Rupert Murdoch

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  • Andrew Napolitano's International Embarrassment Could Put Murdoch's Sky Bid In Jeopardy

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The reason Fox News benched senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano isn’t that he pushed a bogus conspiracy theory that the network was unable to confirm.

    Wild fantasies are Napolitano’s bread and butter. He regularly appears on Fox to fulminate over the alleged crimes of progressives. He has used his Fox platform to champion 9/11 trutherism, suggest that Osama bin Laden wasn’t really dead, and blame President Abraham Lincoln for having "set about on the most murderous war in American history" over slavery.

    Those incidents did not inspire Fox to examine Napolitano’s reporting, publicly declare that the network could not substantiate it, and pull the former judge from the airwaves.

    So what led the network to take those steps over the past few days, after Napolitano’s claim that President Barack Obama had used the British intelligence service GCHQ to surveil President Donald Trump’s communications last year fell apart?

    The White House supercharged the story when press secretary Sean Spicer read Napolitano’s comments from the press room podium. Napolitano’s typical practice of spitballing a conspiracy on Fox’s morning news show suddenly spurred an international news story that threatened U.S. relations with the United Kingdom.

    And that firestorm of coverage in the U.K. around Napolitano’s comments threatens Rupert Murdoch’s dream of owning the satellite broadcasting company Sky, which owns that nation’s Sky News network and pay-TV operations in the U.K., Germany, Austria, and Italy.

    Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, which owns a minority position in Sky, has bid $14.3 billion for the remaining stake. 21st Century Fox is Fox News' parent company. The bid is currently under review by the British media regulator Ofcom.

    The international news mogul previously sought to take over Sky (then known as BSkyB) in 2010. But he was forced to withdraw that bid in response to the investigation of phone hacking at his U.K.-based papers.

    Losing out on BSkyB was part of a long series of humiliations Murdoch endured due to the phone hacking scandal, culminating with a parliamentary committee’s declaration that he “is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of major international company."

    But those were humiliations ultimately driven by the failures of his son James, who was overseeing the family’s newspapers as head of News International, and who remains an heir to the Murdoch media empire. He surely has no intention of suffering a similar fate due to the actions of a random Fox News commentator.

    And yet, Napolitano’s actions put Murdoch’s massive Sky bid in jeopardy. Days after Britain's culture secretary asked Ofcom to review whether 21st Century Fox is sufficiently “committed to the required editorial standards, such as accuracy and impartial news coverage,” U.K. newspapers were filled with stories about how a Fox News commentator’s anonymously sourced, unverified claim had damaged that nation’s relationship with its closest ally.

    Yesterday, hours before the network acknowledged that Napolitano was “being kept off the air indefinitely,” Britain woke up to a front-page story in The Guardian reporting that the “former British ambassador to Washington, Sir Peter Westmacott, has issued a withering criticism of Donald Trump and his inner circle, accusing them of making absurd, unthinkable and nonsensical claims about the UK’s involvement in alleged wiretapping of Trump Tower that he warns could damage close ties between the two countries.”

    In a Guardian op-ed, Westmacott wrote of Spicer’s repetition of Napolitano’s claim that “anyone with any knowledge of the intelligence world knew the suggestion was absurd.”

    The Napolitano-sourced allegation was also torched in British media by a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May (“ridiculous and should have been ignored”); the former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind ("foolish and very dangerous"); GCHQ, the British intelligence service that Napolitano accused (“nonsense”); Dominic Grieve, chairman of the parliamentary committee which oversees the U.K.'s spy agencies (“I echo [GCHQ’s] sentiment”); Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader in Parliament ( “shameful”; "harms our and US security"); and Richard Ledgett, deputy director of the NSA ("just crazy").

    The story has been discussed on the BBC and Sky News, as well as in the pages of The Telegraph, The Times, The Daily Mail, The Independent, The Daily Express, and The Daily Mirror, among others.

    Some of the most brutal headlines on the story over the past few days have been published by a Murdoch-owned tabloid, The Sun.

    Several British papers produced articles on Fox removing Napolitano from the airwaves. But the story won’t end there. According to Murdoch’s Times, the incident is likely to come up when Jeremy Fleming, the incoming director of GCHQ, next visits the United States. "Jeremy will be expected to make a trip to the US very early on to seek reassurances from our partners," a source told that paper.

    The more that story stays in the news, the less likely British regulators may be to allow the company that started it to dominate the U.K. airwaves.

  • Sean Spicer Caused An International Incident By Citing Fox News To Defend Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The U.S. government has issued a formal apology to the United Kingdom after White House press secretary Sean Spicer cited a Fox News report to accuse a British intelligence service of spying on Trump Tower on behalf of then-President Barack Obama.

    The British newspaper The Telegraph reports that U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster “contacted Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the Prime Minister's National Security adviser, to apologise for the comments. Mr Spicer conveyed his apology through Sir Kim Darroch, Britain's US ambassador.”

