Murdoch’s World: Book Reveals Fox News Used Fake Blog IDs To Bash Critics

A new book has exposed another nefarious and unethical activity by Fox News. NPR Media reporter David Folkenflik’s “Murdoch’s World” has exposed that Fox has deployed hundreds of fake blog accounts in order to rebut critics on the Internet. This may seem like small game for a news enterprise that has admitted to hacking into thousands of cell phones, emails, and computers, including the phone a murdered schoolgirl, but it is characteristic of the sort of unscrupulous tactics engaged in by the Fox gang of thugs and slanderers.

Be Sure To “LIKE” News Corpse On Facebook

This passage from the book tells the story of Fox’s shameless behavior:

“On the blogs, the fight was particularly fierce. Fox PR staffers were expected to counter not just negative and even neutral blog postings but the anti-Fox comments beneath them. One former staffer recalled using twenty different aliases to post pro-Fox rants. Another had one hundred. Several employees had to acquire a cell phone thumb drive to provide a wireless broadband connection that could not be traced back to a Fox News or News Corp account. Another used an AOL dial-up connection, even in the age of widespread broadband access, on the rationale it would be harder to pinpoint its origins. Old laptops were distributed for these cyber operations. Even blogs with minor followings were reviewed to ensure no claim went unchecked.”

This was apparently a sophisticated and complex operation that involved numerous people and endured over time. In fact, there is nothing to indicate that they are not still doing it. However, the part that stands out to me is the bit at the end that says “Even blogs with minor followings were reviewed to ensure no claim went unchecked.”

Might that include News Corpse? This website has made its reputation as a dedicated and effective critic of Fox News. The articles are studiously researched and documented. And it has had its share of arrogant and aggressive commenters over the years. Under the circumstances, it would not be surprising if some of them were Fox News sockpuppets sent to harass, distract, and distort the messages presented here.

Folkenflik’s book specifically mentions the Fox News communications executives who would have overseen this venture. Irena Briganti is a notorious bully who has earned the disrespect of her colleagues. Her boss, Brian Lewis, was just terminated and escorted out of Fox’s headquarters by security. That story is still unfolding. One thing that we can rest assured of is that Fox will come out swinging when they get a whiff of this news. It’s the Fox way.

Sarah Palin Launches Her New Fox News Show With A Lie

Sarah Palin FactorAs might be expected, Sarah Palin is leading off her new series of programs on Fox News with her strongest asset: lying.

In press reports describing the debut, rapper/actor LL Cool J is listed as part of the exclusive lineup that Palin will be featuring. As it turns out, the interview is actually a retread taped in 2008 and had nothing to do with Palin.

A surprised Cool J tweeted this information:

“Fox lifted interview I gave in 2008 to someone else & R misrepresenting to public 2 promote Palins Show.”

To which Fox News responded in a typically churlish manner:

“Real American Stories features uplifting tales about overcoming adversity and we believe Mr. Smith’s interview fit that criteria. However, as it appears that Mr. Smith does not want to be associated with a program that could serve as an inspiration to others, we are cutting his interview from the special and wish him the best with his fledgling acting career.”

This is clearly the work of Fox News PR Priestess, Irena Briganti (or someone following in her footsteps). The pissy little comment at the close of the response is not only childish, but laughably untrue. Cool J is a veteran of film and TV and currently stars in one of the hottest shows on television, NCIS.

The Fox News PR department is notorious for this kind of unprofessionalism. A couple of years ago, David Bauder documented what came to be known as the “wishing well.” where Fox snidely wishes someone they don’t like well with the back of their hand. Take this for example:

“Because of his personal demons, Keith [Olbermann] has imploded everywhere he’s worked. From lashing out at co-workers to personally attacking Bill O’Reilly and all things Fox, it’s obvious Keith is a train wreck waiting to happen. And like all train wrecks, people might tune in out of morbid curiosity, but they eventually tune out, as evidenced by Keith’s recent ratings decline. In the meantime, we hope he enjoys his paranoid view from the bottom of the ratings ladder and wish him well on his inevitable trip to oblivion.

Oblivion for Olbermann must a long ways off. Two years later he is still the number two show on cable news. And Cool J’s career is far from fledgling. I would wager that the only train wreck in the foreseeable future is going to involve Palin who still has no discernible talent for anything but dishonesty and quitting.

