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media and politics

News Corp. Scandal Hits America (Updated)

Posted by Sheila Shayon on July 14, 2011 11:00 AM

The reaction to the latest twists and turns in News Corp.'s phone hacking scandal — which yesterday compelled Rupert Murdoch to withdraw his BSkyB bid, and today led him (and son James) to decline to testify? (Update: they've agreed to testify.)

Naturally, it runs the gamut from mocking (such as the eBay UK listing above), the cultural (musician Billy Bragg expressed his feelings about Murdoch's tabloids in song), to social media outrage (one prominent tweeter: former deputy Labour leader John Prescott). 

The story is also making waves in Murdoch's adopted homeland of America. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is calling for a US inquiry, while Hugo Dixon, Editor of Reuters Breaking Views, told the BBC that "politicians in America are starting to beat the drum."

Update: this afternoon comes word that the FBI is investigating News Corp. following allegations that 9/11 victims were targeted.

Senator John Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia, was the first to call for investigation into Murdoch’s American interests as seepage from the News of the World scandal wafts towards U.S. shores. 

“The reported hacking by News Corporation newspapers against a range of individuals — including children — is offensive and a serious breach of journalistic ethics,” Rockefeller said in a statement reported by the New York Times. “This raises serious questions about whether the company has broken U.S. law…I am concerned that the admitted phone hacking in London by the News Corp. may have extended to 9/11 victims or other Americans. If they did, the consequences will be severe.”

And yesterday, fall-out from the scandal crossed the aisles as Representative Peter King, Republican of New York, chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, pressed the F.B.I. to investigate if News Corp. journalists tried to get hold of phone records of  9/11 victims, calling Murdoch’s tactics “yellow journalism.” 

King was the first Republican to join a growing cadre of outspoken American politicians that now includes Rockefeller, Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Frank Lautenberg (N.J.).

Lautenberg wrote that since News Corp.’s home base is in the U.S., all of its employees – on foreign soil or not – are forbidden by law to make payments (bribes) to foreign officials. 

The impact of the scandal thus far, has led to Murdoch’s withdrawal of his $12 billion BSkyB offer but hasn’t yet publically impacted his U.S. holdings such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, FOX and Fox News Channel, and 27 other TV stations, including WTTG (Channel 5) and WDCA (Channel 20) in Washington.

King is an exception among his Republican peers in speaking out against Murdoch, a mogul well-known for his ardent support of all things politically conservative, including a $1 million contribution to the Republican Governors Association on behalf of News Corp. last year.

Fox News Channel has given the story “scant coverage compared to rivals CNN and MSNBC,” commented the Washington Post, which concluded with this statement from Rodney Barker, professor of government at the London School of Economics:

“We tend to think of the business world as a world run by people who are hardly human. Once it begins to look like Rupert Murdoch is not the unstoppable force that he has always been, the shine goes off a bit, the shares go down and people start saying someone else should take over. He’s harmed his profitability, [and] in the end his reputation is irreparably damaged anyway.”

Meanwhile, former News of the World editor (and now CNN host) Piers Morgan is no doubt hoping he doesn't get dragged into the whole sorry mess.

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