    Over the past two weeks, Spicer has issued a series of increasingly frantic statements to support President Donald Trump’s baseless conspiracy theory that Obama wiretapped him during the 2016 presidential campaign. Yesterday, after the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees said that they have seen no evidence to support Trump’s claim, Spicer read aloud from a series of news articles that he falsely claimed supported Trump’s statement.

    Amid this litany, Spicer cited Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano’s anonymously sourced March 13 statement that Obama had relied on the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to obtain transcripts of “conversations involving President-elect Trump” with “no American fingerprints on this.”

    As I noted yesterday, in making the comments, Spicer imperiled our relations with our closest ally in order to buttress an obviously false Trump statement. Napolitano is a conspiracy theorist who has suggested the government may have been involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. His claim about British intelligence appears to have originated with a report on the state-sponsored Russian news network RT, and a British security official denied the claim, telling Reuters it was "totally untrue and quite frankly absurd."

    Spicer’s decision to make the same allegation from the White House podium drew a furious response from GCHQ, as The Telegraph reported:

    In a break from its normal practice of refusing to comment on allegations about its activities, a spokesman for GCHQ said: "Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct 'wiretapping' against the then president elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored."

    The increased scrutiny of Fox News in the U.K. comes at an inopportune time for the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, and its CEO, Rupert Murdoch. 21st Century Fox is currently trying to take full control of the United Kingdom satellite broadcasting company Sky, which oversees Sky News. Yesterday, the British culture secretary, Karen Bradley, referred the $14.3 billion bid to British media regulator Ofcom, in part over concerns about whether the company is “whether Fox is committed to the required editorial standards, such as accuracy and impartial news coverage,” according to The Guardian.

    The White House’s open insult to the British government comes after conservatives spent years trumping up baseless claims that Obama was trying to undermine our relationship with the United Kingdom.

    Right-wing media figures for years decried the return to the U.K. of a bust of Winston Churchill that President George W. Bush had kept in the Oval Office when Obama took office, citing the move as evidence that Obama hated the British and had grievously insulted our strongest ally. When Trump had the bust returned to the Oval Office following his inauguration, conservative media outlets swooned.

    Less than two months later, the White House has had to apologize to the British government for baselessly accusing the country of spying on Trump.

    UPDATE: There is now an apparent dispute within the Trump administration over whether the White House actually apologized to the British. "US officials... disputed whether the Trump administration had gone as far as an apology," according to BuzzFeed. But earlier this morning, CNN's White House reporter said that White House sources had told him McMaster and Spicer had apologized.

    UPDATE 2: Asked about Spicer’s comments by a German reporter at today’s joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump said that he and Merkel had “something in common” --suggesting the Obama administration had spied on them both. Trump added: “And just to finish your question, we said nothing. 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. That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox. And so you shouldn't be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox.”

    UPDATE 3: According to Fox News anchor Shep Smith, “Fox News cannot confirm judge Napolitano's commentary. Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the president of the United States was surveilled at any time in any way, full stop.”

  • Read The Report Explaining The Danger Of Murdoch’s Sky Takeover

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Update: According to reports, U.K. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley will refer the Murdoch takeover bid of Sky to British media regulator Ofcom “to investigate potential public interest issues on two grounds”:

    Ofcom will look at whether Fox’s takeover will raise issues of UK media plurality and concentration in Murdoch’s control. The deal will give him full control of Sky News, as well as the Times, Sunday Times and Sun newspapers and the radio group TalkSport, through a separate company News Corp.

    The second issue is whether Fox is committed to the required editorial standards, such as accuracy and impartial news coverage.

    In parliament, Tom Watson, shadow culture secretary, questioned whether Bradley’s referral on broadcasting standards grounds would give Ofcom the power to investigate issues including phone hacking and corporate governance failures

    Bradley said: “None of the representations [made by Fox] have led me to dismiss the concerns I have regarding the two public interest grounds I previously specified.”

    Original Post: Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox is currently trying to take full control of the United Kingdom satellite broadcasting company Sky -- which oversees Sky News. Such a move would increase media consolidation in the U.K., and it raises concerns that the Murdochs could seek to turn Sky News into a right-wing propaganda outlet like Fox News. In the coming days, U.K. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley will decide whether to refer Murdoch’s bid to the British media regulator Ofcom for review.

    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.

    Due to this lengthy history of Murdoch corruption and duplicity, Media Matters submitted a report in partnership with the global activism group Avaaz to the U.K. Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The report details for Secretary Bradley the dangers this bid for Sky would pose to the British public and to the British media landscape. The risk of Foxification is too great to simply rubber-stamp a Murdoch takeover.