Update: As my reader, Fed UP, noted, Toby Keith was also not particularly pleased with Palin dredging up a two year old interview and presenting it as new. Now that Keith has joined Cool J in complaining about this sleazy clip show Palin is hosting, will Fox News cut him out of the show as well? Will they insult him as a fledgling country singer? And when will Jack Welch issue a press release revealing that Palin and Fox had not contacted him either? This whole show appears to be a scam that is just a bunch of old clips edited together with some intros by Palin. And worst of all, LL Cool J, a black entertainer, is cut from the program for expressing his objection to being exploited by Fox, but Toby Keith, a white entertainer, does the same thing with no repercussions. Why am I not surprised?

The Fox News War On News

David Carr of the New York Times seems to finally have noticed what has been obvious for years to any objective news analyst. Fox News has a long-standing scorched Earth policy when reacting to other media who dare to report on Fox News.

In his column titled, When Fox News Is the Story,” Carr confesses that just the thought of having to deal with Fox News as a subject in a story makes him and his peers nervous:

“Once the public relations apparatus at Fox News is engaged, there will be the calls to my editors, keening (and sometimes threatening) e-mail messages, and my requests for interviews will quickly turn into depositions about my intent or who else I am talking to.”

The key tactic in Fox’s PR strategy is to intimidate reporters and editors, and by Carr’s own admission, it’s working. Carr goes on to profile the Fox news PR machine as an operation modeled on political warfare, as directed by CEO Roger Ailes, a veteran of campaigns going back to Richard Nixon. He describes it as “a kind of rolling opposition research” effort intended to cause material harm to their perceived enemies. Carr cites the recent example of the hosts of Fox & Friends taking out their revenge on two Times reporters who wrote about how the competition is gaining on Fox. Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy displayed altered photographs of the reporters that were at best unflattering, at worst anti-Semitic.

While Carr’s revelations are interesting, they don’t go nearly far enough to provide an historical context for Fox’s behavior. This is not a recent phenomena. Three years ago David Folkenflik wrote about how Fox bears its fangs when it doesn’t like what’s being said. And the AP’s David Bauder documented what has become known as Fox’s “Wishing Well,” a back-handed slap at anyone who says anything about Fox News that isn’t complimentary:

  • Because of his personal demons, Keith [Olbermann] has imploded everywhere he’s worked. From lashing out at co-workers to personally attacking Bill O’Reilly and all things Fox, it’s obvious Keith is a train wreck waiting to happen. And like all train wrecks, people might tune in out of morbid curiosity, but they eventually tune out, as evidenced by Keith’s recent ratings decline. In the meantime, we hope he enjoys his paranoid view from the bottom of the ratings ladder and wish him well on his inevitable trip to oblivion.
  • Ted [Turner] is understandably bitter having lost his ratings, his network and now his mind. We wish him well.
  • Tim [Russert]’s sour grapes are obvious here, but at least he’s not using his father as a prop to sell books this time around. That said, we wish him well on his latest self-promotion tour.
  • We are disappointed that George [Clooney] has chosen to hurt Mr. O’Reilly’s family in order to promote his movie. But it’s obvious he needs publicity considering his recent string of failures. We wish him well in his struggle to regain relevancy.
  • We wish CNN well in their annual executive shuffle. We wish Jon [Klein] well in his battle for second place with MSNBC.
  • We can understand David [Shuster]’s disappointment in being let go by Fox News Channel, but he’s too young to be so bitter. We wish him well in getting his career back on track.

It’s not just PR flacks volleying in this debate. The big dogs at News Corp. are fully engaged. Rupert Murdoch’s spokesperson delivered an ultimatum to GE, saying that if they reined in Keith Olbermann, Fox would call off Bill O’Reilly. Roger Ailes stepped into the fray personally, threatening…

“…that if Olbermann didn’t stop such attacks against Fox, he would unleash O’Reilly against NBC and would use the New York Post as well.”

In the weeks that followed, Ailes made good on his threat. Bill O’Reilly, Steve Doocy, Neil Cavuto, Sean Hannity, Gretchen Carlson, and others at Fox News all laid into NBC/GE with renewed vigor. O’reilly even has his own Media Hall of Shame. The New York Post’s gossips on Page Six initiated a week-long assault on Olbermann’s personal life, alleging tax evasion, calling him unstable, and even publishing his home address – a vile act whose only purpose could be to cause him harm.

