A slew of organizations funded by billionaire George Soros have been utilizing the alleged News of the World phone hacking scandal in the U.K. to call for investigations of News Corporation’s U.S. interests, particularly Fox News Channel.
The Center for American Progress, heavily financed by Soros, said it gathered 12,000 signatures demanding to know whether News Corp. reporters violated U.S. law by obtaining phone records in the U.S.
The center is reportedly highly influential in helping to craft White House policy. It is led by John Podesta, who served as co-chairman of Obama’s presidential transition team.
Podesta this week told reporters his group wants the U.S. division of News Corp. probed for other possible offenses, including violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prosecutes for bribery of foreign officials.
“We’ve called attention to the fact that – News Corp. is a U.S.-based corporation; that could implicate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” he said.
Already, Podesta’s signature drive was cited in part for Democratic Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Barbara Boxer sending a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting an investigation into claims News Corp. may have hacked the phones of 9/11 victims.
The center’s offshoot, Think Progress, has been leading Twitter and Facebook campaigns calling for investigations into Rupert Murdoch’s U.S. media empire.
Think Progress even alleged News Corp. could have been involved in the November 2009 email hacking of a climate research institute that showed climate scientists conspiring to rig data in the direction of so-called global warming.
“But we still don’t know who hacked the emails!” contended Think Progress in an article entitled “News Corp and the Hacked Climategate Emails: Time for an Independent Investigation.”
Podesta’s center is also going after the Wall Street Journal. ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, this week published an article entitled “Connecting the Dots from News Corp Scandal to the Lies of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.” Think Progress also published the piece.
“There is a cancer on the U.S. media,” began the article. “That cancer is the disinformation machine aimed at spreading and endlessly repeating the most absurd falsehoods on a host of vital issues to the health and well being of Americans.”
Another outfit that traces to Soros money calls itself iWatchNews. It is a project of the Soros-financed Center for Public Integrity.
In 2009, Soros’ Open Society Institute gave a $100,000 donation earmarked for iWatchNews, which purports to be a “collaborative network of newly established and veteran nonprofit investigative journalism organizations.”
Since the News Corp. scandal broke in the U.K. earlier this month, iWatchNews has released a series of articles heavily critical of News Corp. Many of the pieces were republished by the Huffington Post, which is now owned by AOL. Huffington Post articles are routinely featured on AOL.
Another Soros’ funded group, New American Media, has released a series of pieces focusing on News Corp., one questioning why Fox News Channel allegedly has provided scant coverage of the phone hacking scandal and another entitled “The End of Murdoch? Another Despot Teeters on the Brink.”
Perhaps at the center of the drive against News Corp. sits the Soros-funded Media Matters for America.
When Soros donated $1 million to Media Matters last October, he specifically cited the group’s work against Fox News as the driving force for his financial contribution.
“I am supporting Media Matters in an effort to more widely publicize the challenge Fox News poses to civil and informed discourse in our democracy,” Soros said a statement at the time.
Media Matters in May announced the roll out of a new site, News Corp Watch, dedicated to activism targeting Murdoch’s empire.
Media Matters launched the new site with a full-page advertisement in the International Herald Tribune that highlighted the News of the World phone-hacking scandal as raising concerns about the company’s attempt at taking over the United Kingdom’s pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB.
Ben Smith at POLITICO reported how News Corp Watch calls itself a “vital resource for investors and others interested in the company’s activities.”
Media Matters and its new anti-Murdoch site have given nearly nonstop coverage to the News of the World scandal.
A spokeswoman for Media Matters told Variety.com earlier this week the average weekly web traffic to its News Corp. Watch site has increased tenfold since the hacking story broke.
Roger Aronoff, senior analyst of Accuracy in Media, was quoted by Variety as stating, “The left smells blood, and would love to see Fox News in particular somehow implicated and weakened by this scandal.”
Meanwhile, a sampling of other Soros-funded groups focusing on News Corp. include Free Press and the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Fox News, Tea Party ‘dictatorial’
Soros himself once was invested in News Corp. His Soros Fund Management LLC, managed News Corp. shares worth $4 million in 2004 and $2.3 million when sold in 2009.
Still, Soros has been a vocal opponent of the Fox News Channel. In a conversation with CNN newsman Fareed Zakaria reported by the Huffington Post last December, Soros warned the combination of Fox News, its then-host Glenn Beck and the tea party might lead “this open society to be on the verge of some dictatorial democracy.”
According to the report, “Soros was especially bitter and harshly critical of the role played in our political discourse by the Fox News Channel, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., as a very dangerous precedent for the ‘open society’ that has prevailed in the U.S. for 200 years.”
With research by Brenda J. Elliott