    Murdoch, the Fox Effect and Trump: How the Sky takeover could poison Britain’s public debate by Media Matters for America on Scribd

  • Day After Flynn Bombshell, Trump Calls On Only Murdoch Outlets At Press Conference

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Following a bombshell report that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn may have violated the Logan Act, President Donald Trump called on reporters only from outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch at a February 10 U.S.-Japan joint press conference, favoring news sources that have been major supporters and receiving no questions about the Flynn report.

    Speaking at a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump took questions from the New York Post’s Daniel Halper and Fox Business’ Blake Burman, both of whom asked about an appeals court decision upholding the suspension of his Muslim ban executive order. Neither reporter asked Trump about reports that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had spoken with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. about Russian sanctions prior to Trump’s inauguration, which Trump aides had previously denied. If it’s true, Flynn could be in violation of the Logan Act, which, as The New York Times explains, “prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments in disputes involving the American government.”

    Murdoch has staunchly supported Trump since he began his presidential campaign. The media mogul recently sat in on an interview Trump had with one of his British newspapers and, according to the Financial Times, Trump’s daughter Ivanka was until recently “a trustee for a large bloc of shares in 21st Century Fox and News Corp that belongs to Rupert Murdoch’s two youngest daughters.” Trump has also been helpful to Murdoch in return, asking for his input on Federal Communications Commission chairman nominees.

    Murdoch’s support of Trump has directly impacted the former’s outlets. The New York Post was one of the only papers in the country to endorse Trump during either the primary or general election campaign. And according to New York magazine, Fox News under Murdoch’s direction has been pushed to go “in a more pro-Trump direction.” Fox's pro-Trump direction can also be seen on Fox Business, where hosts have spun polls to push "Trumponomics." Reporters at another Murdoch-owned outlet, The Wall Street Journal, have expressed concerns that they have been pressured “to reflect pro-Trump viewpoints.”

    Trump’s decision to take questions from only these conservative-leaning outlets also fits into a broader administration approach of seemingly focusing on right-wing outlets in order to avoid challenging queries.

  • Wall Street Journal Reporters Concerned About Paper's Softer Trump Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Wall Street Journal staffers are increasingly concerned that the paper’s coverage of President Donald Trump is not critical enough and too willing to defend his actions rather than serve a watchdog role. In interviews with Media Matters, Journal reporters say that there has been pressure “to reflect pro-Trump viewpoints” in articles and that “everyone in the newsroom is concerned about it.”

    Earlier this week, BuzzFeed reported on a memo sent by Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker that “instructed editors to stop referring to the countries targeted in President Trump’s travel and refugee executive order as ‘seven majority Muslim countries’ in news coverage, a move that has irked some reporters in the paper’s Washington bureau.”

    Journal reporters who spoke to Media Matters said the memo is just one of many coverage concerns they have related to the new president.

    “The issue that is more subtle is the pressure to reflect pro-Trump viewpoints in the story, that’s growing,” said one veteran reporter who requested anonymity to avoid retribution. He added that it began during the campaign. “The Journal abdicated its responsibility to punch hard. They should have trained the D.C. bureau on Trump and hit hard.”

    Another reporter said the directives from above are unclear, prompting concern about how critical to be of Trump.

    “Everyone in the newsroom is concerned about it,” the reporter said. “The concern is that they are over-correcting a little bit, that is the worry, that we are not being as tough on the administration as we could.”

    The journalist also raised the issue of normalizing Trump’s behavior when his actions are treated like those of any president.

    “That’s the real issue, whether you’re a liberal or conservative outlet, that is the question you have to answer,” the reporter said. “What is the objective term to use to describe what is a lunatic policy? That is a really big worry, as the water drips and erodes this thing.”

    A third Journal reporter who requested anonymity told Media Matters: “We’d like to see more of a message that we are going to be really tough on this administration.”*

    Complaints from inside the Journal newsroom about its coverage of Trump aren’t new. In October, Politico quoted sources at the Journal lamenting that there had been “flattering access stories" on the front page, and that the coverage of then-candidate Trump had become “neutral to the point of being absurd.”

    The Journal is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. 

    Tim Martell, executive director of Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees (IAPE) Local 1096, which represents 400 Journal newsroom staffers, said he is hearing even more anger now that Trump has taken office about a softer tone on some stories.

    “Members have expressed concern about the possibility of editorial interference regarding coverage of the president and the new administration,” said Martell. “We are watching. We are paying very close attention, and if we find that any sort of editorial interference does exist or if any of our members are subject to any type of disciplinary action, we will be sure to defend our members to the best of our ability.”

    Martell said the worries are greater than some past complaints related to Journal coverage of previous Republican administrations.

    “I think this seems like this is new ground,” he said. “Every news organization has the occasional clash between editor and reporter and that’s fine. If the company wants to set editorial policy, it’s their paper. But we’re concerned, there seems to be a greater level of concern these days than there has been. This has been percolating for a while.”

