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The MRC's Double Standard On Media Ownership

The Media Research Center loves to invent tales about the purported "left-wing" owners of certain media outlets -- but it never complains about (and actually defends) the right-wing bias of Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 4/19/2023

Whenever a non-right-wing media outlet changes hands, the Media Research Center is eager to spread conspiracy theories that this is all part of some sort of master plan to make these outlets even more purportedly biased than they already are. Joseph Vazquez has a weird meltdown about the sale of Politico in an August 2021 post:
The left-wing Politico has been sold to a German company for a ridiculous $1 billion.

The Washingtonian reported that the Virginia-based news outlet is being sold for a whopping $1 billion to Axel Springer SE. The two entities had reportedly “been joint venture partners since 2014” when Politico Europe was launched, according to Business Wire. But the company is plagued with bias. Axel Springer Chairman and CEO Mathias Döpfner falsely accused President Donald Trump of being behind the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot by saying he “call[ed] for a coup against democratic institutions.” Even more damning was Döpfner’s op-ed in 2017, which nonsensically flailed that “Trump speaks the language of the mafia.” Really. “What does Trump have to do in order to be perceived by a sufficiently large number of Republicans as a democracy threat and thus no longer acceptable,” Döpfner whined. But Politico attaching itself to a company with explicit bias is characteristic of the publication’s years-long rap sheet of leftist bias.

Vazquez is being deliberately imprecise. Actually, Döpfner stated not that Trump was "behind" the Capitol riot but, rather, that he was "dangerously inciting his followers to violence," which is abundantly clear from the content of Trump's speech before the riot. And his statement that "Trump speaks the language of the mafia" is not "nonsensical flailing" as Vazquez would like you to believe, but an observation that has been made by many.

Clearly, Vazquez is a slave to the MRC's anti-media narrative, which describes every non-right-wing outlet as "left-wing" or "leftist" -- indeed, he cited only a handful of cherry-picked articles out of the thousands Politico publishes each and every year to support his hyperbolic, overbroad claim. As Eric Boehlert noted, there are plenty of Politico articles to support the claim that the publication views the world "through a Republican prism." Boehlert also pointed out that, contrary to Vazquez's slave-to-the-narrative rantings, Axel Springer actually has a bias he would love:

Two years ago, The Guardian profiled the “German company founded in 1945 by the rightwing publisher of the same name.” When the founder died back in 1985 the Los Angeles Times was straightforward. “Axel Springer, Conservative W. German Publisher, Dies,” read the headline. The Times noted that all of Springer’s media properties “served as staunch supporters of Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s conservative Christian Democratic Union.”

As The Tablet observed recently, “Springer was the closest thing that the Germans had to a Rupert Murdoch. Springer’s politics were decidedly conservative: capitalist (though comfortable with the German consensus on a “social market economy”); traditionalist; ferociously anti-communist, and pro-American. And much as Murdoch has come to embody everything that bien pensant liberals loathe, Springer was hated by the West German left.”

In 1952, Springer founded Bild, a national tabloid daily that soon became the most-read newspaper in Europe, with a circulation that peaked at 6 million. Der Spiegel once characterized the paper as “serv[ing] up tripe, trash, tits and, almost as an afterthought, a healthy dose of hard news seven days a week.” It added that Bild, “has taken on the role of a right-wing populist party, which does not yet exist in Germany."


The daily recently launched its own TV station, which the Irish Times dubbed “a milder, German equivalent of Fox News.”

Boehlert also pointed out that Axel Springer employees are required to sign a pledge of allegiance to the company's "essentials," which include a demand to "uphold the principles of a free market economy and its social responsibility" and "advocate the transatlantic alliance between the United States of America and Europe." Boehlert added: "If an unabashedly liberal, international publisher that demanded its employees sign an oath supporting socialism had swooped in to buy a mainstay of American political journalism, do you think its partisan DNA would be mentioned in the news coverage? I certainly do. In fact, it would be mentioned in every headline."

