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Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Flashback: When The MRC Whitewashed News of the World Scandal
Topic: Media Research Center

Over the past week, the Media Research Center has been utterly silent about the planet's biggest journalism scandal: the widespread phone-hacking conducted by the British newspaper News of the World, a scandal so severe that owner Rupert Murdoch felt he had to shut down the 168-year-old paper to stave off criticism.

Why the blackout? Perhaps because it, like Fox News, is a Murdoch property, and we know how much the MRC looooves Fox News. But there's also the inconvenient fact that the last time the MRC addressed News of the World's phone-hacking, it was the purpose of trying to discredit the investigation into it.

Tim Graham used an April 13 NewsBusters post to attack NPR for reporting on the phone-hacking. While Graham called it "disreputable media conduct," he also sought to minimize the scandal by claiming that "the socialist newspaper The Guardian has been all over this story." In case Graham's ideological bias wasn't clear enough, he emphasized the point later on by complaining that one person NPR interviewed writes "for that socialist newspaper The Guardian -- where he presently has a blog on media."

Graham even ran to the defense of former News of the World editor Andrew Coulson, asserting that there was a slant to NPR's story "Wouldn't the average listener conclude that NPR was saying Coulson was culpable in the scandal?" Given that Coulson has since been arrested on charges related to the phone-hacking, it appears that NPR has been vindicated.

Graham was also hacked off that NPR wasn't shilling for his preferred right-wing causes: "Not being investigated by NPR: close ties between international financier George Soros and NPR -- not to mention NPR's intense ties to the Obama political establishment."

Finally, Graham drew a false equivalence between the News of the World phone-hacking and a late-1990s case in which someone "hacked" a phone call by then-House Republican Leader Newt Gingrich. Of course, that's not exactly what happened; it was recorded over a legally purchased police scanner that could pick up the frequency Gingrich's cell phone was using. News of the World, by contrast, was actively obtaining passwords to the voice mail of their targets and, in the case of missing British girl Milly Dowler, was actively deleting messages, thus giving her parents and authorities hope that she was still alive (she was later found dead).

That's why you haven't heard anything about this at the MRC for a while. In fact, it wasn't until today that it has mentioned News of the World since Graham's post three months ago.

A NewsBusters post by Scott Whitlock laughably tries to suggest that actions by editor Tina Brown were just as "amoral" as those done by News of the World. Whitlock's evidence? Brown saying on "Morning Joe" that Republicans who oppose raising the debt limit were acting like "suicide bombers" and ... the Newsweek cover with Princess Diana added to a picture of Kate Middleton.

Yeah, Photoshopping someone into a picture is just as bad as hacking the voice mail of a missing child.

Meanwhile, an MRC TimesWatch post by Clay Waters tries to equivocate the scandal away, huffing that the New York Times was "piling on" the News of the World scandal by "featur[ing] various angles of the story on its front page for 5 out of the last 7 days, plus multiple stories in the International News section on every aspect of the sleazy saga," while it "was far less aggressive in its coverage of an American media scandal, the September 2004 attempt by the CBS News show '60 Minutes' to bring down George W. Bush with forged documents."

At least Waters conceded the the News of the World scandal is "sleazy," which is more than we've seen from the rest of the MRC. But will any MRC denounce the scandal unequivocally, without comparing it to older controversies? Don't count on it.

Posted by Terry K. at 8:59 PM EDT

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