    *Additional reporting added after posting.  

  • Fox News Goes All In On Its Efforts To Be Trump's Shills

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Following Megyn Kelly’s announcement that she will be leaving Fox News for NBC, the network moved quickly to install pro-Trump host Tucker Carlson into her prime-time slot. Fox’s move cements its ongoing audition to serve as Trump’s go-to network for spreading his agenda, which has included the network devoting disproportionate airtime to his candidacy, then-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes advising Trump, and network figures shielding and defending him from negative coverage. Trump also retreated to the network toward the end of the campaign, and since his election he has considered or selected a number of Fox News figures to serve in his administration.

  • How Donald Trump Could Make Rupert Murdoch Even More Powerful

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    President-elect Donald Trump may be preparing to give Rupert Murdoch a big reward for the positive coverage Murdoch’s outlets provided during the election.

    Trump has asked Murdoch to submit the names of possible nominees for Federal Communications Commission chairman, according to a report from New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman. Trump’s FCC will be positioned to roll back regulations that have kept Murdoch from buying up newspapers and television stations across the country.

    The two New York City-based moguls historically dislike one another, and Murdoch repeatedly criticized Trump in the early stages of the campaign and reportedly pressured Fox News to be more critical when covering Trump.

    But after Trump sewed up the Republican nomination, Murdoch reportedly “signaled he plans to fully back Trump in the general election against Hillary Clinton” in order to ensure “an open line to the new administration” if Trump won. They subsequently dined together during Trump’s June trip to Scotland, and Murdoch made a pilgrimage to Trump Tower following the election.

    Now Murdoch reportedly has the opportunity to cash in on the overwhelmingly positive coverage that his properties -- including Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Post -- gave the incoming president.

    Murdoch has repeatedly been prevented from adding more newspapers to his media empire by FCC “cross-ownership” rules that restrict common ownership of broadcast TV and radio stations and newspapers in the same media market. The rules are intended to prevent consolidation of too much media power in too few hands. Media companies are also barred from owning television stations across the nation that collectively reach more than 39 percent of U.S. television households, and from owning two stations in a local media market if both stations are ranked in the top four in that market.

    By law, the FCC must review those rules every four years. After a years-long review process, the FCC board, composed of President Obama’s nominees, voted to retain the rules in 2016. Under Trump, all of those rules will be on the table for repeal.

    While Murdoch is far from the only head of a media company to oppose the cross-ownership rules, he has been among their fiercest opponents for decades. Those rules forced him to sell The New York Post in 1988, and he would be a major beneficiary of their elimination.

    Through 21st Century Fox, Murdoch currently owns 28 television stations in 17 markets 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. If that cap is changed or eliminated under Trump, Murdoch would be able to purchase more stations and increase his impact on the media landscape.

    That matters because stations owned by 21st Century Fox frequently push the same conservative slant in their broadcasts as the Fox News cable channel does, often running the same news packages and hosting the same personalities.

    Cross-ownership rules have also prevented Murdoch from purchasing newspapers in the media markets where he owns television stations (he has a waiver to own the Post now, and his ownership of The Wall Street Journal is not subject to the rule because it is considered a national paper). In 2014, Murdoch complained that he was unable to purchase the Los Angeles Times or the Tribune Company because cross-ownership restrictions prevented him from owning papers in Chicago or Los Angeles since he already owned TV stations in those markets. He also dropped his 2008 bid for Newsday amid reports that the seller was concerned Murdoch would not be able to get a waiver to allow the deal to go through.

    If a Trump FCC changes or eliminates the cross-ownership rules, Murdoch may be able to snap up papers across the country. In the years after Murdoch purchased the Journal in 2007, dozens of journalists fled the paper, with many telling Media Matters that its coverage had shifted to the right and away from more in-depth reporting.

    Staffers were particularly disturbed when Gerard Baker, a well-known conservative columnist for Murdoch's The Times of London, was installed as the paper’s deputy editor-in-chief in 2009. Baker was promoted to editor-in-chief in 2013. Baker reportedly urged editors to be “fair” to Trump at a May morning news meeting; in October, the paper’s reporters criticized their own election coverage, telling Politico they had produced “galling,” “flattering” pro-Trump “stories on the front [page]” and the “false balance in treating him just like another nominee” was “absurd.”

    If Trump gives Murdoch his reward, we could see the same pattern play out in media markets nationwide.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko

  • Fox News Insiders Agree: Megyn Kelly’s Replacement Will Be A Pro-Trump Woman

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reports that according to Fox News insiders, Fox News host Megyn Kelly’s replacement on Fox “will be a pro-Trump conservative.”

    On January 3, Megyn Kelly announced that she will be leaving Fox News for NBC, saying in a statement on her Facebook page, “I have decided to end my time at FNC, incredibly enriched for the experiences I've had."