Yep, and the MRC would be first in line to scream about it. Instead, Vazquez has to defy and distort reality to portray both Politico and Axel Springer as irredeemably (and falsely) "left-wing."

A year later, the MRC was still pushing this deceptive and outright wrong description of Axel Springer and its leader. Jeffrey Clark gave that false narrative another shot in a Sept. 6 post following a Washington Post profile of Döpfner:

Politico owner and billionaire Mathias Döpfnerb [sic] reportedly told The Washington Post that he supports “nonpartisan” journalism, despite multiple attacks on former President Donald Trump in just the last few years.

Döpfner’s media company, Axel Springer, bought out Politico for a massive $1 billion back in 2021. Ever since then, the Media Research Center has documented multiple instances of Politico’s far-left bias.

The outlet defended Biden’s disastrous economic record, scolded Republicans as “pouty” and even labeled Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling a “Death Eater” for her opinions on “trans rights.”

But that didn’t stop The Washington Post from presenting Döpfner as a champion of “nonpartisan” journalism in a Sep. 6 profile of the billionaire’s dreams for Politico’s future.

The German billionaire is reportedly “concerned” that “legacy” media outlets like The New York Times and even The Washington Post have been “drifting to the left.” But Döpfner also slammed “conservative media” as “under the sway of Trumpian” influence, according to the same Post story.

This is the same Döpfner who once claimed that “Trump speaks the language of the mafia,” in a 2017 column.

He also blamed the former president for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in a 2021 op-ed, arguing that Trump had called “a coup against democratic institutions.”. “What does Trump have to do in order to be perceived by a sufficiently large number of Republicans as a democracy threat and thus no longer acceptable,” Döpfner whined.

What about those statements are “nonpartisan,” Washington Post?

But Clark didn't prove those claims are "nonpartisan" -- again, numerous people have pointed out that Trump does in fact "speak the language of the mafia." It's also undeniable that Trump incited the Capitol riot, and Clark didn't even bother to deny it. Instead, Clark tried to pile on:

Döpfner even told The Washington Post that he is in contact with a “circle of people that hate Donald Trump.”

But somehow, The Post seemingly could not make sense of Döpfner’s public disdain of Trump, calling the billionaire’s politics’ “something of a mystery.” What’s more of a mystery is how The Post can’t at least get a hunch as to the political leanings of a man who attended a lewd, leftist “LGBTQI+” parade in July.

Yes, merely not hating LGBT people is evidence of being irredeemably liberal. More importantly, Clark censored the fact that the Post profile also noted that Döpfner sent out an email to company executives the day of the 2020 election stating, “Do we all want to get together for an hour in the morning on November 3 and pray that Donald Trump will again become President of the United States of America?”Which would seem to indicate he doesn't hate Trump as much as Clark wants you to believe.

Clark went on to whine: "The irony of a publicly anti-Trump billionaire inserting himself into American politics and prattling on about neutrality was apparently lost on Döpfner." Clark, meanwhile, apparently has no problem with pro-Trump billionaire Rupert Murdoch inserting himself into American politics and prattling on about neutrality.

Clark also claimed that "The Post explained that Axel Springer staff in Germany are “required to sign” a woke ideological pledge to work at the company. But that pledge also includes "support for a united Europe, Israeli statehood and a free-market economy." The Post article also noted that Döpfner "ordered the Israeli flag be flown in solidarity at company headquarters for a week after several antisemitic outbursts at demonstrations in Germany."

When did support for Israel and a free-market economy become "woke" values to the MRC? That logical inconsistency and ignorance of facts is what happens when you put peddling narratives ahead of telling the truth.

Politico's new ownership wasn't the only change the MRC lashed out at. When the online news operation Axios (coincidentally, founded by the same people who founded Politico) was sold to Cox Media Group, an Aug. 9 post by Catherine Salgado carried the screaming headline "BIG TECH COLLUSION?" Why? Because Facebook is a sponsor of Axios' email newsletters:

Meta (Facebook) helped liberal outlet Axios’ growth allowing it to secure a $525 million sale price, part of a wider problem of tech companies funding D.C. media outlets, according to a new report.

