Rupe Tacks Left: Pragmatic Murdoch Hedges Bets

10/9/2006 10:20 PM PDT

Rupe Tacks Left: Pragmatic Murdoch Hedges Bets

These are, as the Chinese might say, interesting times.

Apparently, if the press of today is to be believed, the sort of times wherein even a supposedly dyed-in-the-wool conservative like Rupert Murdoch weighs whether his alliance with that Grand Old Party is really so grand, after all.

For instance, there's today's news that Murdoch's News Corp. owned MySpace throwing a score of concerts to raise awareness and money for humanitarian relief in Sudan - previously the purview of Hollywood liberals like George Clooney, not rock-ribbed conservatives like George Dubya.

As the AP noted today, "The site, which grew in popularity thanks to its early adoption by emerging bands and their fans, has in recent months taken a more active role in promoting social causes, such as environmental awareness and voter registration.

The environment? Motor-voter bills? Are we sure this is the same News Corp. the gave us the foamy-mouthed Bill O'Reilly and whose New York Post sniffed, "What Abu Ghraib?"

Indeedy, in another new piece today penned by The New Yorker's John Cassidy, the question is posed whether Murdoch isn't tacking left as the 2008 presidential election approaches:

Viz, Murdoch's hosting of

"a fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton took place on July 17th, at News Corp.'s midtown tower, which houses the Post and Fox News. Among the News Corp. executives who attended were Roger Ailes, the veteran Republican operative who runs Fox News, and Col Allan, the pugnacious, Australian-born editor of the Post. Clinton spoke for about twenty minutes, and then took questions. The breakfast raised more than sixty thousand dollars for Clinton's senatorial re-election campaign-neither Ailes nor Allan contributed any money-and it led to speculation that Murdoch was preparing to endorse Hillary in the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Appearing on "The Charlie Rose Show" on July 20th, Murdoch said that an endorsement was "unlikely," which didn't exactly reassure conservatives. In August, they became more agitated after Murdoch played host to Bill Clinton and Al Gore at a News Corp. retreat in California. "The nature of the event . . . confirms our suspicion that Murdoch may be moving left as the 2008 U.S. presidential election approaches, and that he may bring his 'conservative' news properties with him," Cliff Kincaid, an editor at Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog group, commented on the organization's Web site."

Missing from the Cassidy piece, per the estimable-but-acid-tongued Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily is the reasons why Murdoch might be making a left turn:

Per Nikki,

"But it doesn't even mention the real reasons why he's scared of a Democrat insurgency and might be making a marriage of convenience with Hillary: because Congress could upset his winning broadcast strategy. There's nothing about his spending gazillions lobbying to block 1) TV ratings changes that could shrink its Fox Broadcasting ad revenues and 2) à la carte cable proposals which would body-check Fox sports and hamper the start of the new Fox business news channel. Plus the 10th anniversary of Fox news timing of this "progressive Rupert" profile comes when Murdoch needs all the help he can muster since his carriage deal with Cablevision Systems is expiring; these tough negotiations will influence how bargaining goes with bigger Comcast and Time-Warner cable systems later. Gosh, get a clue."