    According to insiders who spoke with Sherman, “the Murdochs will choose a woman” to replace Kelly in her nightly 9 PM slot, and all agree “that whoever replaces Kelly will be a pro-Trump conservative”:

    Inside Fox News, staffers are speculating over who will replace Kelly. According to insiders I spoke with today, the consensus seems to be that the Murdochs will choose a woman to fill her 9 p.m. time slot. The leading internal contenders include Trish Regan, Shannon Bream, Sandra Smith, and Martha MacCallum. Two sources said Kimberly Guilfoyle is lobbying for the job.

    The one thing Fox insiders are in agreement on is that whoever replaces Kelly will be a pro-Trump conservative. In the wake of Ailes’s ouster, some media observers speculated that 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch wanted to reposition Fox to the center, bringing it more in line with his moderate political views. But the selection of a pro-Trump host to fill Kelly’s slot would suggest that Fox is instead doubling down on its right-wing politics and planning to align itself with the new administration. After initially being hostile to Trump, Murdoch has made moves to curry favor with the president-elect. Fox insiders told me that Murdoch personally named pro-Trump anchor Tucker Carlson to replace Greta Van Susteren at 7 p.m.

    Murdoch’s relationship with Trump has greatly improved since the depths of Trump’s battle with Kelly last year. “I really like Rupert Murdoch!” Trump told guests at Mar-a-Lago over the holidays, according to an attendee. “Roger Ailes was a friend of mine, but Fox’s coverage is so much better since he left.”

    If Fox News’ politics ultimately solidify as more pro-Trump than they were during the campaign, that might be to the benefit of Murdoch’s business interests. According to a well-placed source, Trump has asked Murdoch to submit names for FCC Chairman. Murdoch, another source said, also wants conditions put on the AT&T-Time Warner merger, and he could lobby Trump to make that happen.

  • The Newsroom At Rupert Murdoch's WSJ Is Fed Up With Its "Galling" Pro-Trump Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    A cloud of “gloom” and “dismay” hangs over The Wall Street Journal’s newsroom, where journalists are reportedly disappointed with the paper’s superficial election coverage and “‘flattering’” treatment of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Reporters at the Journal, whose parent company News Corp. is chaired by Rupert Murdoch, told Politico’s Joe Pompeo that the paper’s Trump coverage has been “‘galling’” and “‘absurd.’”

    Pompeo wrote in Politico’s October 14 Morning Media newsletter that there is “seasonally appropriate gloom in the air” at the Journal’s newsroom over the paper’s “‘galling,’” “‘flattering’” pro-Trump “stories on the front [page]” and the “‘false balance in treating him just like another nominee.’” Pompeo’s Journal sources decried the paper’s superficial “‘process stories about the race, who’s up and down,’” and lamented the Journal’s Trump coverage as “‘neutral to the point of being absurd.’”

    Pompeo also noted that the “sense of disappointment” in the Journal’s newsroom is especially underscored by the performance of the paper’s rivals, The New York Times and The Washington Post, which have published “earth-shattering news-breaks” about Trump.

    “Of course,” Pompeo wrote, the staff “probably saw it coming,” given both that the Journal’s editor-in-chief demanded that his reporters be “‘fair’” to Trump back in May and that the Journal is owned by Murdoch’s News Corp. Murdoch -- who also has played a hands-on role in leading his unabashedly pro-Trump Fox News Channel -- signaled months ago that “he plans to fully back Trump in the general election,” according to New York magazine.

    The report of the newsroom’s “dismay” at its Trump boosting coincides with a Journal article elevating Trump’s defensive claim that a global media conspiracy is working to generate negative coverage of him. The October 13 article notes that Trump is planning to claim that “Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim,” a top New York Times shareholder and Clinton Foundation donor, “is part of a biased coalition working in collusion with the Clinton campaign and its supporters to generate news reports of decades-old allegations from several women.”

    Irony abounds, as the Times’ Alex Burns notes that the Murdoch-owned pro-Trump Journal is helping carry Trump’s water over an alleged media conspiracy of pro-Clinton boosting: 

    The Carlos Slim conspiracy article may be precisely the type of “‘galling’” story that Journal reporters are reportedly upset about. Burns needled the Journal about the piece, tweeting, “Can’t fathom writing this as a hard news lede.” Perhaps the article’s author feels the same way.

  • Fox Figures Step Up Participation In Trump's Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    The close-knit relationship between Fox News and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign has strengthened in recent days, as several Fox figures have stepped up their participation in Trump’s campaign. Fox’s intimacy with the Trump campaign has been central to the candidate’s overwhelming media presence and his propagation of lies.

    Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who rejoined Fox News as a contributor in August, introduced Trump at a September 19 campaign rally, lauding him as “someone who … can genuinely change history.” Gingrich has long had a foot in both camps, serving at one point as a Fox contributor while under consideration as Trump’s running mate. Gingrich currently serves as a close Trump ally and has been reportedly offered a job in Trump’s potential administration. 

