald Trump If He Becomes Inevitable

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Rupert Murdoch, the executive co-chairman of Fox News' parent company, wrote on Twitter that the Republican "establishment ... would be mad not to unify" around the Republican front-runner Donald Trump if he continues his string of electoral successes following Trump's win of seven Super Tuesday primary contests. His call for unity behind Trump stands in sharp contrast to other right-wing media figures who have called for unity to stop Trump from winning nomination.

    Following Trump's win of seven Super Tuesday primary contests, Murdoch commented in a March 2 tweet that the Republican "establishment" would be "mad not to unify" around Trump if he becomes the inevitable nominee.

    Other conservative media figures have responded to Trump's victories by advocating several tactics to defeat Trump. After his dominant Super Tuesday performance, conservative media personalities warned that a Trump nomination would mean "the GOP in its current form ends," called for the GOP to "go all in against him," and a growing number of conservative pundits have vowed not to support Trump if he is the nominee.  Even Rush Limbaugh urged the Republican Party to "unify behind Ted Cruz," calling it the party's "smartest move." Right-wing media personalities have also begun to call on Republican presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to unite in their opposition to Trump and combine on the same ticket.

    Murdoch's call for establishment Republicans to unify behind Trump comes 3 days after he asked establishment Republicans and Trump to "cool it and close ranks to fight the real enemy."

  • Conservative Media Overruled The GOP's Own 2012 Autopsy -- And The 2016 Rhetoric About Immigrants Proves It

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    A February 27 piece in The New York Times illustrated how the Republican Party has allowed right-wing media to play a gatekeeper role on immigration issues.

    The paper reported that legislators working to pass immigration reform in 2013 had to seek support from media mogul and executive co-chairman of Fox News' parent company Rupert Murdoch, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, but even those entreaties didn't win the backing of conservative pundits. Fringe media players attacked the legislation, spurring Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who was helping with the effort, to back away from the issue, The Times reported. Now, the 2016 election is marked by the same anti-immigration rhetoric emblematic of right-wing media figures -- an approach that runs counter to both national opinion and the pro-inclusivity strategy the GOP laid out after its 2012 presidential election loss. That's of no consequence to right-wing media, whose fortunes aren't tied to GOP electoral success, but it could be devastating for immigrants in this country.

    According to The Times, Rubio and other co-sponsors of the 2013 immigration reform bill -- known as the "Gang of Eight" -- knew that they needed to get Murdoch and Ailes on board to give their legislation "a fighting chance at survival." Aware of the eroding trust among their viewership -- which lately, as reported by CNN's Dylan Byers, doesn't think Fox News is "conservative enough" -- Murdoch and Ailes advised the legislators to also seek the blessing of Limbaugh, who "held enormous sway with the party's largely anti-immigrant base." The New York Times reported on February 27:

    Their mission was to persuade Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the media empire, and Roger Ailes, the chairman and chief executive of its Fox News division, to keep the network's on-air personalities from savaging the legislation and give it a fighting chance at survival.

    Mr. Murdoch, an advocate of immigration reform, and Mr. Ailes, his top lieutenant and the most powerful man in conservative television, agreed at the Jan. 17, 2013, meeting to give the senators some breathing room.

    But the media executives, highly attuned to the intensifying anger in the Republican grass roots, warned that the senators also needed to make their case to Rush Limbaugh, the king of conservative talk radio, who held enormous sway with the party's largely anti-immigrant base.

    The Gang turned to Rubio to reach out to Limbaugh, as The Times reported, but the lobbying was unsuccessful; right-wing media launched an offensive against the push for immigration reform and against Rubio personally. Despite the Gang of Eight's appeals specifically against the label, right-wing radio continued to attack the bill as "amnesty." Radio host Laura Ingraham slammed Rubio, saying that unless he walked back his support for the bill, he would "rue the day that he became the Gang of Eight's poodle." Similarly, conservative pundit Michelle Malkin stated that he should move away from the immigration bill. Breitbart News also demanded that Rubio vote against his own bill. Right-wing media not only effectively sank the bill, but their criticism so deeply impacted Rubio that he has spent a considerable amount of time during his presidential campaign running as far as possible from the immigration positions he once espoused, to the gloating satisfaction of conservative radio pundits.

    The rift between factions of conservative media has continued to deepen as the 2016 campaign has progressed, fueled in part by the polarizing presence of front-runner Donald Trump. After The Times published its piece, Rush Limbaugh tried to assuage his listeners. Limbaugh said he never even considered helping Rubio and the Gang of Eight on the immigration initiative. He portrayed the article as an attempt to "drive this wedge between" him and his loyal following by casting doubts on the purity of his anti-immigrant credentials.

    The way right-wing media relentlessly torpedoed the reform -- and Limbaugh's need to wear his opposition to immigration as a badge - demonstrates how conservative media has effectively obliterated the space for a compassionate approach to immigration policy. And that explains why the tone of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign has been marked by anti-immigrant rhetoric and extremism.

    The campaign's current anti-immigrant vitriol is a far cry from the goals the Republican Party espoused after its defeat in the 2012 presidential elections. After Mitt Romney's loss, strategists and campaign experts questioned the GOP's dependence on the right-wing media bubble: Keith Appell labeled it the "GOP's choir-preaching problem," while Mike Murphy asked that the party stop embracing viewpoints lifted from "Rush Limbaugh's dream journal." The Republican National Committee published the Growth & Opportunity Project -- more commonly known as the "autopsy" -- in which inclusion and a change in tone were deemed essential components of the road map toward 2016.

    And yet, the stark contrast between the road map's goals and the party's current anti-immigrant discourse demonstrates that Republican candidates will side with right-wing media over the party's own goals, even when doing so runs counter to the will of a majority of Americans:

    Right-wing media's strong influence on the GOP is likely to continue driving the party toward stances that alienate Latinos and other minorities. As Vox's David Roberts pointed out in a July 30, 2015, piece, because right-wing media's audience is mostly white and male, these outlets have no incentives to soften their policy positions or lessen the vitriol toward ethnic and racial minorities. And while changing demographics are lessening the dominance of the white/male constituency in general elections, right-wing media doesn't need to win elections to be profitable. According to Roberts:

    The problem is that right-wing media is in no way dependent on the political success of the GOP. In fact, it's almost the opposite: The more the party establishment fails to deliver on the far right's (wildly unrealistic) demands, the more the audience feels betrayed, and the angrier it gets. That means more clicks, more phone calls, more engagement. It is to right-wing media's great benefit for the party to engage in a series of dramatic, doomed protest gestures like shutting down the government or attempting to repeal Obamacare for the 47th time. It stokes the outrage machine.

  • Rupert Murdoch: GOP Candidates Should "Cool It" And Focus On The "Real Enemy"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Rupert Murdoch, executive co-chairman of Fox News' parent company, wrote on Twitter that both "'establishment' Republicans" and Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump "need to cool it and close ranks to fight [the] real enemy," an apparent reference to the eventual Democratic presidential nominee. Murdoch also wrote that "Trump, Rubio, Kasich could all win [the] general" election. 

    In January, Murdoch took to Twitter to laud Trump's "winning strategy" of "appealing across party lines."

    Murdoch's February 28 tweet: