Gabriel Sherman’s latest bombshell about Fox News reports that the network hacked journalists’ phone records, including those of at least one Media Matters reporter. Media Matters is threatening a lawsuit.
Sherman’s article was published today in New York Magazine. It’s a lengthy, must-read for NewsHounds. But of particular import are these two paragraphs:
Fox News also obtained the phone records of journalists, by legally questionable means. According to two sources with direct knowledge of the incident, Brandi, Fox’s general counsel, hired a private investigator in late 2010 to obtain the personal home- and cell-phone records of Joe Strupp, a reporter for the liberal watchdog group Media Matters. (Through a spokesperson, Brandi denied this.) In the fall of that year, Strupp had written several articles quoting anonymous Fox sources, and the network wanted to determine who was talking to him. “This was the culture. Getting phone records doesn’t make anybody blink,” one Fox executive told me.
What makes this practice all the more brazen is that the Guardian was already publishing articles about phone-hacking at Murdoch’s British newspaper division. About that scandal, Murdoch said, “I do not accept ultimate responsibility. I hold responsible the people that I trusted to run it and the people they trusted.” In this case, of course, the person he trusted, inexplicably, was Ailes, and Murdoch does not seem to have wanted to know how Ailes chose to spend company funds. Every year, Murdoch approved Ailes’s budgets without question. “When you have an organization making that much money, we didn’t go line by line through people’s budgets,” a former News Corp. executive said.
Sherman only cites one journalist hacked by Fox but he implies there were more. Media Matters also thinks so - and that Fox hacked emails, too. From The Daily Beast:
“We know there are allegations of email and phone records being obtained, but do not know precisely how. It’s part of our internal review now,” Media Matters president Bradley Beychok told The Daily Beast.
Beychok said Strupp may not have been the only target. “We are not sure of how widespread the issue may be in regards to our employees. However, in addition to Joe Strupp there is at least one other current Media Matters colleague who we have reason to believe also had their phone records obtained.”
Media Matters is also threatening to sue Fox. Today it issued a statement:
Roger Ailes and Fox News broke the law by hacking into the phone records of Media Matters employees. Anyone involved in the illegal hacking should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and we are considering all legal options.
There are bigger implications here, too: How far did the corruption spread beyond Ailes and into the upper levels of Fox management and how far are the Murdochs and parent company 21st Century Fox willing to go to clean it up? These are recurring questions raised by Sherman’s reporting. They come up in this latest article, too:
Despite revelations of how Ailes’s management team enabled his harassment, Murdoch has so far rejected calls — including from James, according to sources — to conduct a wholesale housecleaning. On August 12, Murdoch promoted Shine and another Ailes loyalist, Jack Abernethy, to become co-presidents of Fox News. He named Scott executive vice-president and kept Brandi and Briganti in their jobs. Fox News’s chief financial officer, Mark Kranz, is the only senior executive to have been pushed out (officially he retired), along with Laterza and a handful of assistants, contributors, and consultants. “Of course, they are trying to isolate this to just a few bad actors,” a 21st Century Fox executive told me.
No wonder Fox tried to prebut this report with personal smears on Sherman!
Crossposted at Newshounds.us