    Fox host and avid Trump supporter Sean Hannity recently appeared in an ad for Trump, listing several reasons why “I’m supporting Donald Trump this year.” Hannity has been one of Trump’s biggest cheerleaders throughout the election, using his prime-time show to openly shill for Trump and advance his lies.

    Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes wasted no time transitioning into the role of a top Trump adviser following his ouster, perhaps the most glaring example of the Fox-Trump lovefest. Ailes is reportedly advising Trump for the presidential debates, Trump has said he “would think about” hiring his “friend” Ailes as a campaign consultant, and the two reportedly “counseled each other in multiple phone calls” during the fallout over Ailes’ alleged sexual harassment. As part of his resignation deal, Ailes also serves as an adviser to Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch. 

    Fox figures’ intimate involvement in the Trump campaign comes as the candidate has limited his media appearances to be almost exclusively on Fox. Trump has retreated “to friendly media ground” to “[limit] the candidate's exposure to hard-hitting questions,” writes CNN’s Brian Stelter:

    Donald Trump's reputation for being always available to reporters is way out of date.

    Trump is saying "yes" to Fox News almost every day but saying "no" to most other major networks and news organizations -- a highly unusual strategy for a presidential nominee.

    He called into "Fox & Friends" on Monday morning, he is booked on "The O'Reilly Factor" Monday night, and he has another town hall with Sean Hannity coming up on Wednesday.

    Even Fox’s media critic, Howard Kurtz, admitted that Trump is “refusing to appear on many television outlets” outside of Fox because those “interviews entail too much risk” for Trump to misstep. 

    The continued Fox-Trump relationship is in keeping with the network's role thus far as a mouthpiece for the Trump campaign: During the Republican primary, Fox gave Trump more than twice as much airtime as the other Republican candidates.

    UPDATE: In a statement to The Washington Post's Erik Wemple, a Fox spokesperson said, "We had no knowledge that Sean Hannity was participating in this" Trump ad "and he will not be doing anything along these lines for the remainder of the election.”

  • New Book Provides Illustrated Guide To Media-Fueled “Madhouse” Of Climate Change Denial

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Sometimes even the world’s most serious problems are best handled with a little bit of humor.

    Case in point: The Madhouse Effect (Columbia University Press), a new book by Penn State University climate scientist Michael Mann and Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles, which lays out a plan for media, politicians, and the public at large to “escape the madhouse” of climate change denial before it’s too late.

    There is no shortage of books about climate change. But what makes this one unique is the way it combines Mann’s science communication skills, which help succinctly describe the roots, methods, and implications of climate science denial, and Toles’ illustrations, which provide an equally biting and amusing perspective on the dynamics the book describes. The book speaks to both our left and right brains, with the hope that it will motivate many to push for climate action -- and maybe even convert a few deniers along the way.

    The Madhouse Effect is also a book about media, and it dissects many common media failings that we frequently analyze and write about here at Media Matters.

    First among them is false balance, which the book describes as giving false industry-friendly claims about climate change “an equal place on the media stage with actual science.” As we documented in a recent study of newspaper opinion pages, one place where this problem is alive and well is USA Today, which often pairs scientifically accurate editorials about climate change with “opposing view” op-eds that flatly deny climate change is happening or that it's caused by human activities.

    Several of these climate science-denying “opposing views” in USA Today were written by Republican members of Congress, exemplifying another point Mann and Toles make in the book: False balance is “greatly exacerbated by the increasing polarization of our public discourse.” This can also be seen in print and TV news coverage of GOP presidential candidates’ climate denial, which frequently failed to indicate that the candidates' statements about climate change conflicted with the scientific consensus on the issue.

    Mann and Toles argue that false balance has been further worsened by the decentralization of news sources, particularly the rise of the “right-wing echo chamber” led (at least in the U.S.) by Rupert Murdoch-owned outlets Fox News and The Wall Street Journal. Indeed, climate science denial remains a staple of both outlets, with the Journal editorial board and Journal columnist Holman Jenkins peddling every denialist trope imaginable, and Fox News recently erasing all mentions of climate change (and coincidentally, Mann) from an Associated Press article about Tropical Storm Hermine.

    The Madhouse Effect also pinpoints where these denialist talking points often originate, detailing many of the fossil fuel front groups whose representatives frequently mislead about climate change in major print and TV media without disclosing their glaring conflicts of interest. Among them are leading opponents of climate action such as Americans for Prosperity, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the Heartland Institute, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), all of which have received funding from the oil billionaire Koch brothers.

    The book exposes many of the individual industry-funded operatives known for misinforming about climate change, too, including the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels, Heartland’s Fred Singer and James Taylor, Junkscience.com editor Steve Milloy, ClimateDepot’s Marc Morano, and CEI’s Chris Horner and Myron Ebell.

