Opinion

Nicholas Wapshott

Christie and Murdoch are following similar paths

Nicholas Wapshott
Jan 21, 2014 16:33 UTC

The problem with Chris Christie, it seems, is not so much that he is a political bully who quickly turns to vindictiveness and retribution when he doesn’t get his own way. It is that our politics have been so “feminized” that the sort of manly, aggressive, healthy pugilism that Christie indulges in with his political enemies is widely considered a weakness rather than an expression of his depth of character.

There are other reasons Americans have not lifted Christie to their shoulders on learning that his people were behind the four days of jams on the George Washington Bridge to punish the Fort Lee residents for electing a Democrat. Christie simply cannot get a fair hearing on Bridgegate so long as the press refuses to acknowledge Hillary Clinton’s part in the murder of Ambassador Stephens in Benghazi.

That eccentric account of Christie’s current scandal-ridden dilemma is the view from Fox News, presided over by Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch, both of whom appear to see in Christie a kindred spirit. Both believe Christie’s rough-and-tumble approach to politics and his devil-may-care attitude to his opponents, as well as the handling of his chronic obesity, show a genius for retail politics that few other Republican wannabes can match. Christie is the opposite of Willard “Mitt” Romney, whose smooth looks and awkward, alien manner caused the testosterone-fueled Murdoch and Ailes to blanch.

Before Ailes and his network muddied the waters of Bridgegate, giving every excuse for a Fox viewer to dismiss the affair as a set-up job by Christie’s opponents, Murdoch offered more tangible advice to his favorite GOP presidential hopeful. Using Twitter as a bully pulpit, Murdoch did not use all 140 characters to order Christie what to do when, after Hurricane Sandy, President Obama landed to comfort victims on the Jersey Shore.

The governor hugged and petted the president like a long-lost family dog, leaving Romney feeling betrayed — Christie had “allowed Obama to be president, not a politician” — and Murdoch fuming that such warmth and good manners towards the president would help Obama be re-elected. Murdoch instructed the governor: “Christie, while thanking O, must re-declare for Romney, or take blame for next four dire years.” Christie duly made his peace with Murdoch by telephone and the next day gave Romney a prominent boost.

Contemplating life after Murdoch

Nicholas Wapshott
Jul 10, 2013 16:14 UTC

Rupert Murdoch has been summoned back to explain to British lawmakers comments he made at a private meeting with his London tabloid journalists. It seems that whatever regrets he has expressed in public about the phone-hacking and police bribery scandal that has so far cost his company $57.5 million, in private he thinks the affair has been overblown. There have been 126 arrests so far, with six convictions, a further 42 awaiting trial, and up to 10 more awaiting charges.

The Fox boss told his reporters and editors, all facing jail time, he didn’t see why the police were making such a fuss about “next to nothing”; that “payments for news tips from cops? That’s been going on a hundred years”; and promised them — though he was careful not to run afoul of the law — he would give them their jobs back “even if you’re convicted and get six months, or whatever.” He also pledged to use his newspapers to exact revenge on the “incompetent” police for pursuing the investigation so vigorously.

Little noticed in accounts of the secretly recorded conversation, an editor said Murdoch’s promises were all very well but asked him what guarantees they would have of being reinstated if he was no longer around, i.e. if Murdoch was dead?

The crumbling of the Murdoch dynasty

Nicholas Wapshott
Dec 4, 2012 22:59 UTC
Rupert Murdoch has had a rough few weeks. He had to race to Melbourne, Australia, to visit his 103-year-old mother, Dame Elisabeth, who has died in Australia.* There is nothing like the death of your mother to remind you of your own mortality.

Then last month the political party he supports and largely owns lost the election. When you have Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Roger Ailes, Karl Rove, John Bolton, Liz Cheney, William Kristol, Dick Morris, Oliver North, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich on the books and have all your media properties conduct a virulent, ad hominem campaign against the president, then watch the Republicans lose so convincingly, it must be hard to know where you went wrong.

Then on Monday Murdoch announced his reluctant splitting of News Corp. in two, dividing the company between News Corp.–containing the mostly hard-copy waning press properties he dabbles in as an expensive hobby–and Fox Group, made up of the money-making media properties, like the Fox movie studio, the Fox TV network, and Fox News, that the company’s non-family and therefore non-voting shareholders prefer. The restructuring was forced upon Murdoch in the wake of the revelation that phone hacking had become quotidian at his British newspapers, a crime of which, despite his addiction to editorial micromanagement, he has always denied all knowledge. Had he not taken the initiative and divided his company, the report by Lord Justice Leveson on corruption in the British press might have demanded a more painful remedy.

To stem the damage being done to his company’s profit centers, and to appease one of his biggest sleeping shareholders, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Murdoch closed the News of the World, the scandal rag he used to intimidate those who did not toe his line, and he lost his chief executive in London, Rebekah Brooks, who awaits trial for interfering with the course of justice, among other charges. Almost all the other 86 arrested so far, except those they are accused of bribing, are former Murdoch employees.

  •