… Whether or not the Mirror’s claims are verified, the allegations may raise the volume on questions about the editorial judgment and ethics employed by Murdoch titles in the U.S. “The News of the World has lots of reporters at any given time on the ground in the U.S.,” Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff tells CBS News. “Many of its stories, particularly many of its celebrity stories, are dateline here. So, I think that’s the next step.” [...] – Murdoch’s hacking woes grow; 9/11 victims eyed?
This story boggles the mind. Following it since it broke has been a stunning trip through the worst media scandals in modern times, with no parallel. The villain in this tale is a notorious conservative whose propaganda outreach includes the most popular cable TV channel in the U.S., Fox News Channel. Even after the worst was uncovered, with images of grubby people deleting phone messages from missing 13-year-old Milly Dowler’s phone, Ruppert Murdoch shows no remorse. It’s all about his enemies trying to get even with him.
What Murdoch seems most desperate about is saving his monopoly hunger from running aground. His bid to buy BSkyB is stalling since this scandal exploded, with Labour leader Ed Miliband vowing to challenge Mr. Murdoch until the bitter end.
Bloomberg’s Lizzy O’Leary mis-reported News Corp. was to bow out of the Sky bid earlier today.
Then Forbes reported that after News Corp. withdrew its pledge to spin off Sky News as a condition for acquiring BSkyB, Britain’s Competition Commission could go “for a full-scale inquiry,” which is exactly what has happened.
While the latest from the The Independent on the political targets brings in Gordon Brown:
… Brown joins a long list of Labour politicians who are known to have been targeted by private investigators working for News International, including the former prime minister Tony Blair and his media adviser Alastair Campbell, the former deputy prime minister John Prescott and his political adviser Joan Hammell, Peter Mandelson as trade secretary, Jack Straw and David Blunkett as home secretaries, Tessa Jowell as media secretary and her special adviser Bill Bush, and Chris Bryant as minister for Europe.
[...] The sheer scale of the data assault on Brown is unusual, with evidence of attempts to obtain his legal, financial, tax, medical and police records as well as to listen to his voicemail. All of these incidents are linked to media organisations. In many cases, there is evidence of a link to News International.
Scotland Yard recently wrote separately to Brown and to his wife to tell them that their details had been found in evidence collected by Operation Weeting, the special inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World. It is believed that this refers to handwritten notes kept by Mulcaire, which were seized by police in August 2006 and never previously investigated. Brown last year asked Scotland Yard if there was evidence that he had been targeted by the private investigator and was told there was none.
Journalists who have worked at News International say they believe that Brown’s personal bank account was accessed on several occasions when he was chancellor of the exchequer. An internal inquiry by Abbey National’s fraud department found that during January 2000, somebody acting on behalf of the Sunday Times contacted their Bradford call centre six times, posing as Brown, and succeeded in extracting details from his account.
Scotland Yard involved in Murdoch’s messy and possible malfeasance, with all sorts of politicians being targeted is especially interesting when you consider what might happen if this had happened in the U.S. It puts the 2000 election finale in perspective, a time when Roger Ailes allowed the relative of George W. Bush to control the election results that fateful election. From Rolling Stone on Ailes, just to drive home the entire picture, now that we see what’s hitting the fan in Britain:
But it was the election of George W. Bush in 2000 that revealed the true power of Fox News as a political machine. According to a study of voting patterns by the University of California, Fox News shifted roughly 200,000 ballots to Bush in areas where voters had access to the network. But Ailes, ever the political operative, didn’t leave the outcome to anything as dicey as the popular vote. The man he tapped to head the network’s “decision desk” on election night – the consultant responsible for calling states for either Gore or Bush – was none other than John Prescott Ellis, Bush’s first cousin. As a columnist at The Boston Globe, Ellis had recused himself from covering the campaign. “There is no way for you to know if I am telling you the truth about George W. Bush’s presidential campaign,” he told his readers, “because in his case, my loyalty goes to him and not to you.”
In any newsroom worthy of the name, such a conflict of interest would have immediately disqualified Ellis. But for Ailes, loyalty to Bush was an asset. “We at Fox News,” he would later tell a House hearing, “do not discriminate against people because of their family connections.” On Election Day, Ellis was in constant contact with Bush himself. After midnight, when a wave of late numbers showed Bush with a narrow lead, Ellis jumped on the data to declare Bush the winner – even though Florida was still rated too close to call by the vote-tracking consortium used by all the networks. Hume announced Fox’s call for Bush at 2:16 a.m. – a move that spurred every other network to follow suit, and led to bush wins headlines in the morning papers.
[...] Dwell on this for a moment: A “news” network controlled by a GOP operative who had spent decades shaping just such political narratives – including those that helped elect the candidate’s father – declared George W. Bush the victor based on the analysis of a man who had proclaimed himself loyal to Bush over the facts. “Of everything that happened on election night, this was the most important in impact,” Rep. Henry Waxman said at the time. “It immeasurably helped George Bush maintain the idea in people’s minds that he was the man who won the election.”
After Bush took office, Ailes stayed in frequent touch with the new Republican president. “The senior-level editorial people believe that Roger was on the phone every day with Bush,” a source close to Fox News tells Rolling Stone. “He gave Bush the same kind of pointers he used to give George H.W. Bush – delivery, effectiveness, political coaching.” In the aftermath of 9/11, Ailes sent a back-channel memo to the president through Karl Rove, advising Bush to ramp up the War on Terror. As reported by Bob Woodward, Ailes advised Bush that “the American public would tolerate waiting and would be patient, but only as long as they were convinced that Bush was using the harshest measures possible.”
Fox News did its part to make sure that viewers lined up behind those harsh measures. The network plastered an American flag in the corner of the screen, dolled up one female anchor in a camouflaged silk blouse, and featured Geraldo Rivera threatening to hunt down Osama bin Laden with a pistol. The militarism even seemed to infect the culture of Fox News. “Roger Ailes is the general,” declared Bill O’Reilly. “And the general sets the tone of the army. Our army is very George Patton-esque. We charge. We roll.”
As an aside, Roger Ailes is the man who tried to save Sarah Palin from herself when she was choosing whether to wade into the Loughner tragedy, but even with Mr. Ailes’s formidable power and standing as the Republican political general, Sarah thought she knew best. Few people survive this type of arrogance in a party that considers FNC its megaphone and election death star.
Topping the already cruel cravenness is covering for Rebekah Brooks, as so many others lose their jobs.
Michael Wolff, who has written a biography on Murdoch, was a guest on Keith Olbermann’s “Countdown” all last week and though I find him an arrogant boor, he has made some interesting points amidst his mumbling pontification. With so many of those unemployed being journalistic types, this story has the possibilities of a never ending soap opera, with grudges sure to continue to pop up in salaciousness still to come.
But could what happen over there hit Murdoch over here?