Facebook helped recent media startup Axios sell itself to Cox Enterprises for $525 million only five years after Axios’ founding, according to Vox’s Peter Kafka. Tech companies are “pouring” money into Washington, D.C. media organizations, Kafka reported.

Axios is “a five-year-old media startup, backed by venture capital, that succeeded journalistically and financially,” Vox explained. The culmination of that financial success was the Cox purchase. Vox said that tech companies, including Meta and Google’s parent Alphabet, have been funding “digital publishers” focused on D.C. recently in an effort to repair their reputations. Axios isn’t alone. Liberal outlets like Politico and Punchbowl News are also among the media organizations that received tech company funding, Kafka wrote.

How typical that Salgado thinks any non-right-wing outlet cannot possibly make it on their own without help from "big tech" -- ironic, since major right-wing publications like the Washington Times and the New York Post are money-losers that in business only through the grace of rich, ideologically motivated owners (and her own paycheck depends on the good graces of right-wing moneybags like Rebekah Mercer).

Salgado then tried to tar Axios with the "leftist" tag, using two incredibly lame examples:

Axios is a leftist news outlet, that has demonstrated bias multiple times. Axios claimed the New York Post’s report on the now New York Times-authenticated Hunter Biden scandals “rings all the foreign-disinformation alarms in the book.” Axios also urged families in 2021 to have Thanksgiving “bouncers” to deny entry to any holiday guests who would not show a negative COVID-19 test.

Salgado didn't mention the pertinent fact that the Post offered no independent verification of Hunter's laptop at the time of publication just before the 2020 election, and the story's origin among right-wing fever swamps like the Post and Trump operatives like Rudy Giuliani provided a reason for reasonable people to not take it at face value. She also didn't explain how taking care to avoid contact with possibly infected people in the middle of a pandemic is inherently "leftist."

Salgado went on to accuse Axios of the grave offense of [checks notes] selling ads:

While Big Tech companies like Facebook parent Meta make billions of dollars every year, publishers like Axios can thrive on the portion of tech companies’ profits spent on ads. Axios can allegedly charge as much as $300,000 for a week-long ad campaign, Kafka wrote.

Kafka also noted that various companies’ “corporate responsibility ads” in D.C. publications may account for $350 million spent yearly, with as much as one-third of that coming from tech companies.

Um, isn't that called capitalism? We thought the MRC liked capitalism.

Loving Murdoch

In sharp contrast to these attacks, the MRC has been a fierce defender of Rupert Murdoch, owner of numerous right-wing media outlets worldwide; in America, they include the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal and, of course, Fox News. A November 2017 post by the disgraced Tom Blumer complained that it was pointed out how Murdoch-owned outlets virtually ignored news of the indictment of onetime Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, playing whataboutism by claiming that non-right-wing outlets "gave wildly disproportionate time and attention" to the story "to the exclusion or near exclusion of many other stories, particularly Russia-related items relating to Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, the Clinton Foundation and the Obama administration." However, Blumer offered no metric of how much coverage was "wildly disproportionate" or why the Murdoch outlets' effective censorship of the story was appropriate.

Former CNN media critic Brian Stelter often focused on Fox News and, thus, Murdoch, and the MRC regularly attacked him for doing so. A May 2020 anti-Stelter rant by Tim Graham whined that "Stelter promoted former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd calling Fox News part of a 'Murdoch mafia,' and put on screen that the 'Murdoch empire' was a 'cancer on democracy.'" As usual, whataboutism was the only response Graham had: "Stelter’s self-denial is so strong he told Ezra Klein that only Fox – and not CNN or MSNBC – had a model of making their viewers 'pissed' to keep them watching."

