White House Communications Director Anita Dunn created a stir in mid-October when she told CNN host Howie Kurtz that Fox News “is really more of a wing of the Republican Party…Let’s not pretend they’re a news network like everybody else is.”
It didn’t take long for Fox commentator Glenn Beck to retaliate. In a series of broadcasts, he attacked Dunn, compared the Obama administration to a communist dictatorship and likened the criticism to the Holocaust. “Ask yourself this question,” Beck said during a radio segment, vaguely addressing people he called “good journalists” at other mainstream news networks. “When they’re done with Fox and you decide to speak out on something—it’s the old ‘first they came for the Jews, and I wasn’t Jewish.’”
Beck concluded the segment by warning his audience, “this is how a dictatorship always starts.”
Beck’s comments may strike progressives as outrageous, but given the rhetoric routinely issuing from the right-wing megaphone, it’s also 100 percent predictable.
But when Dunn called Fox News channel an arm of the GOP, she was dead-on. Consider the history of its chairman and CEO, Roger Ailes, who ran Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign and later those of presidents Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush, guiding them all to victory through his brilliant and successful media campaign strategies.
“Roger Ailes is a newsman with a profound disdain for newsmen,” according to a New York magazine profile. “Fox News is being promoted as an anti-network, a news channel designed to appeal to the people…who don’t trust [the others].” Portrayed in the story as a “self-described paranoid,” Ailes reportedly resigned from an earlier position as head of CNBC after questions were raised about his desire to use his position as a weapon against his enemies.
Fox News is an outgrowth of its parent company, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. A look at the board of directors of this multinational giant yields some startling insight into who controls the “fair and balanced” news network. Ailes himself has a seat at the table—but not every board member has a background in media.
News Corp. board member Viet Dinh, for example, is a lawyer who came to the United States from Vietnam as a boy. In a 2002 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Dinh, who then served as an assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice, recalled an exchange he had with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. “He told me: ‘The art of leadership is the redefinition of the possible. I want you to be the think tank to help me redefine the possible for the Department of Justice.’“
Dinh successfully redefined “the possible” by acting as a primary author of the USA Patriot Act, quickly propelling himself to prominence as a darling of conservatives and an enemy of civil liberties watchdog groups. A law professor at Georgetown University, Dinh is also founder and chief of Bancroft Associates PLLC, a consulting firm that specializes in helping Fortune 500 companies “navigate the federal and state criminal or civil investigations, congressional investigations, and complex litigation,” according to the firm’s website. It also specializes in public relations.
Another board member is José María Aznar, former prime minister of Spain. Aznar was born in 1953 into a politically active, conservative family in Spain, and both his father and grandfather held government jobs under Gen. Francisco Franco, the fascist dictator. Aznar was handpicked by Manuel Fraga, a minister under Franco, to succeed him in leading Spain’s center-right People’s Party (Partido Popular), according to an article in the UK’s The Independent.
Aznar now serves as president of the Foundation for Social Studies and Analysis, a right-wing think tank based in Spain that, according to its website, works closely with the CATO Institute, the Heritage Foundation and other conservative US think tanks.
Occupying other seats at News Corp.’s board table is an assortment of professors, attorneys, public-relations experts and businessmen with their fingers in a variety of banks and multinational corporations. Among the more familiar names are Philip Morris, Ford Motor Company, Hewlett-Packard, Goldman Sachs, HSBC North America and JP Morgan Chase. Lesser known are the investment banking firms that have stakes in the petroleum industry, utilities, mining companies and real estate.
While the connections between corporate interests and the country’s leading conservative propagandist are extensive and obvious, there’s a stark contrast between the message delivered by Fox News and the interests of its parent company.
Fox News plays up the theme of patriotism and reinforces the idea that there is a distinction between “real Americans” and outsiders. But Fox’s board is made up of members whose lives and economic interests are scattered across the globe, but have one common thread: They all control extraordinary sums of concentrated wealth.