There can be no doubt that Fox News Channel has been a success. Its owner, Rupert Murdoch, understood there was a demand for news from a conservative-oriented perspective. And a Pew Research study shows that Republicans are gravitating toward Fox. But does that mean that Murdoch is a conservative? Not necessarily. Fox News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch served as vice finance chairman for a Gore fund-raiser in 2000, and contributed $50,000 to the Gore campaign. He also signed off on a deal allowing the Democrats to use the Staples Center for the 2000 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles at no charge. That was worth $10 million.
CorpWatch, a group that monitors corporate influence in campaigns, notes the influence in the Kerry campaign of Ivan Schlager, an attorney for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. This is a legal firm that represents News Corp. Schlager once worked for Kerry as the Democratic Chief Counsel and Staff Director to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. He arranges meetings between industry lobbyists and the candidate.
This year, Peter Chernin, president and chief operating officer of the News Corporation, parent of the Fox Network, is listed as having raised over $50,000 for the Kerry campaign. The Center for Responsive Politics’ website, OpenSecrets.org, discloses Chernin contributions not only to Kerry but to Reps. Richard Gephardt and Howard Berman.
Chernin’s role in the Kerry campaign prompted the New York Times to ask: “What do Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Brit Hume have in common? They all work under a Democratic fund-raiser.” The paper cited a study showing that, as of June 1, employees of the News Corporation and their families had given almost $350,000 in campaign contributions, 60 percent of which went to Democrats. It said that at least four Fox executives have given money to the Kerry campaign. The Times reported left-wing writer Eric Alterman as saying that, if Kerry were to win the presidency, “viewers may begin to see a different sort of Fox News?.” But Alterman said that Fox News would never move too far to the left.
None of this, of course, is mentioned in the film, “Outfoxed,” which tries to portray the Fox News Channel as some kind of conservative Republican plot by Murdoch to move America to the right. This film highlights the fact that the head of Fox News, Roger Ailes, used to be a Republican operative. Ironically, the film features socialist Rep. Bernard Sanders attacking the network when he uses his congressional website to highlight his own appearance on Fox News Channel. Another very liberal Representative, Barney Frank, has been quoted as saying that he enjoys appearing on Fox News.
USA Today reports that the recent attacks on Fox News Channel, most notably by Outfoxed, “have actually helped ratings, according to the network.” Fox’s total viewers were up 13 percent since July 8 over the same period last year. Whatever the politics of Murdoch and his top executives, their network continues to be a success. But they have always been careful to play both sides of the street politically.