Liberal Journalists, Celebs Attack Rupert Murdoch’s Offer to Buy Time Warner

Liberal journalists are fine with media moguls – unless the mogul happens to not be a fellow liberal. When word got out in July that 21st Century Fox owner Rupert Murdoch had made an offer to purchase Time Warner, the parent company for Warner Brothers, HBO and CNN, the media panicked.

Liberal loudmouths Bill Maher, who has a show on HBO and would be impacted by a Murdoch buy, and Jane Fonda, the actress and ex-wife of CNN’s founder, both expressed outrage. Maher called it “a terrible price to pay.” Vox.com, the self-proclaimed news platform started by former Washington Post wonder boy Ezra Klein, also criticized the proposed deal and tastelessly attacked Murdoch himself.

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Vox’s Matthew Yglesias wrote about the merger talks and included a song parody about Murdoch that asked, “when will you die?” According to Yglesias, the song about Murdoch being evil and how everyone would celebrate when he dies was an “amusingly recast” They Might be Giants song.

Liberal journalists’ fury over the deal was to be expected. Several years ago when Murdoch was acquiring The Wall Street Journal, the media went after him. They called him a “scorpion,” a “meddler,” and “very close” to being as frightening as Kim Jong Il (who “had the bomb”).

On Aug. 5, news broke that Murdoch and 21st Century Fox had stopped pursuing the deal. Time Warner had previously rejected the $80 billion bid to acquire the company. The New York Times Dealbook reported that Murdoch told Jeffrey L. Bewkes, the CEO of Time Warner, by email: “On behalf of our board and senior management team, I’m writing to inform you that we are withdrawing our offer to acquire Time Warner, effective immediately.”

Murdoch also said in a statement that Time Warner had “refused to engage with us to explore an offer which was highly compelling.”


Lefty criticism of Murdoch devolves into name calling, songs about his death.

Before that potential merger of 21st Century Fox and Time Warner died, liberal journalists, TV hosts and fake newsman Jon Stewart harshly attacked Murdoch, Fox and the possibility of a union between the media conglomerates. So did Bill Maher and Jane Fonda.

On July 16, Yglesias wrote a Vox article called “9 questions about Rupert Murdoch's effort to buy Time Warner.” The problem was, the fifth question wasn’t a question about the merger at all. It was an excuse to be ugly towards Murdoch.

Yglesias asked “How about a music break?” saying “There's [sic] no genuinely on-point songs to offer, but one guy on YouTube did rather amusingly recast a They Might Be Giants song as a very mean tune about Murdoch.” The nasty song played over a slideshow of pictures and caricatures of Rupert Murdoch.

In a video promo for the group, Yglesias claimed Vox would be “the single greatest resource available for people to understand the issues that are in the news.” But his article on the merger talks proved Vox cares more about shock value than actual reporting.

Don’t bother telling Vox’s founders that such attacks aren’t news. According to the site description, “We’re not going to get caught up in talmudic debates about what does and doesn’t count as ‘news.’” Vox is run by Vox Media, which is partly owned by Comcast, the parent company of NBCUniversal.

Vox wasn’t the only one to get nasty either. Faux news anchor Jon Stewart aired a segment on Murdoch July 22 and joked that “he’s like the date rapist of media barons.” Even Salon.com thought that joke went too far and warned “date-rape jokes are never funny, seriously, Stewart, don’t make the joke.”

Complaining about the potential size of a media conglomerate that includes 21st Century Fox holdings and Time Warner’s, Stewart said, “If he buys Time Warner, news will just be shit Rupert Murdoch thinks."

Before the deal fell through, 21st Century Fox clarified that if it bought Time Warner, CNN would not be part of the deal, to qualm fears of a monopoly. Stewart knew that and actually aired clips of media analysts explaining CNN would have be to sold off if the deal went through and then announced a fake Kickstarter campaign to buy CNN from Murdoch.

Not to be outdone, Maher also bemoaned a future with 21st Century Fox in charge of HBO in a column for The Hollywood Reporter. He made it clear he opposed “Fox taking over Henhouse. I mean, Time Warner."

“There's a terrible price to pay for this. (I mean besides the terrible price I personally will pay when Rupert takes over HBO and my show becomes ‘Paste-Eating Time With Steve Doocy’)” Maher warned.

In Maher’s view bigger companies mean worse companies and claimed, "Big business is about eliminating the competition and buying off the regulators so you can concentrate on the real enemy: your customers."

Liberal actress Jane Fonda, who found her calling protesting the Vietnam war and has been protesting ever since, said such a purchase “would be a catastrophe.” She said if “that happens I'm going to be so angry at the FCC. They cannot let that happen … his news outlets do things that are unconscionable.” Fonda’s ex-husband, Ted Turner, founded CNN and the Turner Broadcasting Company.

Attacks and criticism from the media and the left were even harsher the last time Murdoch wanted to make a major media acquisition. All those attacks almost killed that deal.

In 2007, while he was negotiating to buy The Wall Street Journal (which he now owns), Murdoch commented how harsh media coverage almost made the deal fall through, according to the New York Post. “I spent the better part of the past three months enduring criticism normally leveled at a genocidal tyrant,” Murdoch said. “If I didn't think [Dow Jones] was such a perfect fit – with such unlimited potential to grow on its own and in tandem with News Corp.'s assets – believe me, I would have walked away.”

But a year after he bought the Journal some in the media admitted the newspaper had actually gotten better. Newsweek senior editor and financial columnist Daniel Gross told CNBC’s “Power Lunch,” Murdoch now “owns one of the best newspapers around. They remade the Journal. The front section is a great kind of political, global coverage.”

CNBC’s own Steve Liesman also praised the paper saying, “They’re a little more sensationalist than they used to be. I think that’s good newspapering if you ask me. I think it’s a little bit less like the old Journal, which was much more measured in how it approached different stories.”

Mike Ciandella
Mike Ciandella
Mike Ciandella is a staff writer for the Media Research Center's Business & Media Institute.