It is the behavior of his U.K. papers that have made him a pariah in Britain today. Under the guise of cheeky, daring, dashing tabloid journalism, Murdoch has presided over widespread criminality. Scoops have not been discovered, they have been stolen. Politicians who have dared stand in his way have been spied upon, had their phones intercepted by his detectives, and then found their peccadilloes splashed across his front pages. Murdoch’s papers have been running a protection racket, pure and simple: do as we say or face the consequences.
Among the illustrious roll-call of victims are princes William and Harry; former prime minister Gordon Brown; Blair’s wife, Cherie; and the mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Among celebrities whose private voicemails have made headlines are the manager of Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson, Man U star Wayne Rooney, actor Hugh Grant, and Paul McCartney (singing “We Can Work It Out” to Heather Mills when she deserted him). But the crime that caused the most public outrage in Britain was the hacking of the cellphone of a murdered 14-year-old schoolgirl, Millie Dowler.
Now the former government minister Tom Watson has written a scathing indictment of Murdoch’s shady methods, Dial M for Murdoch (Penguin). He explains how he was followed by Murdoch’s private eyes, slandered to the prime minister by Murdoch’s ambitious flame-haired favorite Rebekah Wade, and been driven to deep despair. When Watson refused to play ball, he was trashed by Murdoch’s Sun, and described as “treacherous Tom Watson—a tub of lard who is … suspected of being in [a plot against Brown] up to his bloated and bulging neck.”
Watson lists the charges against Murdoch chapter and verse in a catalogue of criminal subterfuge that would put Communist East Germany’s Stasi secret police to shame. Murdoch is blamed for: allowing the routine bribing of police and public officials to buy stories; paying off Scotland Yard top brass with cash and lucrative book and newspaper column contracts to halt investigations that would have blown the cover on his company’s criminality; threatening prime ministers with hostile coverage and the withdrawal of his papers’ support; and intimidating cabinet ministers to decide in favor of his businesses rather than the public interest. As Blair explained to Piers Morgan, “I had to court [Murdoch]. It is better to be riding the tiger’s back than let it rip your throat out.”
Murdoch's former editor at the Sunday Times, Andrew Neil, explains how Murdoch set the tone for his employees:
“You create a climate in which people think it’s all right to do certain things. And I would argue that Rupert Murdoch with his take-no-prisoners attitude to journalism—the end will justify the means; do whatever it takes—created the kind of newsroom climate in which hacking and other things were done with impunity on an industrial scale."
So if hacking and other criminal acts were being done by Murdoch employees with impunity and on an industrial scale in Britain, how could those same acts not occur at Murdoch's media outlets here?
The Daily Beast says it is only a matter of time before we find out they did:
It is only a matter of time before the Murdoch scandal breaks in the U.S. The New York Post, run by Australian and British journalists who work to a different standard than their American counterparts, is as feared in Manhattan as The Sun is in Britain. They operate an identical system of gossip-based intimidation to call politicians and celebrities to account. It runs vicious vendettas that target a blacklist of individuals who have fallen foul of Murdoch.
Justice Department and SEC investigators are exploring allegations of “a pattern of illegal activity [that] involve[s] thousands of potential victims” by News Corp. employees, after Senate Commerce Committee members Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) demanded to know whether Murdoch’s company had broken either the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which “prohibits corrupt payments to foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining or keeping business,” and/or the Wiretaps Act, after reports that Murdoch papers hacked victims of the September 11 attacks.
“Rupert Murdoch wanted to become an American citizen,” Boxer told the BBC. “He needs to obey American law.” In response to federal investigators, News Corp. has handed over 60,000 emails for them to determine whether hacking took place on American soil. If the scandal breaks on American shores, Murdoch can expect to be summoned before Congress to explain himself, and he may not be given the gentle grilling he enjoyed in London last week.
And civil cases by Cherie Blair and two others accusing News Corp. employees of doing just that are heading for court in New York. Mark Lewis, the British lawyer whose dogged determination to unpick the Murdoch scandal, despite being harassed by Murdoch private eyes who followed and secretly filmed his teenage daughters, represents “more than 10” Americans “raising issues against other [News Corp.] titles [notably The New York Post] or Fox News, not necessarily about hacking but about other untoward dark arts to obtain information that should be private.”
Today the NY Times takes a look at Murdoch's denials that he received any political favors in return for the support of his media and finds those denials ludicrous.
We're already starting to see more scrutiny of Murdoch and his influence and dealings here in the U.S., but with civil hacking cases to be filed against News Corporation here in the U.S. over the hacking of American citizens on U.S. soil, I think Murdoch and News Corporation are going to get a lot more scrutiny before this is all over.
Perhaps Murdoch's "fixer," Joel Klein, will be able to contain the damage to Britain.
But for that to happen, they've got to hope that the civil cases here in the U.S. do not indicate widespread hacking and criminality and lead to their cover-up unraveling over here too.