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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

The reason Fox News benched senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano isn’t that he pushed a bogus conspiracy theory that the network was unable to confirm.

Wild fantasies are Napolitano’s bread and butter. He regularly appears on Fox to fulminate over the alleged crimes of progressives. He has used his Fox platform to champion 9/11 trutherism, suggest that Osama bin Laden wasn’t really dead, and blame President Abraham Lincoln for having “set about on the most murderous war in American history” over slavery.

Those incidents did not inspire Fox to examine Napolitano’s reporting, publicly declare that the network could not substantiate it, and pull the former judge from the airwaves.

So what led the network to take those steps over the past few days, after Napolitano’s claim that President Barack Obama had used the British intelligence service GCHQ to surveil President Donald Trump’s communications last year fell apart?

The White House supercharged the story when press secretary Sean Spicer read Napolitano’s commentsfrom the press room podium. Napolitano’s typical practice of spitballing a conspiracy on Fox’s morning news show suddenly spurred an international news story that threatened U.S. relations with the United Kingdom.

And that firestorm of coverage in the U.K. around Napolitano’s comments threatens Rupert Murdoch’s dream of owning the satellite broadcasting company Sky, which owns that nation’s Sky News network and pay-TV operations in the U.K., Germany, Austria, and Italy.

Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, which owns a minority position in Sky, has bid $14.3 billion for the remaining stake. 21st Century Fox is Fox News’ parent company. The bid is currently under review by the British media regulator Ofcom.

The international news mogul previously sought to take over Sky (then known as BSkyB) in 2010. But he was forced to withdraw that bid in response to the investigation of phone hacking at his U.K.-based papers.

Losing out on BSkyB was part of a long series of humiliations Murdoch endured due to the phone hacking scandal, culminating with a parliamentary committee’s declaration that he “is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of major international company.”

But those were humiliations ultimately driven by the failures of his son James, who was overseeing the family’s newspapers as head of News International, and who remains an heir to the Murdoch media empire. He surely has no intention of suffering a similar fate due to the actions of a random Fox News commentator.

And yet, Napolitano’s actions put Murdoch’s massive Sky bid in jeopardy. Days after Britain’s culture secretary asked Ofcom to review whether 21st Century Fox is sufficiently “committed to the required editorial standards, such as accuracy and impartial news coverage,” U.K. newspapers were filled with stories about how a Fox News commentator’s anonymously sourced, unverified claim had damaged that nation’s relationship with its closest ally.

Yesterday, hours before the network acknowledged that Napolitano was “being kept off the air indefinitely,” Britain woke up to a front-page story in The Guardian reporting that the “former British ambassador to Washington, Sir Peter Westmacott, has issued a withering criticism of Donald Trump and his inner circle, accusing them of making absurd, unthinkable and nonsensical claims about the UK’s involvement in alleged wiretapping of Trump Tower that he warns could damage close ties between the two countries.”

In a Guardian op-ed, Westmacott wrote of Spicer’s repetition of Napolitano’s claim that “anyone with any knowledge of the intelligence world knew the suggestion was absurd.”

The Napolitano-sourced allegation was also torched in British media by a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May (“ridiculous and should have been ignored”); the former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind(“foolish and very dangerous”); GCHQ, the British intelligence service that Napolitano accused (“nonsense”); Dominic Grieve, chairman of the parliamentary committee which oversees the U.K.’s spy agencies (“I echo [GCHQ’s] sentiment”); Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader in Parliament ( “shameful”; “harms our and US security”); and Richard Ledgett, deputy director of the NSA (“just crazy”).

The story has been discussed on the BBC and Sky News, as well as in the pages of The Telegraph, The Times, The Daily Mail, The Independent, The Daily Express, and The Daily Mirror, among others.

Some of the most brutal headlines on the story over the past few days have been published by a Murdoch-owned tabloid, The Sun.

The Sun Headline

Several British papers produced articles on Fox removing Napolitano from the airwaves. But the story won’t end there. According to Murdoch’s Times, the incident is likely to come up when Jeremy Fleming, the incoming director of GCHQ, next visits the United States. “Jeremy will be expected to make a trip to the US very early on to seek reassurances from our partners,” a source told that paper.

The more that story stays in the news, the less likely British regulators may be to allow the company that started it to dominate the U.K. airwaves.

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20 responses to “Andrew Napolitano’s International Embarrassment Could Put Murdoch’s Sky Bid In Jeopardy”

  1. Arcmor says:

    When will people realize that you can not give one man this much power over the media/entertainment that can be used to shape the minds of a large portion of the world’s population.

    • ⚡️ I Am Helpy ⚡️ says:

      Probably a few decades ago when the laws against that were drawn up. Of course, those laws were all watered down when enough money was given to the very principled patriots that make up the GOP.

    • dpaano says:

      According to Trevor Noah on his “Tonight” show, the actual president of this country is FAUX News because they tell 45 what to do and say on a daily basis! They are worse than Bannon and Miller whispering in his ear!! Whatever they say is the truth for 45! He can’t seem to form thoughts on his own….he has to listen to others and then parrot their comments, true or not!

  2. What an absolutely dissolute individual, rivaling Donald and Bannon in sordid and immoral behavior. And to think that this man was allowed to be a judge—did he suddenly become so depraved, or was he clever enough to have hidden this all his life?
    In the meantime, FOX is worried more about Murdoch not being assured of further enriching himself at the expense of millions of people tainted by Murdoch, FOX, and this Rodney Dangerfield- lookalike. (No offense Rodney—You’re one of my favorite comedians, but you’re still not getting any respect, at least not from dear old Napolitano).

  3. Thoughtopsy says:

    Well, well, well…
    Apparently there ARE actually sometimes consequences to being a fact-free, conspiracy-promoting, unethical and immoral ratings prostitute, on the least honest cable channel on Television.

    Who knew?

  4. john_hopper says:

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  5. FireBaron says:

    “The reason Fox News benched senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano isn’t that he pushed a bogus conspiracy theory that the network was unable to confirm.” Since when has that stopped any Rupert Murdoch owned operation from promoting anything. They always appear more than willing to use other unconfirmed reports as their confirmation.

  6. opinioned1 says:

    FOX and the ditto-head junkies are so friggin gullible the stupid morons can`t tell the difference between lies and truth. Point of fact–these morons are responsible for trump, his massive number of LIES, and the reason for America becoming the “laughing stock of the world.” They take the removal of liars like da-judge as a personal insult, scream you can`t treat us this way, then gather their one tooth friends and hurry of to the latest WWE match, waving their star and bars.. That is what America has become with the azzhat trump in office.. Make you proud of what you allowed does it??

  7. plc97477 says:

    Karma’s a bitch isn’t it.

  8. Martha Bartha says:

    Alternative Fact’s don’t lie!

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  10. Bill Strasburg says:

    The people quoted in this article who say the claim is ridiculous are in the intelligence industry and lie for a living. Are people like that credible sources? The author actually reveals the more likely reason for the ousting of the intelligent and well-spoken Napolitano; it appears to have more to do with a mandate handed down the ranks at FOX relating to their purchase deal. FOX is only slightly more legitimate than the leftist portion of the media now. The legitimacy FOX enjoyed by being the voice of reason for so long is not completely there anymore. But Napolitano is a brilliant Constitutional scholar who believes in equal rights for all people. He clearly seeks out the truth in his research and reporting. To complain about someone who promotes truth does not speak well of one’s character.

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