Broadcast Media Ignores Major Fox News Scandal

What does it take to get the attention of the media when a corrosive scandal erupts that they don’t seem to want to cover?

This past week a prominent and powerful public figure was implicated in a searing and salacious controversy. It involves sex, felonious criminal conduct, corporate intrigue, political shenanigans, and personal betrayal. This is either the scoop of the year or the best damn plot of “Days of our Lives” in decades.

The central figure in the controversy happens to be one of the most powerful media executives in the world, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. It is alleged that Ailes tried to coerce a News Corp colleague, Judith Regan, to lie to federal investigators about her affair with Bernard Kerik, President Bush’s nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security. Ailes wanted to shield his friend Rudy Giuliani, who had sponsored Kerik, from an embarrassing episode as he was attempting to launch a campaign for president. Kerik presently resides in federal prison on tax fraud violations.

Can you just imagine what would have happened if the head of CNN or CBS had been the subject of such assertions? First of all, Fox News would have made it their lead story at the top of every hour. It would have been repeated ad nauseum with remotes from the network’s offices. Their primetime pundits would have spun it into a conspiracy that enveloped President Obama, George Soros, Muslim radicals, and protesters from Egypt to Wisconsin.

Instead, there has been a virtual blackout on the broadcast news networks. Not a single one has done a story about Ailes and the newly uncovered legal documents that contain sworn testimony as to his behavior. Of course, I wouldn’t have expected any reports from the Fox News Channel or Fox Business Network as their corporate mission is to lie and obfuscate even when the story doesn’t involve their leader. But what’s the problem with CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC? How is it possible that someone with the public profile of Roger Ailes is getting a free pass by every major television network? Does Ailes have compromising photos of his counterparts at the other networks? Or are they just frightened little hacks with no journalistic integrity whatsoever?

This is not an insignificant story. And it isn’t just the criminal allegations that define its importance. Ailes is still the chief executive of the network despite his apparent attempts to intervene on behalf of a political pal. So this goes straight to the question of his fitness to run a news enterprise and to be fair and balanced while doing so. In recent weeks leaked memos have revealed the institutional bias of Fox News. There has been documentary evidence that Fox is indeed the PR arm of the GOP, just as most objective analysts had already surmised. And the Ailes affair puts an exclamation point on that.

So what’s wrong with the other broadcast news organizations? Why are they protecting Ailes? If the situation were reversed Ailes would be pummeling them. In fact, Fox News already pummels their competitors on a nightly basis without even having a scandal as a starting point. This is a competitiveness issue. Can anyone imagine that if Reebok discovered that the CEO of Nike had approved harmful materials for use in his footwear products, that Reebok would keep its mouth shut? Yet that’s what Fox’s competitors are doing now, and have been doing for years.

First and foremost, the other networks have an obligation to inform the public, and they are failing utterly in that. But, shockingly, they aren’t even willing to advance the truth when it would benefit them competitively against the biggest player on the cable field. Do they want to always be also-rans behind Fox News? That suggests either some dastardly compact has been drawn up surrendering the lead to Fox, or an Olympian dose of incompetence.

Tell the networks to do their job and report this news now!
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Murdoch Media Ignores Charges Against Fox News Boss Roger Ailes

Yesterday the New York Times published a bombshell story revealing allegations that Fox News chairman Roger Ailes asked an employee to lie to federal investigators to protect a close friend and political comrade.

The article said that Ailes had asked Judith Regan, then head of a publishing unit at News Corp’s HarperCollins, to conceal her affair with Bernard Kerik, whom President Bush had nominated to be Secretary of Homeland Security. Kerik was an associate of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani who was mounting a presidential campaign. Giuliani was a friend of Ailes.

Giuliani’s nascent campaign might have been grounded before takeoff if news of Kerik’s affair had gotten out. Plus, there were concerns that Regan had information about Giuliani that would also have been embarrassing for the candidate.

Fragments of this story were revealed in a lawsuit that Regan had filed after Ailes fired her, but no names were disclosed. The new story in the Times fingers Ailes as the executive who had told Regan to lie to investigators.

This revelation could have harsh consequences for Ailes. His actions may constitute a federal crime. Short of that, it could impact his status at Fox News. Having a chairman who is potentially a criminal, and whose alleged criminal activity was aimed at protecting a political ally, is not the sort of thing a news network ought to condone. Lucky for Ailes, the only thing his network has to do with news is that they put it on their logo.