The MRC's resident New York Times-basher, Clay Waters, regularly runs to Murdoch's defense whenever the paper criticizes him:

  • In April 2019, Waters huffed that the Times did a "colossal, three-part investigation of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire (and family drama)" that examines in the Times' words "the Murdoch family’s role in destabilizing democracy in North America, Europe and Australia." Waters ranted that "The tone is amazingly ideological and personally hostile, perhaps the most virulent and conspiracy-minded attack on Fox News ever issued by the paper. ... It reads more like a paranoid left-wing screed from The Nation or In These Times than it does content for an objective newspaper."
  • A May 2019 post complained that Australia-based Times reporter Damien Cave criticized Murdoch's media empire in his native country, where it is even more dominant, for its anti-immigrant attacks.
  • A January 2020 post grumbled that Cave got "his standard Murdoch-demonizing opinions into the Times news pages" by noting climate-denier attitudes in Murdochs' Australian outlets.
  • Waters used a September 2021 post to bash Cave for noting that Murdoch outlets may be becoming less climate denier-obsessive, whining that Cave cited "aggressive climate alarmist" Michael Mann "to make his political points." He further whined that "Cave has made a habit of blaming Rupert Murdoch for all that’s wrong in the world, from failing to adhere to the religious rituals of climate change, to alt-right racism." Waters, however, didn't deny Murdoch's involvement in any of that.

The MRC lashed out when another Australian observer called out Murdoch. An April 2021 post by Scott Whitlock groused that former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull appeared on Stelter's show and noted that Murdoch created a "market for crazy," with Stelter adding that if "this clip is re-aired on Fox News, they'll say, you're insulting all of Trump's supporters, you're insulting all of conservative America.” Whitlock framed the segment as professional jealousy: "Stelter’s obsession with trashing Fox News is like if Pepsi put out a press release to tell the world how awful Coke is. No one would care what one competitor says about another. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the CNN host is bitter over Fox routinely walloping CNN in the ratings." Whitlock was silent about the amount of coverage Fox News devotes to CNN.

More Murdoch defense via Stelter-bashing came in an April 2022 post by Kevin Tober on Stelter "predictably" focusing on a segment in a newly released book about the Biden White House in which President Bide is quoted as calling Fox News "a danger to democracy" and Murdoch "the most dangerous man in the world":

Stelter then brought back the always deranged David Zurawik to see if he believes Biden had in fact said that about Fox News and Murdoch. Zurawik wasn't sure if the quote was accurate but predictably agreed with the President's reported remarks, adding "I’m with him if he did say it, and I think I know what he means" 

Zurawik explained why he thought Fox News & Murdoch were dangerous to democracy and the world at large:"Rupert Murdoch has allow[ed] this kind of disinformation and misinformation to flow through American life to millions of Americans and he does nothing about it."

Stelter didn't push back. Instead, he just smirked and said "well, you’re not the only one who feels that way clearly." 

It should be noted that Stelter and his colleagues at CNN lost their minds on a daily basis when former President Trump called their network "Fake News", yet Stelter apparently has no problem with Biden and Zurawik calling Fox News and their CEO dangerous. 
Note how Tober chose to insult CNN for highlighting the comments instead of actually defending Fox News. It should also be noted that the MRC regularly slurred former CNN chief Jeff Zucker with the anti-Semitic "puppetmaster" label.

Graham used his podcast the next day to whine further about Stelter noting the statement. Like Tober, Graham made no effort to disprove the claim; instead, he mocked it then attacked "the left" as the real haters: "This is just the funniest thing about the left. They hate free speech, they hate dissent, they hate disagreement, they hate resistance to what they believe. And yet they think they are the titans of democracy. Come on, guys."

When Turnbull's criticism of Murdoch was highlighted by NPR, Graham sneered in a September 2022 post that "Taxpayer-funded National Public Radio hates the conservative media. They will latch on to a cranky ex-prime minister of Australia to spread their hate." He went immediately to whataboutism: "As if the liberal media hasn't polarized America and "amplified political hatred" over the last five years?" He continued:

There's no attempt by any of these Fox haters to identify when exactly all the right-wing media outlets in 2021 and 2022 promoted the idea that Trump won the election (he didn't), just as there's no admission that the "news" media and social media giants conspired to crush damaging Biden narratives before the election....and now they prance about as if they're the saviors of democracy, not the underminers of democracy.

