Publisher Regan Says News Corp. Urged Her to Lie
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
And incendiary lawsuit against Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has cast a harsh light on the relationship between the top presidential candidate and an influential cable channel.
As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, Fox News and Rudy Giuliani are now confronted by ties that have served both well.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Judith Regan always did know how to generate headlines for her authors, in this case, the porn star Jenna Jamieson as well as herself.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW "JUDITH REGAN TONIGHT")
JUDITH REGAN: Welcome.
JENNA JAMIESON: Hi, Judith.
REGAN: And I should say, and you now have a book contract.
JAMIESON: Yes, I do.
REGAN: With a certain publisher named Judith Regan.
JAMIESON: Yes, my favorite girl in the world.
FOLKENFLIK: That's Regan's old show on Fox News, which is own by NewsCorp as was Regan books. But she was fired last December after a public relations fiasco involving an O.J. Simpson book in which he explained how he would have killed his ex-wife had he done it - hypothetically, of course.
Regan is striking back with $100 million lawsuit filed this week against NewsCorp. She claims among other things that top company executives warned her not to give damaging information to law enforcement officials about her lover, Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who was briefly in 2004, the Bush administration's nominee to become director of Homeland Security.
Why? Well, Regan alleges that NewsCorp - and especially Fox News chief, Roger Ailes - wanted to protect the presidential aspirations of Kerik's biggest patron - former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani was asked about Regan's allegations while campaigning in Iowa.
RUDOLPH GIULIANI: I don't respond to the story at all. I have - I don't know anything about it and it sounds to me like a - kind of a gossip-column story more than a real story.
FOLKENFLIK: Kerik was indicted this month on criminal federal charges of conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements. The story raises questions about Giuliani's judgment when it comes to his calling card, national security. But it's also a headache for Fox News and NewsCorp. A NewsCorp spokeswoman did not return messages seeking comment.
Longtime Giuliani critic, Wayne Barrett, has co-written two books on him.
WAYNE BARRETT: Fox is clearly not only a Republican network but a particular candidate's network in this race.
FOLKENFLIK: When Giuliani made his first and unsuccessful bid for mayor in 1989, his chief media adviser was the same Roger Ailes now leading Fox News. As mayor, Giuliani officiated Ailes' wedding. But Barrett says commercial ties trump all others.
BARRETT: Fox News would not be the number one cable news station in America but for Rudy Giuliani.
FOLKENFLIK: Under Giuliani, the city pressured Time Warner Cable to carry Fox News on its system in New York City, the nation's largest market, leading a federal judge to rebuke Giuliani.
Critics also point to what appears on the air.
SEAN HANNITY: Mayor Giuliani joins us now for a "Hannity & Colmes" exclusive. Should I say congratulations or condolences?
GIULIANI: A little of both, but mostly congratulations.
FOLKENFLIK: That's Giuliani along with conservative Fox talk show host, Sean Hannity. Wayne Barrett says Hannity has helped give Giuliani the conservative seal of approval.
BARRETT: One of the reasons why he's been able to transcend the problems that Republicans may have with him on social issues is the favorable coverage he's been getting from Fox.
FOLKENFLIK: A Fox News spokeswoman released numbers yesterday to rebut past claims of critics that Giuliani gets disproportionate airtime. They showed four Republican rivals have appeared on the network more than Giuliani since the start of the year. Yet in August, Hannity gave Giuliani a rousing introduction at a fundraising event in Cincinnati.
That makes Larry Sabato uncomfortable. He's a University of Virginia professor who studies press and politics.
LARRY SABATO: It brings into question basic credibility and what they decide to put on the air in the way they decide to phrase the stories can be influenced by their personal predilections.
FOLKENFLIK: The Fox News spokeswoman says Hannity also appears at a Fred Thompson fundraiser and offered to do the same for Mitt Romney, too. She says Hannity is an ideological commentator, not a journalist.
David Folkenflik, NPR News.
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