Audit Notes: The Murdochs at Parliament, In the Journal, and Via Fox News

How sweet would it have been if The Guardian’s Nick Davies had been on the committee questioning Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks today (although Tom Watson was pretty great)?

Alas, we’ll have to settle for a Davies column that deftly picks apart the Murdochs’ evasions after the fact. First he shows how doddering Rupert and oily James were well coached by flacks and lawyers.

That’s sharp stuff, but this is damning:

But what about 2008, when he personally approved the settlement of the legal action brought by the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Gordon Taylor, and two associates? “It’s a good question,” replied James. “I’m happy to discuss the case of the out-of-court settlement with Mr Taylor.” This was potentially tricky.

On the one hand, it is a matter of record that the NoW settled the case after a judge ordered police to disclose evidence they held, including an email from a NoW reporter for the attention of Thurlbeck, containing the transcripts of 35 intercepted voicemail messages. This was the smoking gun, which led to the NoW settling the case. On the other hand, James Murdoch’s position was that he had not had any evidence of that kind at the time. If he didn’t know about the “email for Neville”, why did he settle the case? If he did know about it, why didn’t he tell the police?

The answer lay with the lawyers, he said. He had been told that the NoW’s outside counsel had advised them that they were bound to lose the case - but he had never been told why. He had paid out more than £1m in damages and legal fees without knowing what evidence compelled him to do so.

It’s pretty clear that James Murdoch, at least, isn’t going to survive this scandal.

— Michael Calderone of The Huffington Post reports on internal reaction at The Wall Street Journal to how its covering Murdoch’s hacking scandal and to Joe Nocera’s “Journal is Fox-ified” column, which I criticized here yesterday.

Here Calderone raises a very good point about editor Robert Thomson, who vacations with Rupert and family:

Given that the New Yorker once dubbed Thomson “Murdoch’s best friend,” the comment isn’t shocking. But it does add to the perception that the Journal’s top editor may be too conflicted to oversee coverage of his close friend’s company, which also happens to own the paper he runs.

And this is dead on about the paper’s scandal coverage:

But while the Journal hasn’t been ignoring the scandal in recent days, staffers say the paper hasn’t been knocking it out of the park either — especially when their work is being closely scrutinized. “It’s been serviceable and workmanlike,” said another Journal staffer. “But when covering yourself, you’ve got to do a great job.” Multiple staffers said the News Corp. scandal is just another example of the Journal not living up to its pre-Murdoch trademark of aggressive corporate coverage.

The best way to show you how true that paragraph is is to have you revisit this WSJ leder from 2000 on the power of Murdoch’s wife Wendi Deng. Seriously, go read it.

— And if you want to see Fox-ification taken to new lows, it’s best to go to the masters themselves.

James Fallows called this clip of Fox News’s Steve Doocy interviewing PR man Bob Dilenschneider, “The Most Incredible Thing Fox News Has Ever Done,” and that’s not hyperbole.

It’s also either one of the dumbest or the most purely propagandistic thing Murdoch’s network has ever done. Perhaps it’s some of both. Here’s the kicker:

DILENSCHNEIDER: All the right things have been done from a crisis point of view in terms of this News of the World issue. It really should get put behind us, investigators and the court should deal with this, and we should move on, and deal with the important issues of the day.

DOOCY: I think you’re right.

Standard Fox News BS.

But watch the clip and marvel as Doocy and Dilenschneider talk about how it’s unfair that stories about hacking at places like Citigroup and the Pentagon aren’t getting the Watergate treatment like the News Corp.’s hacking. The crucial distinction, of course: Citigroup and the Pentagon were hacked. News Corp. did the hacking.


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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,