It was like the sun rising in the west. For over a decade, Rupert Murdoch had disputed the science of climate change. Then, at a Tokyo press conference last week, the conservative media mogul announced that he is now in favor of an international treaty to halt the progress of global warming. Immediately, pundits began to wonder what effect his conversion would have within News Corporation, his vast media empire.


Now, Murdoch is unpopular with many different people for many different reasons. Just last week, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann gave him the “Worst Person in the World” award. It was for another comment that Murdoch had made in Japan, about the United States’ 2,839 deaths in Iraq being “quite minute.” But most of the enmity for Murdoch comes from his well-documented reputation as an agenda pusher who breaks journalistic sacraments. In an article from October 16, former New York City mayor Ed Koch told the New Yorker’s John Cassidy that upon receiving news of an intended endorsement from the New York Post in 1977, he told Murdoch, “Rupert, you’ve just elected me.” Critics often accuse the News Corp. chairman of throwing his weight around like that. They accuse his editors of promoting his conservative political and economic agendas. It is no mystery - angry liberals do not even sue as much they used to.


So it was strange, and certainly conspicuous, when Murdoch began, not to turn exactly, but to bear left on a few issues. Cassidy’s 8,000-word feature was centered on a fundraiser that Murdoch held for Hillary Clinton at News Corp.’s Manhattan offices, which house the Post and Fox News. Both organizations had spent the better part of the 1990s lambasting the Clinton administration, and had opposed Hillary’s run for the Senate in 2000. Cassidy also reports that Murdoch has donated over half a million dollars to the Clinton Foundation’s Climate Initiative, and that he has declared his intention to make News Corp. a “carbon neutral” company. In Australia, the company’s native turf, The Sydney Morning Herald wrote that, “The significance of Murdoch’s views is that, unlike almost all modern media proprietors, his views are the company’s views. If he is concerned about global warming, then newspapers in the U.S., Britain and Australia are, too.” Three days later, Murdoch’s announcement of his support for an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol delivered more grist for the mill.

Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.