It is perhaps the hardest assignment in journalism today: try to make Rupert Murdoch look sympathetic without making a fool of yourself. A few have tried, notably The Wall Street Journal's editorial page (which actually gets paid by Rupert Murdoch) and most recently, this morning's New York Observer (whose owner counts himself a social friend of the Murdochs). The last line of defense for the aging mogul seems to be mostly made up of a school of devotees who sound like they're reading from the same talking points when they urge the public to read the phone hacking scandal in the context of a newspaper gone astray rather than a news empire's reckoning day. Unsurprisingly, Rupert Murdoch either writes the paychecks or hangs out on weekends with almost all of these supporters.
The New York Observer
The Kushner-owned paper posted a staff editorial marked less by disdain for News of the World being misdirected towards Rupert Murdoch than straight-up praise for Rupert Murdoch. The op-ed paints Murdoch as newspaper's savior and says he "singlehanded revitalized the [New York City's] newspaper landscape." This part is great:
Mr. Murdoch surely is not perfect. But he happens to be a world-class visionary who has revived dying newspapers (against the advice of his more-practical advisers), supported alternative vehicles for political and cultural criticism from Fox News to the Weekly Standard, and improved the readability of properties like The Wall Street Journal. He has been a staunch supporter of Israel and a crusader for education reform in New York.
It's worth pointing out, as Joe Coscarelli does at the Village Voice, that Rupert and Wendi Murdoch are good friends with Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump. Kushner's even been described as Murdoch's protégé.
The Wall Street Journal
The editorial staff at the News Corp.-owned American newspaper penned a widely criticized defense of Murdoch earlier this week. The main thrust of their argument called other news organizations into question before defending Murdoch directly:
We also trust that readers can see through the commercial and ideological motives of our competitor-critics. The Schadenfreude is so thick you can't cut it with a chainsaw. Especially redolent are lectures about journalistic standards from publications that give Julian Assange and WikiLeaks their moral imprimatur. They want their readers to believe, based on no evidence, that the tabloid excesses of one publication somehow tarnish thousands of other News Corp. journalists across the world…
In braying for politicians to take down Mr. Murdoch and News Corp., our media colleagues might also stop to ask about possible precedents.
Everyone skewered the editorial. Joe Nocera's reaction in The New York Times is especially vibrant. "After woefully undercovering the scandal in its news pages, The Journal’s editorial page is now leaping to the defense of its owner," writes Nocera. "Proving, yet again, that The Journal knows where its bread is buttered."
The News Corp.-owned television network has been drawing criticism for their coverage of the phone hacking scandal since the Milly Dowler revelation catapulted the story onto front pages around the world. According to multiple counts, competitors MSNBC and CNN have covered the phone hacking scandal twice as much as Fox News. Alessandra Stanley at The New York Times writes, "The pie attack may have been the best thing that happened to Fox News on Tuesday" because it allowed the anchors to focus on the diversion while other networks moved on to criticize James and Rupert Murdoch's performance. Jon Stewart summed up the stilted coverage pretty well on his Tuesday night show.
A former editor of News of the World, Piers Morgan's proximity to the scandal is potentially dangerous, both for him and his employer CNN. After remaining silent on the entire affair and in spite of allegations that he knew about phone hacking when it took place, Morgan rose to Murdoch's defense in his first public statements about the scandal. He likened the media's pursuit of Murdoch's culpability in the scandal to a "witch hunt" and half-apologizes for any illegal activity he may have been part of while working for British tabloids.
During the hearings, however, Morgan sort of debunked some of Murdoch's claims. When Murdoch told members of Parliament he seldom spoke the newspaper editors, Morgan tweeted, "Rupert called me every week for 18 [months]--rarely asked about anything but what stories we had that week."
The former journalist stood up for Rupert Murdoch on The View Wednesday morning. In a defense marked mostly by sympathy for the aging mogul, Barbara Walters seems to say we should accept his apology and all move on. "I was very touched, watching him," Walters said. "He is 80 years old... seeing this empire being questioned."
The former New York City mayor, who enjoyed the staunch support of Murdoch's New York Post, defended him last week on CNN. "Give people the presumption of innocence, I think that just how high up it goes is a big question and one we shouldn't be jumping to conclusions about," said Giuliani. "He's a very honorable, honest man. This can't be something that he would have anything to do with."
In their coverage of their coverage, CNN notes that Giuliani is a long time friend of the News Corp. CEO. Murdoch attended Giuliani's wedding in 2003 and endorsed his 1993 mayoral race. News Corp. also paid $100,000 in fees to Giuliani's lobbying firm in 2005. Asked if he'd spoken to Murdoch about the scandal, Giuliani said soon.
"I'll probably see him at some point in the next couple of days or week," he said. "I see him all the time at various functions."