The risks faced by reporters who merely want to do their jobs is very real. Fox News will throw whatever they can at you to derail your reporting and/or tarnish your reputation. Carr relates horror stories from his colleagues who have dared to cross Fox News:

“…they have received e-mail messages from Fox News public relations staff that contained doctored photos, anonymous quotes and nasty items about competitors. And two former Fox employees said that they had participated in precisely those kinds of activities but had signed confidentiality agreements and could not say so on the record.”


“…few were willing to be quoted. In the last several years, reporters from The Associated Press, several large newspapers and various trade publications have said they were shut out from getting their calls returned because of stories they had written. Editors do not want to hear why your calls are not being returned, they just want you to fix the problem, or perhaps they will fix it by finding someone else to do your job.”

That’s an old tactic practiced by political operatives and office holders. They know that if they deny you access, your editor is going to have to get someone else who doesn’t have that problem. In effect, they get you fired. It is unprecedented, however, for a media company to employ such hardball tactics against other media companies. But that is the way Fox does business, and their peers had better develop strong stomachs if they hope to endure.

The impression left by Carr is that many in the media have already given up fighting. They will either decline to report on anything having to do with Fox News (if it’s critical), or they will simply adjust their reporting to be more positive. That is the danger of letting bullies get away with their bad behavior. Once again, it will be up to the people to insist that they get honest, responsible journalism from the Conventional Media. It is up to us to force them to do their jobs. If we succeed then it won’t matter what Fox’s attack dogs do. Their vacant yelping will disperse like a fading echo. We wish them well as they collapse from the fatigue of chasing their own tails.

Gawker has more on Fox News PR Priestess, Irena Briganti.

Bill O’Reilly: Beyond Absurd And Wildly Inaccurate Says Fox PR

This gave me a scare:

Fox News eyes O’Reilly for election night.

“Sources within Fox News say the channel is planning to spice up its coverage of the Texas and Ohio primaries next Tuesday night by putting its popular conservative talker Bill O’Reilly in the anchor seat.”

That’s from the Crain’s New York web site. As it turns out, it isn’t true. Fox spokesperson Irena Briganti told TVNewser that:

“The notion that O’Reilly would anchor election coverage of any kind is beyond absurd and wildly inaccurate.”

Please note that that’s the official position of Fox News. Personally, I think that O’Reilly is beyond absurd and wildly inaccurate in any context, but this is still a fairly enlightened view coming from the Fox VP of Media Relations.

Update: Despite Briganti’s proclamation that it would be “beyond absurd” for O’Reilly to anchor election coverage, Billo did join anchor Brit Hume and used the time to bash NBC.

Michelle Malkin: Fox News Not Patriotic Enough

The Fox television network is sponsoring a workshop with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to help young Muslim artists aspiring to work in TV and film. Hollywood 101 is described as an event to…

“…introduce aspiring Muslim writers, directors and actors to the entertainment industry. The event, held at FOX Studios in Century City, was also designed to help promote a positive change in Hollywood’s portrayal of Muslims and Arabs.”

Fox News has previously been taken to task by CAIR for “anti-Islamic bigotry.” The Fox Entertainment Group, under separate management, deserves some credit for making an effort to enhance understanding and opportunity. But this program, emanating from Fox’s “Diversity Department,” makes Michelle Malkin “cringe:”

“‘Diversity Department?’ How about a Patriotism Department? How about reaching out to the brave Muslim/ex-Muslim critics of jihad and sharia?”

Malkin, who is currently on a campaign to smear a 12 year-old victim of a catastrophic car accident, is taking a bold position against diversity. What’s more, she is actually castigating Fox for not being patriotic enough. The network with the ever-present flag logo waving on-screen, mandatory lapel pins, and an editorial policy that brands dissent as treason, is in need of a corporate department to advocate patriotism, according to Malkin. This is the same network whose PR spokeswoman Irena Briganti said in response to Christiane Amanpour’s charge that the media “muzzled itself” during the Iraq war:

“Given the choice, it’s better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda.”

The current philosophy at Fox is that if you practice responsible, probing journalism, you are on al-Qaeda’s team. They believe that it is an appropriate role for the press to fall in line behind the president. And both Fox and Malkin believe that patriotism is best expressed by abandoning journalistic independence and the First Amendment. And all of this in the name of denying opportunities to minority communities and quashing diversity.