In keeping with their aversion to reporting the news, Fox News has blacked out any coverage of the story about Ailes. This story has been picked up by dozens of news enterprises including the New York Daily News, Forbes, USA Today, Politico, and the Hollywood Reporter, since having been reported first by the Times. But in the Murdoch empire it doesn’t exist. It is unquestionably newsworthy subject matter involving the head of one of the nation’s biggest media companies. It contains all the elements of compelling reading, including crime, sex, and political and corporate intrigue. Yet there has been no sign of it on Fox News, or in the Wall Street Journal, or in the New York Post, or on Fox Business Network. Neither has it been covered by notable conservative news outfits like the Washington Times, or Andrew Breitbart’s “Big” sites, or WorldNetDaily, or Human Events, or National Review, or NewsMax, or the Weekly Standard.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that there has yet to be any mention of this by the big broadcast networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC. These networks in the past have taken pains to cover for Fox News when it has been under attack for shoddy and biased reporting. There seems to be a mutual defense treaty in the television news community that calls for members to support one another, even though Fox isn’t actually a news network by objective standards. But what other explanation is there for the broadcast nets to ignore this story while their colleagues in print are all over it?

This is our so-called “liberal” media at work. The chairman of the top cable news network is accused of a federal crime that involves political shenanigans, and much of the press averts their eyes and waves it off. And while the media at large deserve criticism for not honestly informing the public, the Murdoch empire earns extra condemnation for hypocrisy. After all, they have unrestricted access to the subject of this scandal, yet they choose to shield him.

[Update:] The industry trade paper AdWeek confirms that News Corp has failed to report on the allegations against Ailes.

Rupert Murdoch To Fire Roger Ailes?

If Gawker is to believed, News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, and his longtime Fox News chief Roger Ailes, have had a falling out that may cost Ailes his job.

The alleged spat arose from the controversial near publication of O.J. Simpson’s confessional book, “If I Did It.” The backlash from what may have been the most nauseating literary endeavor ever, resulted in the very same people responsible for the deal running as far away from it as they could. It also caused the termination of Judith Regan, who put the revolting package together for her Regan Books subsidiary of HarperCollins. The project included a televised interview of Simpson to be broadcast on the Fox network.

Now, the recent departure as HarperCollins CEO, Jane Friedman, has people talking again. According to Gawker, a former News Corp. insider says that…

“Friedman got canned, in my view, for being anti-Regan. Rupert wanted the Simpson book out, and he also was taken in by Ailes, who orchestrated both the anti If I Did It campaign [against the OJ Simpson book] and the anti-Semitism campaign (this is fact), who will soon be shitcanned for the same reasons.”

The notion that Murdoch is contemplating the dismissal of the man who founded and built Fox News is, to say the least, far fetched. Their business relationship, and ideological consonance seem far to deep to be torn apart by a single disagreement. And if Murdoch is really upset that the Simpson book was scuttled, he didn’t say so at the time:

“I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project. We are sorry for any pain that this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson.”

In all likelihood, Murdoch did want the book to be released. It fits perfectly the tabloid trashiness of his media philosophy. Then Ailes, the former campaign consultant with political instincts, stepped in and saved Murdoch’s butt by killing the deal. Whereupon Murdoch issues a thoroughly disingenuous apology designed only to save face. So even if Murdoch harbored some resentment that his morbidly exploitive, sensationalistic score was shelved, he was still in Ailes’ debt for averting the public scorn the project produced. In other words…Ailes isn’t going anywhere.

Judith Regan’s Latest Blockbuster Busts News Corp

With a cast of characters that includes Rudy Giuliani, Rupert Murdoch, and Judith Regan, a tale is being woven that starts off better than any novel by Melville, Hemingway or Steinbeck – put together!

“This action arises from a deliberate smear campaign orchestrated by one of the largest media conglomerates for the sole purpose of destroying one woman’s credibility and reputation. This smear campaign was necessary to advance News Corp.’s political agenda, which has long centered on Giuliani’s presidential ambitions.”

This is the Introduction to a lawsuit filed (pdf) by Judith Regan against publisher HarperCollins and its parent, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. The lawsuit was filed by Regan in response to her having been fired in the wake of the aborted publication of O. J. Simpson’s imagined confessional “If I Did It.” The ripples from this wave are certain to roil the waters around both News Corp and the presidential ambitions of Giuliani.

Enter Bernie Kerik, Giuliani’s Police Commissioner whom Giuliani recommended to President Bush to be the first Director of Homeland Security. That appointment was scuttled due to Kerik being waist high in the sort of corruption that just got him indicted for multiple felonies. It seems that Regan and Kerik were sparking a little heat of their own. That revelation has made some folks nervous.

