What Does The UK News Of The World Scandal Mean For Rupert Murdoch In The US?

With the final edition of News Of The World bidding farewell to UK readers, juicy secrets about the company were promised on twitter by an "ex-NOTW writer(s)". Unfortunately, forces have appeared to silence the ex-journo: The @ExNOTWjourno

With the final edition of News Of The World bidding farewell to UK readers, juicy secrets about the company were promised on twitter by an "ex-NOTW writer(s)". Unfortunately, forces have appeared to silence the ex-journo:

The @ExNOTWjourno account, which had been threatening to release damning new information about News International, had all but three tweets deleted just after 10am and all of its 20,000 followers were dropped.

Another account, @NOTWjourno, fell silent earlier this morning and more than 50 tweets were deleted, including a message posted late last night which read: “FOLLOW FOR THE INSIDE STORY! -ALL COMES OUT AT 00:00 #NOTW.”

The earliest tweets on that Twitter feed now talk about the account being abandoned. The account holder is now systematically blocking new followers.

Unless an account is hacked, the only person that can delete Tweets or block followers is the person who holds that Twitter account.

Just before the @ExNOTWjourno account went quiet the account holder told Telegraph.co.uk “they are attacking me from all sides”.

Hmmm....curious, that. But never fear, Rupert Murdoch has hopped the pond to do damage control. Politicians have been notoriously afraid of the power of the poison pen of Murdoch's empire, but that may be changing:

In the House of Commons, a parade of lawmakers took turns at the microphone to thunder their disapproval of Murdoch, and the way they feel he has debased public life here through media properties that purvey sex scandals and celebrity tittle-tattle, and stoke fear of violent crime.

But there were moments of self-criticism as well, from members of Parliament who acknowledged having been too craven to speak out against Murdoch and against abuses at his newspapers. Even David Cameron, the prime minister, now ruefully admits to being hesitant to take Murdoch on.

Bryant, the Labor MP, said in a telephone interview that Murdoch had successfully cowed lawmakers to the benefit of his business empire.

"He's used his newspapers to make people frightened of attacking his media interests, and he has favored some people in all sorts of different ways, in particular political parties, and that has kept his financial interests very secure," Bryant said.

"I'm not exempting anybody. I'm not exempting myself, to be honest," he said. "None of us has shot the legs off from under him."

Murdoch's latest commercial gambit has been to take control of BSkyB, Britain's biggest satellite broadcaster, a bid that is now sure to be delayed because of the phone-hacking scandal. The debacle has frightened investors of both BSkyB and News Corp., which lost billions of dollars on the stock market by the end of last week. (In the U.S., News Corp. owns Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, among other properties.)

But as he faces the music in the UK, the question yet to be asked is how do we know these same egregious and irresponsible practices were not being done here in the US?

Keep in mind that the Executive Editor of NOTW at the time all this started was Les Hinton. Where is Les Hinton now? He was promoted out of that position and now is the CEO of the Dow Jones with editorial influence on the Wall Street Journal. Under Hinton's leadership, the initial NOTW investigation was basically whitewashed and swept under the rug, with some of his statements to the investigating subcommittee looking very "misleading". That alone merits some scrutiny here in the US.

After his assurances to the parliamentary committee in 2007, Hinton answered further questions in September 2009. Speaking over a video link from New York, the Murdoch lieutenant again sought to convince the members of parliament that all was now right at the British tabloid newspaper.

"There was never any evidence delivered to me that suggested that the conduct of (the single reporter) Clive Goodman spread beyond him ... We went, I promise you, to extraordinary lengths within the News of the World," he said.

Though there were times during the hearing when Hinton's certainty appeared to be cracking -- he used the phrases "I do not recall" or "I do not know" or variations on them at least 55 times -- his faith in the newspaper's internal checks seemed resolute.

