Our Democracy – The Plaything Of Racketeer Billionaires
It’s not news that Fox News has become the propaganda machine for the Republican party. Sean Hannity regularly speaks at Trump campaign events. Bill Shine, White House Communications Director, is still getting paid by Fox where he was an enabler of the serial sexual predatory behavior that was endemic at the network. But Jane Mayer’s New Yorker piece today shows just how far from real journalism and into propaganda the network has strayed. According to Mayer, in October, 2016, an industrious Fox employee and an actual reporter, Diana Falzone, had collected actual proof corroborating the affair between Trump and Stormy Daniels and, most importantly, uncovered the details about the hush money payment from Cohen to Daniels.
As Michael Cohen admitted in his recent testimony, the Trump campaign felt any new revelations after the Access Hollywood tape might have been deadly for the Trump campaign, so Falzone’s report would have been a blockbuster. Yet the story continued to sit with Fox editors and never get run. After pressing for an explanation, Falzone was told by the Ken LaCorte, head of FoxNews.com, “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.”
Rupert, of course, is Rupert Murdoch, the kingpin of a global media empire, and he was effectively censoring a blockbuster news story in order to help his preferred candidate get elected, exactly the opposite of what journalism actually requires.
Murdoch’s companies have engaged in criminal behavior across the globe over the last few decades. In the UK, they illegally hacked the phones of royals, celebrities, and ordinary citizens. One of Murdoch’s UK papers routinely paid senior police officers significant bribes for inside information about ongoing cases. One of Murdoch’s Fox affiliates paid millions in bribes to FIFA in order to obtain broadcast rights to the World Cup. And here in the US, Fox was a cesspool of serial sexual predators including its president, Roger Ailes, and Bill O’Reilly, and reportedly illegally used corporate money to pay off some of the preyed upon women. In many ways, Murdoch’s empire is a racketeering news and entertainment organization.
Despite that refusal, Falzone kept on pursuing the story and eventually discovered that David Pecker and AMI had paid for Daniels’ story in one of its classic “catch and kill” gambits. Falzone’s reward for this extraordinary journalism was to be demoted and she eventually sued the network and reached an undisclosed settlement. David Pecker, head of American Media Inc., was a great friend of Trump’s and his rag, the National Enquirer, was used to “catch and kill” stories about Trump’s apparently myriad affairs, including those with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. It would not be until a year later that the world would learn what Falzone’s diligence had already uncovered.
Pecker and AMI have also been implicated in trying to blackmail Jeff Bezos in order to get him to say that AMI did not have a political motive for exposing Bezos’ extramarital affair. Bezos and others believe that the intent to go after Bezos was because AMI was trying to curry favor with Trump and win funding from Saudi Arabia which was angered by Bezos’ Washington Post’s efforts to investigate the murder of Jamal Khashoggi which directly implicates Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman.
Remarkably, one of the ideas that Bezos apparently had to deal with Pecker and AMI’s attempt at blackmail was to simply buy the company, the ultimate catch and kill on a newspaper that perfected catch and kill. As Gabriel Sherman reports, Michael Sanchez, brother of Bezos’ new mistress, claims “he and the couple even discussed Bezos buying the Enquirer—the ultimate potential catch and kill”.
Yes, there is still a lot of great reporting being done by news organizations around the world. But a significant part of the media has now become the plaything of billionaires, using their power to install politicians they favor and to settle personal scores. This is hardly anything new – think of the Hearst empire – but it is hardly healthy for a well-functioning democracy.