But [anchor Ari] Shapiro didn't note that Turnbull has spoken even more harshly. Last year, he testified in Australia that "These voices on the populist right, particularly from Murdoch's organisation, are essentially doing the work of the terrorists."

Graham offered no actual rebuttal of Turnbull's arguments.

After CNN produced a documentary on the Murdoch family, Alex Christy complained in another September 2022 post:

To promote CNN’s new doc-series entitled The Murdochs: Empire of Influence, consulting producers Jim Rutenburg and Jonathan Mahler joined Thursday’s Don Lemon Tonight to discuss the namesake family and accuse them of having “a major political bias.” Meanwhile, Lemon alleged “the journalistic integrity is not always there.”

The truth of Murdoch's lack of "journalistic integrity," of course, was later revealed in the lawsuit voting-tech company Dominion filed against Fox News. Christy then defended the alleged diversity of Murdoch outlets:

The New York Post tabloid broke the Hunter Biden laptop story that most of the rest of the media simply ignored. While The Sun tabloid has reliably endorsed the Conservative Party since 2010, it’s Scottish derivative has endorsed the left-wing Scottish National Party in two of the last three elections. Meanwhile, the The Times, endorsed Barack Obama in 2012.

That’s more diversity than either CNN or the New York Times, which hasn’t endorsed a Republican since Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. Not only that, the two outlets work together as this CNN documentary is based off New York Times reporting.

Christy didn't explain the relevance which U.S. president a newspaper outside the U.S. endorsed, since their target audience would never read them. He also identified nothing that the documentary got wrong about the Murdochs.
The MRC has also gushed over Murdoch's alleged achievements in right-wing media. On the occasion of Fox News' 25 anniversary, Jeffrey Lord wrote a gushy October 2021 column:

Fox News has officially turned 25.

And that sound you hear is the gnashing of liberal teeth at founder Rupert Murdoch’s triumph - and the triumph of the larger conservative media Murdoch launched.

The fact that really gets to liberals is the loss of the once-upon-a-time monopoly of the media by liberals. The game worked like this: The New York Times and Washington Post would set the template with story X in print, and then the broadcast networks and later cable news players CNN and MSNBC would pick it up from there. And voilà! The liberal narrative of the moment was born!

Then the visionary outlier from Australia and his ambitious News Corporation arrived in America. The American media world would never be the same again.


Rupert Murdoch is indeed a visionary, and in the creation of Fox News he could clearly see what others could not. Namely, that a conservative cable channel could and would tap into the mammoth audience of millions of Americans who had, among other things, twice elected Ronald Reagan in landslides.

And who better to hire as the CEO of the new channel than former Reagan and Nixon adviser Roger Ailes?

Lord made no mention of the fact that Ailes was ousted from Fox News over credible accusations of sexual harassment. Instead, he got more glurgy: "So on the 25th anniversary of Fox News, let it be said that the term visionary, exactly as Jonathan Swift defined it as “the art of seeing things invisible” is exactly what describes Rupert Murdoch and his vision of the once invisible dream of Fox News."

Alexander Hall praised Murdoch for feeding into right-wing narratives attacking "big tech" in a November 2021 post:

Media mogul and Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch reportedly skewered Facebook and Google for undermining conservatives with censorship and called for “algorithmic transparency.” 

The man behind America’s biggest conservative news network slammed Big Tech companies for sabotaging conservatives online during a meeting with his stockholders. "There is no doubt that Facebook employees try to silence conservative voices and a quick Google News search on most contemporary topics often reveals a similar pattern of selectivity—or to be blunt, censorship," Murdoch reportedly stated according to a Nov. 17 Newsweek article.

The MRC's Murdoch love doesn't extend to the entire family, though; it has repeatedly attacked Rupert's son, James Murdoch, for not adhering to right-wing orthodoxy and using his part of the family fortune to fund things that are (gasp!) not conservative.

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