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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Rupert Murdoch

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    • News Corp: CEO
    • Fox News: Owner
    • Weekly Standard: Former owner

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Rupert Murdoch heads one of the world's largest media empires, the News Corporation, which during FY2010 had nearly $33 billion in total revenue from a diverse range of media products, including Fox News, Twentieth Century Fox, Dow Jones (publisher of the Wall Street Journal), HarperCollins, MySpace, the New York Post, and hundreds of other newspapers and television stations.[1]

News Corp and Murdoch have been embroiled in scandal over allegations that the company attempted to access voicemail records of "hundreds of celebrities and government officials,"[2] murdered British girls, and 9/11 victims. British police have arrested numerous top executives, including Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of News International, and the head of Scotland Yard resigned over the handling of the affair.[3] Sources also claim that News of the World journalists solicited a private detective to hack into the voicemails of 9/11 victims.[4]

Murdoch's son James, the heir apparent to News Corp, is alleged to have given "mistaken" testimony to a British parliamentary investigation.[5] The younger Murdoch testified that he was unaware of the phone hacking allegations, but two former News Corp executives have come forward, saying that Murdoch had indeed knowledge of the illegal activities.[6]

Considered a close ally of neoconservative activists, Murdoch has helped bankroll neoconservatism's more important media outlets, including the William Kristol-edited Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, and Fox News. A sign of Murdoch's commitment to this rightwing faction's causes was his willingness to support the Standard in spite of yearly losses in the millions. The magazine is widely credited as a pivotal force in building support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. According to a report by Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, "With a circulation of about 65,000 and annual losses estimated from $1 million … to $5 million … the Standard represented only a tiny fraction of Murdoch's vast media empire."[7]

In June 2009, Murdoch sold the Standard to Clarity Media, a Denver-based company run by another conservative media mogul, Philip Anschutz. The New York Times reported that the magazine was sold for about $1 million, "according to an executive close to Mr. Murdoch who spoke anonymously because the terms of the deal were meant to be confidential."[8] According to a News Corp. executive interviewed by the Times, Murdoch decided to sell the magazine to ''someone even more enthusiastic about perpetuating that voice.''[9]

Murdoch is frequently criticized for using his media empire to advance his political agenda. During the lead up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, for example, the editors of Murdoch's media holdings vociferously supported President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair's pro-war campaign. One British newspaper opined: "You have got to admit that Rupert Murdoch is one canny press tycoon because he has an unerring ability to choose editors across the world who think just like him. How else can we explain the extraordinary unity of thought in his newspaper empire about the need to make war on Iraq? After an exhaustive survey of the highest-selling and most influential papers across the world owned by Murdoch's News Corporation, it is clear that all are singing from the same hymn sheet. Some are bellicose baritone soloists who relish the fight. Some prefer a less strident, if more subtle, role in the chorus. But none, whether fortissimo or pianissimo, has dared to croon the antiwar tune. Their master's voice has never been questioned."[10]

According to commentator David Kirkpatrick, Murdoch's personal involvement in editorial issues has helped ensure that almost all of his news outlets "have hewn very closely to Mr. Murdoch's own stridently hawkish political views, making his voice among the loudest in the Anglophone world in the international debate over the American-led war with Iraq."[11]

Gene Kimmelman of the Consumers Union told the New York Times, "[Murdoch] has extended the most blatant editorializing in the entire world through his media properties, and that is exactly the example of what we need to worry about when any one entrepreneur owns and controls too many media outlets."[12]

Fox News, which eclipsed CNN in 2002 as the top-rated cable news network in the United States, has frequently been singled out for criticism because of its blatantly one-sided coverage of political issues—from its campaign to support the invasion of Iraq to its efforts to discredit the Barack Obama White House. When CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour blamed Fox for creating "a climate of fear and self-censorship" regarding Iraq coverage, a Fox spokeswoman shot back, "Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaida."[13]

Similarly, when advisers to President Obama began criticizing Fox for failing to uphold high journalistic standards in its coverage of the administration, Fox senior executive Michael Clemente charged the White House with conflating the network's commentary with its news coverage, which Clemente said was "like Fox News blaming the White House senior staff for the Washington Redskins' losing record."[14]

Some observers see Murdoch as more closely attracted to power and opportunism than ideology. Tim Arango of the New York Times writes, "Mr. Murdoch's politics have often proved more malleable and less dogmatic than his critics have portrayed. He has been pragmatic in aligning himself, and his company, with power, rather than ideology. He supported Tony Blair in Britain, and in 2006, his New York Post endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Senate. Mr. Murdoch even hosted a fundraiser for Mrs. Clinton. And shortly after the election of Barack Obama as president, the Post fawned over him in its pages."[15]

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[1] Fortune Magazine, "The Global 500," July 25, 2011.

[2] New York Times, "Anatomy of the News International Scandal," July 20, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/09/01/magazine/05tabloid-timeline.html?ref=europe.

[3] David Carr, "Troubles That Money Can't Dispel," New York Times, July 17, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/18/business/media/for-news-corporation-troubles-that-money-cant-dispel.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all&seid=auto&smid=tw-NYTimesAd.

[4] David Collins, "Phone hacking: 9/11 vicims 'may have had mobiles tapped by News of the World reporters,'" The Daily Mirror, July 11, 2011, http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/most-popular/2011/07/11/phone-hacking-9-11-victims-may-have-had-mobiles-tapped-by-news-of-the-world-reporters-115875-23262694/.

[5] Tim Castle, "News Corp's James Murdoch under pressure over hacking testimony," Reuters, July 24, 2011, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/25/newscorp-idUSL6E7IO0HT20110725.

[6] Graham Bowley and Jo Becker, "Pressure on Murdochs Mounts in Hacking Scandal," New York Times, July 22, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/23/world/europe/23murdoch.html.

[7] Michael Corcoran, "The Weekly Standard's War: Murdoch sells the magazine that sold the Iraq invasion," Extra!, September 2009, http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3944.

[8] Tim Arango, "New Owner for a Magazine As Political Tastes Change," New York Times, August 3, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/03/business/media/03standard.html.

[9] Tim Arango, "New Owner for a Magazine As Political Tastes Change," New York Times, August 3, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/03/business/media/03standard.html.

[10] Roy Greenslade, "Their Master's Voice," Guardian, February 17, 2003, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2003/feb/17/mondaymediasection.iraq.

[11] David D. Kirkpatrick, "Mr. Murdoch's War," New York Times, April 7, 2003, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/07/business/media-mr-murdoch-s-war.html.

[12] Alessandra Stanley, "It's Reported, They Mock, You Decide," New York Times, April 7, 2003.

[13] "Amanpour: CNN Practiced Self-Censorship," USA Today, September 14, 2003, http://www.usatoday.com/life/columnist/mediamix/2003-09-14-media-mix_x.htm.

[14] Jim Rutenberg, "Behind the War Between White House and Fox," New York Times, October 22, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/23/us/politics/23fox.html.

[15] Tim Arango, "New Owner for a Magazine As Political Tastes Change," New York Times, August 3, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/03/business/media/03standard.html.

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Rupert Murdoch Résumé


    • Weekly Standard: Former Owner (News Corp.)


    • News Corporation: Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (1952-current)


    • Oxford University


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