Asked whether he should have pushed his editors on "the extent of the inquiry and more details about what had actually been looked into," he replied that he "was happy when I gave evidence to you all two and a half years ago that the answers I gave were sincere and that the efforts made to discover any other wrongdoing had been conscientious and thorough, and I think people worked very hard in very difficult circumstances to both investigate what might have happened and to make sure that it did not happen again."

Those answers could come back to haunt him.

And well they should. We've seen many irregularities in the way News Corp. does business here in the US, from Roger Ailes using News Corps bodyguards to follow employees of small town publications he personally owned to the stockholder lawsuit over the purchase of Rupert's daughter Elisabeth's production company and her elevation to the board. Whose to say that in their over-arching editorial focus on promoting Republican policies and politicians that they haven't crossed from lack of journalistic integrity straight into criminality?

This is anything but an isolated incident. News of the World spent years invading peoples’ privacy: it was how they did business. The younger Murdoch personally approved an enormous settlement related to phone hacking, and alleged abuses are still being uncovered. The most recent of those include the families of the victims of the terrorist bombings of the London Underground, who have come forward to say their phone messages were hacked too. Despite charges that Brooks knew about the hacking, Murdoch has stated unequivocally that she will remain in leadership. Brooks says it is “inconceivable” that she knew of Milly Dowler’s phone hacking, but it strains credibility that executives could be blind to the fact that the paper was invading people’s privacy for years. At best, it’s an inexcusable lack of oversight; at worst, it’s a conspiracy to spy on private citizens to sell papers. Either way, it requires action and accountability from the top, and Murdoch’s continued support of his long-time lieutenant is one more indication that he puts his personal and political agenda above good business and the common good.

Which brings us back to the United States, where Murdoch’s News Corp. owns Fox News , the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal. When asked point-blank this spring whether his company was hacking people’s phone messages here, Murdoch flatly refused to answer. US shareholders are suing News Corp. for nepotism over the purchase of Murdoch’s daughter’s company at a highly inflated price and her subsequent promotion to the News Corp. board.

One of the largest News Corp. holdings, Fox News, routinely peddles misinformation about climate change, uses racially charged rhetoric and openly promotes Republican positions and candidates, all while pretending to present “fair and balanced” news. Fox News’s Washington managing editor Bill Sammon was even found pushing his staff to tie President Obama to socialism on air, even as he admitted the claim was “rather far-fetched.” And advertisers wary of sponsoring dubious content have been fleeing Fox News here just as they are fleeing News of the World in Britain due to indecent, if not illegal, activity.

UPDATE: It didn't take long for it to carry over to this side of the Atlantic:

Mr Murdoch arrived in London yesterday, wearing a Panama hat and clutching a final copy of the News of the World, in a bid to save his crumbling organisation after the phone-hacking scandal saw the 168-year-old paper axed.

But he flew straight into another storm as it was claimed 9/11 victims may have had their mobiles tapped by News of the World reporters. And there was more bad news when it was revealed nine reporters ­allegedly at the centre of the phone scandal and claims of police corruption could face jail, along with three officers.

After he spent time at News International's Wapping HQ in East London, 80-year-old Mr Murdoch held crisis talks with Mrs Brooks, 43 - who denies any knowledge of the Milly phone tapping - at his home in Mayfair.

The pair chatted behind closed doors as a former New York cop made the 9/11 hacking claim. He alleged he was contacted by News of the World journalists who said they would pay him to retrieve the private phone records of the dead.

Now working as a private ­investigator, the ex-officer claimed reporters wanted the victim's phone numbers and details of the calls they had made and received in the days leading up to the atrocity.

A source said: 'This investigator is used by a lot of journalists in America and he recently told me that he was asked to hack into the 9/11 victims' private phone data. He said that the journalists asked him to access records showing the calls that had been made to and from the mobile phones belonging to the victims and their ­relatives.

About Nicole Belle

Nicole Belle's picture
Mom, Wife, Media Critic/Political Analyst, Blogger, Austen Fanatic, Unapologetic Liberal NicoleBelle@crooksandliars.com

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