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Murdoch Captures Imaginations, but Fallout Likely Contained Murdoch Captures Imaginations, but Fallout Likely Contained Murdoch Captures Imaginations, but Fallout Likely Contained Murdoch Captures Imaginat...

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Politics / POLITICS

Murdoch Captures Imaginations, but Fallout Likely Contained

Rupert Murdoch(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

July 20, 2011

For all the public fascination of late with Rupert Murdoch, his involvement in the hacking scandal appears unlikely to cost him his job or to dismantle his U.S. empire.

It helps that American newsrooms, though perhaps tilted toward one end of the political spectrum, are so drastically different from those of their British counterparts.

“I think the environment in the U.S. is dramatically different than the Fleet Street environment,” said Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute who specializes in media ethics. “As we saw in the hearings, these allegations are not limited to Murdoch properties, but that other properties were engaging in this behavior."

 

American newsrooms, McBride said, lack “a systemic culture of corruption, and I've done analysis in many, many newsrooms.”

It also helps Murdoch that he is tough.

"There are two things I have learned to never underestimate about Rupert Murdoch,” said Mitchell Stephens, a professor of journalism at New York University and author of A History of News. “One is, don't underestimate his shamelessness. He is not as prone to embarrassment as most of the other media barons of our era. And the second thing is, don't underestimate his strength. He fights hard. He plays rough and he's pretty good. Obviously he has political friends and he is never shy about organizing the support of those political friends.”

Neither Fox News nor any of News Corp.'s U.S. media holdings have been accused of involvement  in any of the proceedings in Britain. The only U.S. connection involves one of Murdoch's British tabloids and a rumored attempt to pay off a New York City cop in exchange for taped phone conversations of 9/11 families.

Far from playing a convenient liberal bogeyman, however, Murdoch has played a financial role in American politics as well. And despite some Democratic members of Congress who are interested in investigating the phone hacking scandal on their own, doing so will bring up some uncomfortable conflicts for others within the party.

Since the beginning of the year, News Corp., has donated primarily to Democrats. Wireless Generation, a company bought by News Corp. in November, donated $25,000 to the Democratic Governors' Association; another subsidiary, News America Inc., donated $2,000 to New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Still, the majority of the group's contributions have gone to Republicans and their usual backers. In 2010, Murdoch gave $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and $1.25 million to the Republican Governors Association.

"He may be a little more cautious about throwing money around,” McBride said. “Especially if he decides he wants to combat this image as kingmaker, he may decide to stop throwing money into political coffers."

Stephens noted that Murdoch’s political impact in the United States has more to do with Fox News Channel, “which has become this tremendously powerful conservative force in this country. It's hard to imagine anything that happens in this scandal making that go away.”

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