“Defendants were well aware that Regan had a personal relationship with Kerik. In fact, a senior executive in the News Corp. organization told Regan that he believed that she had information about Kerik that, if disclosed, would harm Giuliani’s presidential campaign. This executive advised Regan to lie to, and to withhold information from, investigators concerning Kerik”

This story has blockbuster written all over it. There is drama, intrigue, betrayal, corruption, money and sex. If Fox were not so inextricably intertwined in it, this would be a perfect subject for them. The News Corp executive (whom Regan does not name) that directed Regan to lie to Secret Service agents gathering data on a prospective cabinet member is potentially guilty of unlawful intimidation and deception. If true, what’s left of Fox News’ credibility is irredeemably lost (admittedly not a big loss for them).

It remains to seen how this will impact Giuliani who has been all but anointed by Fox as the Republican nominee. The New York Times reported earlier this year on the close relationship between Giuliani, Fox News and News Corp honcho, Roger Ailes. Giuliani has been a frequent guest on Fox, particularly the Hannity and Colmes program. His appearances far outstrip his Republican rivals:

“Mr. Giuliani’s on-air time on Fox [115 minutes] was 25 percent greater than that of his Republican competitor Mitt Romney, and nearly double that of Senator John McCain of Arizona. Fred D. Thompson, who has yet to formally announce his candidacy, came in second to Mr. Giuliani with 101 minutes of Fox interviews.”

Besides the valuable airtime Hannity contributes, he also headlined a $250.00 a plate fund raiser for Giuliani. Then there is Rudy’s personal relationship with Ailes, the Chairman of Fox News:

“Mr. Ailes was the media consultant to Mr. Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign in 1989. Mr. Giuliani, as mayor, officiated at Mr. Ailes’s wedding and intervened on his behalf when Mr. Ailes’s company, Fox News Channel, was blocked from securing a cable station in the city.”

It will be interesting to see how all of this unfolds. Kerik is already facing serious charges for his unscrupulous misadventures. Giuliani’s house of cards is only just beginning to wobble. But the real cliffhanger is News Corp and Fox News. How will they fare after being accused of threatening Regan to secure her silence regarding Kerik and Giuliani? Will regulators take any of this under consideration with regards to the Dow Jones acquisition? How will the media report the details of this lurid scandal that marries elements of the media (Fox News) and the government (Giuliani, Kerik) with the tabloid exploits of the “Golden Vagina” as Regan was known to her critics at News Corp.

The good news is that Fox’s reputation for honest and impartial journalism is not in jeopardy because, of course, they have no such reputation. Thus, it may not surprise many that they have suborned perjury, intimidated witnesses and clandestinely supported a presidential candidate who was a friend and benefactor. I just wonder when the conservative population in this country, who have prided themselves on the virtues of law and order, will finally surrender to the fact that Murdoch and Co. are a criminal syndicate that simply cannot be trusted.

Update: Giuliani’s non-denial denial: “I don’t respond to the story at all. I don’t know anything about it, and it sounds to me like kind of a gossip column story more than a real story.”

Plus, Regan reportedly has “juicy” tapes that bolster her account of the events detailed in her lawsuit.

Fox Makes Regan Walk The Plank

Judith Regan, the third rail of publishing, has been fired by HarperCollins, the Murdoch-owned division that ran ReganBooks. This seperation is ceratinly the consequence of her having shepherded one of the most despicable projects ever to be conceived in popular media: O. J. Simpson’s, “If I Did It.” Her termination notice was a two line memo from HC’s CEO Jane Friedman:

“Judith Regan’s employment with HarperCollins has been terminated effective immediately. The REGAN publishing program and staff will continue as part of the HarperCollins General Books Group.”

I won’t waste much sympathy on Regan, who has made a fortune releasing vile books by contemptable authors. And, no doubt she will land on her cloven hooves as the tabloid rags of the world bid for her depravity.

But I will register this one condolence for the injustice thrust upon her as she is made a scapegoat for the misdeeds of many others. The accumulated list of guilty parties ought to include HC’s Friedman, as well as the programming execs at Fox Entertainment, their corporate handlers at News Corp, and even Daddy Rupert himself. All of these players were giddily salivating at the prospect of the impure profits pouring in from this profane project. Yet none of them have been called to task for their participation.

News Corp thinks it can wash its hands of this matter by sacrificing Regan. Conveniently, they are not closing up shop at ReganBooks, so they will be able to continue dumping the same kind of garbage into the literary landfill for which Regan was noted. And the pollution of the intellectual environment will continue unabated.