    Mann and Toles give special attention to Bjorn Lomborg, a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal and USA Today:

    Of Lomborg’s particular style of misinformation, they write:

    Lomborg’s arguments often have a veneer of credibility, but scratch the surface, and you witness a sleight of hand, where climate projections are lowballed; climate change impacts, damages, and costs are underestimated; and the huge current subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, both direct and indirect, are ignored.

    (Unfortunately, after Mann and Toles wrote a September 16 op-ed in the Washington Post profiling Lomborg and other members of the book’s climate “deniers club,” the Post opted to publish its first Lomborg op-ed in nearly two years on its website on September 19.)

    Thankfully, The Madhouse Effect debunks many of the top climate falsehoods promoted by these industry operatives -- and conservative media. These include claiming that addressing climate change will keep the poor in “energy poverty”; citing the global warming “hiatus” or “pause” to dismiss concerns about climate change; pointing to changes in the climate hundreds or thousands of years ago to deny that the current warming is caused by humans; alleging that unmitigated climate change will be a good thing; disputing that climate change is accelerating sea level rise; and denying that climate change is making weather disasters more costly.

    And Mann and Toles detail some of the climate connections that major media outlets often ignore, such as the counterintuitive role of climate change in the winter snowstorms that blanketed the Northeast in early 2015, and the impacts of climate change on national security, the economy, and public health. In part, they attribute this lack of coverage to a modern media environment where very few stories can survive more than a few 24-hour news cycles, which is “prohibitive for raising awareness about slowly growing threats such as climate change.”

    The book concludes with a call to action for readers to “leave the madhouse” and help lead the fight against climate change. The authors convey a sense of urgency, writing: “We will not, we cannot, wreck this planet. There is no Planet B.” As with so much else in The Madhouse Effect, that sentiment is also expressed in cartoon-form, via Toles’ illustration of a thermometer for a chapter titled, “Why should I give a damn?”:

  • New Fox Chief Who Allegedly Covered Up Ailes’ Sexual Harassment Signs Multi-Year Deal

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News

    Fox News announced today that co-president Bill Shine has signed a new multi-year contract. Shine reportedly “played an integral role in the cover up” of sexual harassment allegations against former chief Roger Ailes, which led critics to point out that Ailes departure did not indicate a change in culture at the network following Shine’s promotion.

    Rupert Murdoch announced the new Shine contract in a September 14 press release in which he praised Shine for his role in the Fox’s “continued dominance in the ratings and historic earnings performance” and said that the deal ensured “stability and leadership to guide the network for years to come.”

    Former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson recently settled after suing Ailes last month for sexual harassment. Her lawsuit spurred numerous other women to come forward with similar claims against Ailes and an internal investigation of Ailes’ actions that led to his resignation but reportedly did not examine “the broader culture of Fox News.”

    New York magazine writer Gabriel Sherman -- the leading source on the Ailes scandal -- previously reported that Shine “played an integral role in the cover up of these sexual harassment claims,” including “play[ing] a role in rallying the women to speak out against Roger Ailes’ accusers.” Sherman also reported that Shine played a key role in the silencing and “smearing” of “Rudi Bakhtiar, who says she was fired from Fox News after complaining about sexual harassment.” Shine also reportedly played a role in the handling of Laurie Luhn, a former booker who reportedly received a $3.15 million severance agreement and was allegedly “sexually harassed and ‘psychologically tortured’ by Roger Ailes for more than 20 years.”

    Former Fox host Andrea Tantaros also filed a lawsuit last month alleging sexual harassment and retaliation against Shine, Fox News, and Ailes. According to the complaint, when Tantaros met with Shine seeking “relief from Ailes’s sexual harassment and [Fox News publicist Irena] Briganti’s retaliatory media vendetta against her," Shine “told Tantaros that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man’ and that Tantaros ‘needed to let this one go.’”

    Media Matters President Bradley Beychok released the following statement last month after Fox News announced that the network was promoting Shine to co-president:

    "Fox News has an obligation to take allegations of sexual harassment seriously--  for the sake of its staff, and also for its audience. That is why Media Matters launched a petition calling on the network to release the findings of its internal review. The announcement that Bill Shine, who multiple reporters have linked to Ailes' harassment, will serve as co-president of Fox News is a disappointing signal that 21st Century Fox may not be ready to take serious the allegations and to end its culture of sexism and misogyny."

     
  • Media Matters Requests Fox Retain All Info Regarding Allegations Roger Ailes Sought Our Reporter’s Phone Records

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Huffington Post is reporting that Media Matters has requested Fox News executives and former CEO Roger Ailes “retain any information in their possession or control” that could be relevant  to the network allegedly obtaining the phone records of one of its journalists through “legally questionable means” in order to identify his anonymous sources at the network.

