Every once in a while (which is far too often, needless to say) the distinct stench of Rupert Murdoch wafts off The Wall Street Journal’s front page.

Like today, where the paper wants you to know (in the second paragraph) that the $20 billion BP fund set aside to pay for its catastrophic negligence is something between a “‘shake down’ by the White House” and “a capitulation by an oil giant responsible for one of the worst environmental disasters in history.”

Here’s the full paragraph:

BP last week agreed to hand over $20 billion—to cover spill victims such as fishermen and hotel workers who lost wages, and to pay for the cleanup costs—a move some politicians dubbed a “shake down” by the White House. Others have portrayed it as a capitulation by an oil giant responsible for one of the worst environmental disasters in history. A more accurate picture falls somewhere between.

So, demanding that a company put aside money that it’s going to have to pay anyway for damages it caused is a “shake down”? Even Joe Barton, the Texas congressman the Journal is apparently referring to here, had to apologize for that comment after his caucus threatened to dump him in the Gulf.

It’s worth revisiting Sarah Ellison’s War at the Wall Street Journal for more on the politicization of the paper under Murdoch:

Readers couldn’t see or know that editors were frequently altering stories in subtle ways. Reporters at the paper noticed that quotes criticizing Republicans or praising Obama were cut. Small editing decisions changed the news—as the Journal reported it—every day. Reporters began to sense that top editors were ordering stories to fit a political agenda…

Thomson objected to a story on Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s roles in the housing crisis as “too anti-Republican.” In a news meeting, he once offhandedly commented that the housing crisis was “all the fault of incompetent borrowers.” Political reporters often heard requests for more stories on Republicans. Education reporters were told by their editors to write their stories as if “the most conservative reader in the world” were reading over their shoulder.

As in, more conservative than John Boehner even, apparently.

Further Reading:

At the WSJ, A Question of Trust: The real issue in the Kagan softball dustup: The paper has lost credibility in the Murdoch era.

The Journal Edges to the Right.

Foxy Headlines in the New Journal.

The Journal Excels on BP: An investigation shows the company repeatedly cutting corners in the Gulf.


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 rc2538@columbia.edu.