News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch’s fundraising for Hillary Clinton was treated as a man-bites-dog shocking news story. Keith Olbermann’s little-watched MSNBC program went crazy with the news. It has been assumed that Murdoch, whose $60 billion media empire includes the Fox News Channel (FNC), the Weekly Standard magazine and the New York Post, is a conservative who wouldn’t be caught dead supporting a left-wing Democrat like Hillary. In truth, Murdoch is an opportunist who plays both sides of the partisan street.
As we have noted on several occasions, Murdoch openly supported Al Gore in his 2000 bid for the White House, including serving as a co-host of the famous Radio City Music Hall fundraiser, and as a $50,000 contributor. He also made an in-kind contribution to the Democrats that year worth an estimated $10 million, namely the use of the Staple Center in Los Angeles for their presidential nominating convention.
In addition, Peter Chernin, the president and chief operating officer of News Corporation, the parent company of FNC, was a significant contributor to John Kerry in 2004, and even signed newspaper ads taken out in support of Kerry. Through Murdoch’s political action committee, he has donated to Democratic Senators Boxer, Schumer and Kennedy, and Representatives Rangel, Dingell and Pelosi, among others.
Hillary recently attended the 10th anniversary party of Fox News Sunday, and former president Bill Clinton recruited Murdoch to participate in Clinton’s Global Initiative project. In return, Clinton will be speaking before a gathering of News Corp. executives. The history and relationship between the Clintons and Murdoch is there, and therefore his relationship with Hillary is not a surprise.
But Richard Cohen, a columnist for the Washington Post, wrote a column titled “Who Are You, Hillary?” in which he questioned her judgment for accepting Murdoch’s help. “Murdoch is the very personification of the contemporary conservative movement,” claimed Cohen, referring to his media companies. But he can only make this argument by ignoring Fox’s sleazy entertainment fare and Murdoch’s controversial business dealings with Communist China.
Cohen went on to wonder if Hillary would “emphasize her liberal credentials” when she gets into the room with Murdoch. And he wondered, “Will she revive talk of the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ that she correctly said had managed to impeach her husband?”
That so-called conspiracy impeached Clinton for the wrong reasons. There were far worse crimes than lying under oath and obstructing justice in the Lewinsky case. Charges could have included abuses of power such as Filegate (the unlawful acquisition and misuse of FBI files of his political opponents), Travelgate (the use of the IRS and FBI to harass and prosecute innocent people in order to put his cronies in the White House Travel Office), and paying hush money to Webb Hubbell, his associate attorney general who went to jail and was willing to “roll over one more time” after collecting $700,000 in fees that he didn’t earn.
Cohen had one legitimate point, however, when he said that Hillary “may feel that her standing with certain Democratic Party constituencies is so secure that she can afford to take them for granted.”
By the same token, Murdoch must think conservatives will not make an issue out of his fundraising for Hillary.
But some already have. When Murdoch was asked by Human Events, the conservative weekly newspaper, what conservatives should make of his support for Hillary Clinton, he replied that “It will be pretty modest support?We think that she’s been effective on state issue and local issues here in New York. She’s been an effective and good senator. And if people want to come to breakfast for $1,000, they’re welcome. It’s no big deal. It’s not a million-dollar raising. It’s got nothing to do with anything other than her Senate re-election.”
But this is very misleading, to say the least. Senator Clinton is not just a state but a national figure who is widely believed to be laying the groundwork for a presidential run in 2008.
On one level, some might argue that Murdoch is just being a shrewd businessman who covers his bases and wants to protect his vast media interests by cultivating a Senator where his corporate headquarters is based.
But it may also be the case that, despite his conservative media properties, support for Hillary may represent his true political views.
In any case, conservatives will need to closely monitor FNC’s coverage of Hillary in the weeks, months and years ahead.