    New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported on September 2, that Fox News had “obtained the phone records of journalists, by legally questionable means,” including the home and cell phone records of Media Matters’ senior reporter Joe Strupp, in an effort to find Strupp’s anonymous sources at the network.

    Media Matters president Bradley Beychok responded to the egregious allegations and said that the organization is “considering all legal options” available and that “anyone involved in the illegal hacking should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

    According to the Huffington Post, Media Matters has sent letters to Fox News’ attorneys taking legal steps to ensure that any relevant information about Gabriel Sherman’s allegations is retained:

    Media Matters attorney Marc Elias sent letters Friday to attorneys representing Ailes and executives at Fox News and parent company 21st Century Fox, including executive chairman Rupert Murdoch and sons Lachlan and James Murdoch, who serve as executive chairman and chief executive, respectively.

    In the letters, Elias requested Ailes and executives at the media companies retain any information in their possession or control that would be relevant to allegations of surveilling Media Matters employees.

    Strupp reported in 2010 on Fox News management slanting Washington coverage to the right and cited anonymous sources at the network. Sherman wrote that Fox News wanted to find out who was speaking to Strupp. “This was the culture,” one Fox News executive told Sherman. “Getting phone records doesn’t make anybody blink.”

    In addition to Strupp, Elias also revealed in the letters that it “appears that Fox News Channel previously obtained telephone records of Media Matters founder David Brock in 1997.” Brock, a former Republican operative turned liberal Clinton booster, wrote a critical profile of Ailes that year for New York magazine. Brock started Media Matters in 2004 to combat what the group deemed conservative misinformation, with Fox News being one of its primary targets.

    “Media Matters takes these reports very seriously and is prepared to take all measures necessary to protect its rights, including initiating a lawsuit against Fox News Channel,” Elias wrote in a letter to the network. “We therefore demand that Fox News Channel take immediate action to preserve all information relating to the Media Matters Surveillance that is in the possession, custody, or control of Fox News Channel, including information held by third parties from whom Fox News Channel could obtain the information or over whom Fox News Channel exercises control.”

    Media Matters is similarly prepared to take legal action if necessary against Ailes and 21st Century Fox, according to the letters published in full below.

  • Media Matters Founder David Brock Calls For Reconsideration Of Fox News’ Chris Wallace As Debate Moderator

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media Matters founder David Brock is calling on the Commission on Presidential Debates to reconsider the eligibility of Fox News’ Chris Wallace as moderator of the October 19 presidential debate. Brock writes that former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes’ position advising both Rupert Murdoch -- the head of Fox’s parent company -- and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump represents a “glaring conflict of interest” that infringes on the credibility of any Fox News moderator.

    Read the full text of his letter to the commission’s co-chairs, as first reported by Politico:

    Mr. Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr.
    Mr. Michael D. McCurry
    Commission on Presidential Debates
    1200 New Hampshire Ave NW #445 Washington, DC 20036
     

    Dear Co-Chairmen Fahrenkopf and McCurry:

    I am writing to request that you reconsider the eligibility of Chris Wallace as a debate moderator as a result of​ startling new public facts. I urge you to consider these facts and remove Mr. Wallace as the moderator of the third and final presidential debate.

    I was concerned to read a September 8 CNN report noting that “in recent weeks, [Roger] Ailes has become one of the most influential voices in the room as [Donald] Trump prepares” for the first presidential debate. According to the CNN report, Ailes and Trump “met in person several times between June 2015 and June 2016” and since late July, Ailes “has taken on a much more active role in Trump’s campaign.”

    Earlier this week on Good Morning America, Trump’s campaign manager ducked a question about whether it is appropriate for Ailes to be advising Trump. Simply put, the answer is no. It is a glaring conflict of interest that Roger Ailes, who resigned from Fox News in July, simultaneously provides advice to Donald Trump while serving as a paid adviser to Fox News chief Rupert Murdoch—debate moderator Chris Wallace’s boss.

    Also troubling is Chris Wallace’s explicit pronouncement that he doesn't intend to press the candidates to be truthful during the debate he moderates. When Wallace's Fox News colleague Howard Kurtz asked what Wallace would do if either candidate made "assertions that you know to be untrue," Wallace asserted, "That's not my job. I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad. It's up to the other person to catch them on that." Ailes and Trump may already be unduly influencing Wallace to favor Trump in the debate. The New York Times' James Poniewozik was correct when he noted that Wallace's stated fact-free approach to debate moderating helps Trump the most. The Times noted that "the fact-checking website PolitiFact has found far more false statements from Mr. Trump than from Mrs. Clinton."

    I am disappointed that an organization that prides itself on being non-partisan would make such a selection. I would respectfully ask that you reconsider your selection of Chris Wallace -- or any current Fox News employee -- as a presidential debate moderator until Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch cut ties with Roger Ailes.

    Sincerely,

    David Brock
    Founder, Media Matters for America