An opinion column in today’s New York Observer titled “Murdoch and His Critics” calls the UK phone hacking scandal “deplorable” right away, but spends the remaining nine paragraphs defending News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch, who happens to be a close personal friend of Observer publisher Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump. “Please, spare us,” the paper says of the Murdoch-aimed outrage, praising the patriarch’s “genuine humility.” The column is basically about haters. Murdoch “surely is not perfect,” but he’s “a world-class visionary” (and “staunch supporter of Israel”) who has “done this city a service.” (The only other paper to defend Murdoch with such fervor amid the ugliness of the last few weeks was the Wall Street Journal, which he owns.) This time, the gesture of solidarity comes from a buddy, one so close that Murdoch once brought Kushner and Trump to the banks of the River Jordan, along with Queen Rania and Nicole Kidman, for the christening of Murdoch’s young daughters. Above: Murdoch in the bottom-right corner and Kushner in the top-left.
The Observer editorial page has been called out before. “I don’t know if anybody out there reads the editorials of the New York Observer — I never do, and I actually read the New York Observer — but, FYI, they are hilariously bad!” wrote Hamilton Nolan at Gawker. Then he rattled off some recent ones: pro-Israel, pro-Walmart, pro-banks, pro-Israel and pro-Israel. “Why, it’s almost as if these editorials only represent the views of some unsophisticated, right-leaning young rich boy who’s spent his entire lifetime ensconced in a bubble of wealth and privilege,” Nolan wrote.
That’s Jared, who has also had his back scratched by Murdoch in the Wall Street Journal. Today he’s just returning the favor. (Less favorable coverage of Murdoch can be found in the parts of the paper with bylines.)
In the spring, there were similar conflict of interest questions about the Observer‘s coverage of Donald Trump’s not-so-coded racism and fake presidential campaign. The Donald, of course, is Kushner’s father-in-law. (Congrats on the baby, everyone.)
But connections to the rich and powerful, the very people his newspaper exists to cover, is sort of why Kushner wanted to own the Observer in the first place. Via New York, back in 2009:
But owning the Observer opened doors that real estate never could. Jared was a sudden celebrity. He attended Men’s Vogue parties and appeared in Vanity Fair alongside European aristocrats. He made friends with Rupert Murdoch and his wife, Wendi Deng. In Murdoch Jared saw a rabbi who could teach him the newspaper business. While vacationing on Murdoch’s yacht in June 2007 — Google founder Sergey Brin was also aboard — Jared was thrilled when Murdoch asked him to contribute ideas on his bid for The Wall Street Journal.
And about that yacht trip… The New York Times reported just last month that Kushner’s relationship with Murdoch has previously been a “sore” point in the newsroom he owns. Jeremy Peters writes:
Mr. Kushner also found it difficult to work alongside his editors. Sometimes he was in open conflict with his editorial staff, who often paid him little respect.
One day in early 2009, a security breakdown in The Observer‘s computer system allowed employees access to one another’s hard drives. A few staff members with prying eyes went into Mr. Kushner’s and found a file with an intriguing name. They opened it and found pictures of their boss and Ms. Trump, his girlfriend at the time, and Billy Joel aboard Mr. Murdoch’s sailboat, Rosehearty.
For a group that had seen its ranks shrunk by layoffs and demoralized by pay cuts, the sight of their young publisher surrounded by such decadence was a sore one.
Sore? To hear the Observer tell it today, all journalists in this city owe Rupert everything. “[T]here is a reason why this city is home to one of the world’s last newspaper wars, why there is greater diversity of opinion in this city’s newspapers than there was a quarter-century ago,” the opinion piece claims. “That reason is Rupert Murdoch, who came to New York in the 1970s and singlehanded revitalized the city’s newspaper landscape.” And thank god for that.