Rupert Murdoch is now trying to backpedal after saying in an interview with Sky News that Glenn Beck was right when he called President Obama a "racist." Now that he’s been called out and the spotlight is squarely on him, Murdoch says he doesn’t agree with Beck, but he won’t explain what he meant or denounce Beck’s rhetoric either.
We can’t let Murdoch have it both ways — he can stand by the fact that he supports Glenn Beck’s race-baiting; or he can tell us why he doesn’t and what he’s going to do about it.
We’re launching a petition demanding that Murdoch put an end to Fox’s race-baiting, or admit he agrees with it.
Here’s the email we’re sending ColorOfChange members today:
Dear ColorOfChange.org member,
Last week, when asked about Glenn Beck calling President Obama "racist," Rupert Murdoch, chairman of Fox News Channel’s parent company (News Corp) said "if you actually assess what he was talking about, [Beck] was right."1
On Tuesday, after his endorsement of Beck’s race-baiting started to draw attention, Murdoch claimed, through a spokesperson, that he didn’t mean he agrees with Beck.2 It’s ridiculous — what else could he have possibly meant?
Murdoch calls the shots at Fox News, and he’s just made it clear that Fox’s problem with race starts in his office. Now that he’s been caught, he’s trying to play dumb — he doesn’t want to be held accountable for Beck’s rhetoric, but he won’t denounce or stop it either.
It won’t work, if we stand up. Tell Murdoch he has a choice — he can stand by the fact that he agrees with Glenn Beck; or he can tell us why he doesn’t and what he’s going to do about it. If enough of us call him out, we can create a powerful conversation about Fox’s race-baiting that will help us hold them accountable at the highest level.
Please sign the petition to Murdoch, and ask your friends and family to do the same:
While Beck is the worst offender on the Fox News Channel, the network has a long, deep history of engaging in inflammatory racial rhetoric: attacking Black leaders, Black culture, and Black institutions.3,4,5 And a number of Murdoch’s recent business decisions suggest that he is consciously building a media empire — at Fox News and elsewhere — that attracts viewers by appealing to racial fear and paranoia.
Last month, Murdoch put Don Imus (fired from MSNBC for his infamous "nappy headed hos" comment) back on television on the Fox Business Network.6 And a few weeks ago, Murdoch personally fired Marc Lamont Hill — one of Fox News’ few black commentators — in response to a racially charged smear campaign led by a News Corp shareholder, who said Hill has "reputation of defending cop killers and racists."7
Murdoch’s right-hand men
Murdoch chooses his employees carefully, and his agenda is obvious when you look at the people he’s chosen to run his media organizations.
Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News, made his name by using racial paranoia to propel Republican politicians to victory, starting in the 60s. He engineered key elements of Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, and a notorious race-baiting ad campaign that helped the first President Bush defeat Michael Dukakis. Ailes was also the executive producer of Rush Limbaugh’s failed television show.8
Another News Corp property, the New York Post, led by Col Allan, also has a troubling record on race. Earlier this year, the Post caused an uproar after printing a cartoon that appeared to depict President Obama as a dead monkey, covered in blood after being shot by police. Instead of taking the widespread critical response to the cartoon seriously, Allan issued a short, insensitive statement that took no responsibility, and attacked critics of the cartoon.9
Last month, the Post fired a Latina editor, Sandra Guzman, apparently as retaliation for having spoken out against the cartoon when it was published. Guzman is now suing News Corp, the newspaper, and Allan. She says that the Post is a "hostile work environment where female employees and employees of color have been subjected to pervasive and systemic discrimination and/or unlawful harassment based on their gender, race, color and/or national origin." Guzman says that Col Allan and others at the paper routinely made inappropriate sexual and racial comments. She also says that the paper’s D.C. bureau chief told her that the Post’s goal was to "destroy Barack Obama."10
Holding Murdoch, Beck and Fox News accountable
When Murdoch publicly endorsed some of Beck’s most inflammatory comments, it seemed he was making it very clear that he approves of Fox’s race-baiting. Now, apparently after realizing how damaging it would be for him to publicly support the rhetoric that cost Glenn Beck 80 advertisers, he’s trying to backpedal. But Murdoch is not willing to distance himself from Beck either. He knows that he could face a backlash from Fox’s viewers if he appears critical of the racially charged programming that attracts many of them to the network in the first place.
So Murdoch wants to have it both ways — he wants to build a network that makes money by pandering to racial fear and paranoia, but he doesn’t want Fox to be seen as cable’s home for race-baiting.
We can’t let him get away with it. Murdoch made a mistake by speaking too openly about what he and his media organizations stand for. He rarely makes mistakes like this, and we need to seize the opportunity to expose Fox’s problem with race.
It starts by demanding that Murdoch explain what he meant, and be clear about whether or not race-baiting is part of the program at Fox. He may or may not respond, but if enough of us speak out, we can create a conversation that makes it clear who is ultimately responsible for Fox’s race-baiting. It’s just one step in starting to bring some accountability to the leadership of Fox News and News Corp — but it’s an important one.
Join us in calling out Rupert Murdoch, and ask your friends and family to do the same. It only takes a minute:
Thanks and Peace,
— James, Gabriel, William, Dani and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
November 11th, 2009
1. "An Open Letter to Rupert Murdoch: What exactly do you mean?" Huffington Post, 11-10-09
2. "Murdoch doesn’t consider Obama racist: Spox," Politico, 11-10-09
3. "On FOX, Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson and Mike Gallagher attacked Kwanzaa," Media Matters, 12-23-04
4. "Matalin: ‘I think these civil rights leaders are nothing more than racists. And they’re keeping … their African-American brothers enslaved,’" Media Matters, 2-09-06
5. "Defending Bennett’s comments, Rev. Peterson cited alleged violence at Superdome to claim that most blacks ‘lack moral character,’" Media Matters, 10-03-05
6. "Breaking: Don Imus Joins Fox Biz," TV Newser, 09-03-09
7. "FNC Liberal Pundit Marc Lamont Hill Fired," TV Newser, 10-16-09
8. "Fox President Roger Ailes’ History Of Race-Baiting," Media Matters, 10-30-09
9. "NY Post Defends Cartoon, Slams Al Sharpton" Huffington Post, 02-18-09
10. "New York Post Lawsuit: Shocking Allegations Made By Fired Employee Sandra Guzman," Huffington Post, 11-10-09