The Media

There’s Another News Corp Phone Hacking Scandal Coming, And Fox News May Be Finished

New York Magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman, whose coverage of the Ailes scandal has been exceptional, reported this morning that former Fox News chief Roger Ailes hired a private investigator to illegally obtain the phone records of journalists who wrote about him.

Ailes allegedly sought the phone records of journalists because he wanted to know who they were talking to at Fox News, and his list of targets included at least one former employee of Media Matters.

Media Matters is now calling for an investigation.

Media Matters responded in a statement on Friday: “From what we witnessed with Rupert Murdoch and News Corp’s prior phone hacking scandal, its critical for an immediate investigation of Roger Ailes and any other current or former Fox News employees who may have been involved in this illegal practice.”

“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.”

New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman did not specify how many journalists Ailes targeted, perhaps because its unknown at this time, but I think we can safely assume it was far more than just one. The previous News Corp phone hacking scandal centered in the UK eventually ensnared hundreds of victims.

Sherman’s report details how the Murdochs tolerated the behavior of Roger Ailes because the profits at Fox News were so good.

I recommend reading Sherman’s report in full, but here’s a key passage:

What NBC considered fireable offenses, Murdoch saw as competitive advantages. He hired Ailes to help achieve a goal that had eluded Murdoch for a decade: busting CNN’s cable news monopoly. Back in the mid-’90s, no one thought it could be done. “I’m looking forward to squishing Rupert like a bug,” CNN founder Ted Turner boasted at an industry conference. But Ailes recognized how key wedge issues — race, religion, class — could turn conservative voters into loyal viewers. By January 2002, Fox News had surpassed CNN as the highest-rated cable news channel. But Ailes’s success went beyond ratings: The rise of Fox News provided Murdoch with the political influence in the United States that he already wielded in Australia and the United Kingdom. And by merging news, politics, and entertainment in such an overt way, Ailes was able to personally shape the national conversation and political fortunes as no one ever had before. It is not a stretch to argue that Ailes is largely responsible for, among other things, the selling of the Iraq War, the Swift-boating of John Kerry, the rise of the tea party, the sticking power of a host of Clinton scandals, and the purported illegitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Ailes became untouchable. At News Corp., he behaved just as he had at NBC, but Murdoch tolerated Ailes’s abusiveness because he was pleased with the results.

Ailes was untouchable up until the point that women at Fox News had enough and took matters into their own hands because Fox and News Corp executives didn’t give a shit about them. No one cared as long as the ratings and profits continued to flow.

Ailes converted conservative viewers into loyal, die-hard wingnuts by feeding them a constant stream of paranoia and fear. He did enormous, lasting damage to our political discourse, the government itself, and the lives of countless women who worked for him. But he beat CNN in the ratings and that’s all Rupert Murdoch cared about.

As you know, Roger Ailes is now one of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s closest advisers.

Sherman also reported that most of Fox’s top on-air talent could be gone after this election is over according to his sources at Fox. We’ve all speculated that Donald Trump will create his own conservative news network after the election is over but Fox News brass is apparently taking the possibility very seriously. Notably, Trump superfan Sean Hannity is reportedly considering leaving Fox for Trump TV.

  • Christopher Foxx

    Ailes was untouchable up until the point that women at Fox News had enough and took matters into their own hands because…

    … because her contract wasn’t renewed and her share of the gravy train ended. Look, whatever the spark that set them off it’s a good thing that Ailes was finally paying a price for his harassment. But let’s not forget Carlson didn’t call him out on his bullshit until after she’d been fired and the others didn’t jump on until Carlson started the train rolling. For years they were all fine eagerly aiding Fox as it worked diligently to harm people.

  • muselet

    Rupert Murdoch, a/k/a The Dirty Digger, has done a spectacular job of wrecking news reporting in the US. He’s have a lot to answer for if our glorious news media hadn’t spent the past couple of decades enthusiastically flinging themselves into the wood chipper.

    Jeez Louise, the people who run the major infotainment corproations are stupid.

    –alopecia

  • Badgerite

    “Crooked Roger”!
    Ailes cut his teeth staging Richard Nixon’s campaign and I do mean staging. It was controlled and phony as all get out. Completely staged events. Actual spontaneity was banned.
    He probably picked up a few things from the Watergate’ Plumbers.’

  • Aynwrong

    One of the things that allows Fox News to continuously influence this country is the fact that in certain ways the mainstream media insists on ignoring it. As an example, in the runup to the 2014 midterms Meet the Press was discussing the Ebola “epidemic” and a rumor that ISIS agents had been arrested at the border and may have been smuggling Ebola into the country. Andrea Mitchell described these rumors as coming from certain corners of the media. She wasn’t even willing to say “Fox” on air.

    If the press was no longer willing to pretend that Fox was a legitimate news agency and treated it as the producer of propaganda and yellow journalism that it is it’s influence could be seriously lessened.

    • I think the reason they are afraid is because they sometimes skirt that line themselves. And what if the rest of the MSM decided to, rightly or wrongly, brand them as “non-news” and decided to treat them as illegitimate. In the end they’re betting on the intelligence of the American viewing public to make the decision and reject Fox News. I, for one, think that’s a losing bet.

      • Aynwrong

        “” In the end they’re betting on the intelligence of the American viewing public to make the decision and reject Fox News. I, for one, think that’s a losing bet.”

        Sadly, so do I.

      • drspittle

        They could also be planning their next career move and not wanting to offend their new bosses.

  • “But Ailes recognized how key wedge issues — race, religion, class — could turn conservative voters into loyal viewers.”

    In other words, hate sells. Murdoch–#1 purveyor of hate in the world.

    Let them go and when it fails, because pretty much every business venture Trump has started himself has ended in failure, they’ll all be out of a job

    • Draxiar

      If only they had used their power for good.

      • Victor the Crab

        They’re sociopaths. They do not know the meaning of the word “good”.