Sometimes, at that moment of maximum frustration and exasperation, the opposition rides to your rescue, and it seems that the Murdoch empire is poised to do just that for actor and campaigner Hugh Grant and the good people at Hacked Off. While explaining to CNN Money the differences between how UK and US newspapers work, Grant may not have known of the fallout from Roger Ailes’ departure from Fox News Channel.
Here’s what he told them: “[certain UK print titles] live above the law … It's hard to explain to Americans because you don't have the same situation here for various historical reasons … Some newspapers in Britain have become closer to these kind of mafia families. They wield an incredible power. They choose our governments, they choose our prime ministers and they live above the law”. He then gave some examples.
Hacked Off was still very much a Work In Progress: “You have a horrible situation where people who have children who've been killed in accidents, killed in war, and these families are horribly harassed and intruded upon for the profit of newspapers … And that's happened with impunity for decades and my campaign is all about that's got to stop”. Those people in the USA may find his pitch easier to understand very soon.
That is because following the fall of Ailes, and in the wake of Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment allegations, many who had been wary of telling what they knew about goings-on at FNC are coming forward, not least Brian Stelter of CNN, who has recalled “About ten years ago I had a crush on a woman at Fox News. She was a low level staffer. I was in college at the time. So I was going out on what I thought were dates … These were not dates. She was actually reporting back to Fox News about me”. There was more.
“She was reporting back about what I thought of her and about CNN and MSNBC and Fox. Because I was a reporter on the beat, they were actually spying on me that way. Now I didn't think that was a big deal at the time. I thought it was the way Fox operates. Fox is a political organization. But now we know they were actually sending out private investigators. They were tailing other reporters” [my emphasis]. It got worse.
As Politico has reported, “In the past few days alone, there have been reports of surveillance campaigns against journalists; Fox News employees who ‘believe our phones are tapped and that we are monitored’; and incredulity that top brass at 21st Century Fox were not until recently aware … of a $3.15 million exit package paid in 2011 to a former Fox News booker who claims Ailes manipulated and sexually harassed her for 20 years”.
The report asks the question anyone who followed the hacking story will want answering: “How much more dirt is going to come out, and will this sordid affair eventually make the leap from scandalous to criminal? There’s been no smoking gun just yet, but there are specters. The whole thing’s beginning to feel a little Summer 2011, when the U.K. phone-hacking scandal that upended Murdoch’s … News Corp., was starting to catch fire”.
Well, if Ailes really did say “I know where he lives, and I'm gonna send people to beat the shit out of him”, and someone else at Fox said “If it ever came out … multiple people at Fox would go to jail”, all it needs is for someone to talk. People are now talking.
Hugh Grant will not have to explain his campaign to the US audience for much longer.