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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Murdoch Replacing Ailes at Fox Lets Him Hide, Settle and Seal Lawsuits

By Spocko

The temporary replacement of Roger Ailes by Rupert Murdoch as CEO and Chairman of Fox News is designed to calm shareholders and viewers, but it is also a strategy to shut down exposing information from the Gretchen Carlson sexual harrassment lawsuit and any other lawsuits that might spring up.

News Corporation International has a history of covering up internal dirty dealings in the UK. And the way they went about it there is very similar to what we are seeing now here.

First they hired an outside law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, to investigate the allegations. When non-lawyers like me hear a company is hiring a law firm for an internal investigation we might think, "Well, good for them, maybe they will weed out all the bad apples!"

But that is not really what those firms are hired for. The are usually hired to manage or head off future lawsuits. Their job is to figure out if anyone is lying about what happened, and if not, then it becomes a CYA "How can we minimize the liability?" issue.

During the hacking scandle News International hired a law firm, Harbottle and Lewis, to do an internal investigation at News of the World regarding the practice of paying for hacks of phones and computers of celebrities, politicians and royalty. I read about this in a great book called Dial M for Murdoch. I hosted a Book Salon at FireDogLake with one of the authors, Martin Hickman.

It turns out that the law firm didn't actually do a thorough investigation on the hacking, they just looked at one person. During that investigation that person referred to many others who either knew about or participated in the hacking. This person was later set up by News International as the scapegoat.

A version of the email was edited by News International before it was turned over to regulators to make it appear that there was only one person, the scapegoat, who was using services for hacking phones and computers.

It wasn't until the investigating law firm was allowed to turn over the emails found in the internal investigation that the government regulators found out how wide spread the hacking was. (Note the words allowed, vs. compelled and government regulators vs. government rubber stampers.)

This is what News Corp execs are doing now:  They started an "internal investigation" to find out who knows what and are looking to find and possibly lock up evidence for future cases.

Rupert Murdoch stepping in as Fox News CEO/Chairman, rather than one of Ailes underlings, lets him decide to not investigate Ailes further. He also can decide not to look into other cases of sexual harassment in the company.  Finally, he can sign off on settlements without having to answer to the parent company's concerns about the costs.

Hide, Settle and Seal: The Stop, Drop and Roll of Lawsuits

As part of any settlements Murdoch's lawyers will seek to have the cases sealed with agreed upon non-disparagement clauses included by all participants.

These lawsuits against Ailes were/are a huge opportunity for discovery, that is why Fox agreed to pay for Ailes' legal fees. They need the most powerful lawyers they have to help prevent other dirt from getting out.

I believe that Murdoch learned from his last experience, he can't shut down Fox News like he did News of the World. But he can shut down, settle and seal any lawsuits that come up. Then he will set up "sexual harassment awareness training sessions" which focus mostly on legal liability (These have been shown to be ineffective, since they don't deal with changing the workplace culture already in place.)

Celebrities In the Press And Women In the Workplace

During the News of the World hacking scandal it became clear that earlier stories of celebrities' privacy being breached didn't get a lot of sympathy from the public.

Illegal hacking and privacy breaches had been going on for years at News of the World. Hugh Grant had the money to pay a lawyer to sue them. During the discovery process some damning information about other nasty acts at News Of the World were found, but they couldn't easily be shared with the media.

It took the revelation an operative working for a tabloid who hacked into the voicemail box of a kidnapped girl to really piss people off. Because this interfered with an active kidnapping case (later murder investigation) the police and politicians got involved. The problem was some of the police were aiding the hackers.

Most politicians were afraid to get involved because of Murdoch's history of using his papers to attack and smear anyone who got in his way.

One thing I noted when rereading the story of the hacking scandal was the attitude toward celebrity privacy then and celebrity sexual harassment now.
"Hugh Grant wanted to be a celebrity and giving up your privacy is just part of the price of fame. He knew what he was getting into. If he didn't like it he should have quit making movies." 
 "Gretchen Carlson wanted to be a news reader and chose to work for Fox News. She knew what she was getting into. If she didn't like it, she should have left."

What the Grant lawsuit did, and what I believe the Carlson lawsuit could do, is open a window into the Fox News organization and reveal the extent of their wrong doings.

When your opponent is drowning...

My plan to weaken right wing media was to reduce their revenue. I've found that when something costs a company money, they take steps to change things. If they don't, then they have to eat the costs of maintaining the status quo.

Costing corporations money can force change when other methods can't. Especially when an old attitude, like sexism, doesn't make money like it used to.

The number of normal corporations advertising on right wing radio has changed dramatically since I started alerting advertisers to the violent rhetoric on KSFO in 2005. There is still sexism, bigotry and violent rhetoric on right wing talk radio, but people aren't getting as rich off of it as before.

The distributors of right wing radio no longer get the 100's of millions of dollars from selling ads on the Rush Limbaugh show because it is no longer safe to advertise on the Limbaugh show.

If I was part of group looking to reform the media, I would start looking into the details and participants in any lawsuits filed right now, before Murdoch's money shuts them up. There might even be some people who don't care about the money, but are sick and tired of being treated as a sexual object in the workplace. Maybe they are mad as hell and don't want to take it anymore.

And, if I wanted to make the story bigger, I'd look for stories of politicians who were witnesses--or participants--in sexual harassment at Fox News.

I'm sure all the Republican guests were perfect gentlemen when they came to the studio.  If only someone had documented what happened in an email, or had video...

That might make for some interesting stories during this election season.