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White House Chief of Staff John Podesta talks about the FY2001 Budget, set for release Monday, Feb. 7, 2000, during the taping of Fox News Sunday at the Fox studios in Washington Sunday, Feb. 6, 2000. (CHRIS KLEPONIS/AP)
White House Chief of Staff John Podesta talks about the FY2001 Budget, set for release Monday, Feb. 7, 2000, during the taping of Fox News Sunday at the Fox studios in Washington Sunday, Feb. 6, 2000. (CHRIS KLEPONIS/AP)

At the editorial board

Obama confidant on Murdoch's misdeeds Add to ...

John Podesta laughed when we accused him of being an apparatchik. But the former co-chair of Barack Obama's presidential transition (and former chief of staff to Bill Clinton) has been in the thick of U.S. Democratic politics for a generation, and his think-tank, the Center for American Progress, is the go-to source for relatively left-leaning thinking close to Democratic decision-makers.

Mr. Podesta is in Toronto today to talk about renewable energy, but toward the end of a wide-ranging discussion that covered North American energy policy, social-democratic politics around the world and the temperament of Barack Obama, Rupert Murdoch raised his head.

Here's Mr. Podesta on troubles at a media company that has made a mission out of harassing the U.S. President:

"Fox in particular ... is a significant factor in the structure of the dialogue and media in the [United]States ... if you look at people's attitudes by where they get their news from - you can go back to the Iraq war, climate change, a number of factors - regular Fox viewers' knowledge of just the factual basis of public debates, you see it's quite different from people who get their news from other sources.

"So there's no question that it's been significant in public life and political life in the United States ...

"Whether or not [this]is the beginning of the unravelling of that empire, based on the standards used at his properties in the U.K., whether that has bled into the U.S. ... whether they can put a tourniquet on this by backing out of BSkyB - is unclear.

"This is not one rogue editor. This is an empire that was built on a set of journalistic ethics that's beginning to explode and unravel ...

"They were routinely bribing public 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 ... This story is going to go on for a while, this is not a two-week story, I don't think."

Keep watching this file. With talk that Mr. Murdoch's News of the World may have sought to hack into the phones of Sept. 11 victims, and a potential congressional investigation, the Republicans' favourite media empire may have a new flank to defend.

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