Fox News Accused of Hiring Investigator to Get Phone Records

  • Watchdog Media Matters cites report that staffer was targeted
  • Channel’s general counsel denies claims raised in new article

A media watchdog group is calling for an investigation of Roger Ailes and other Fox News employees who may have taken part in alleged efforts by the network to obtain a reporter’s phone records.

The group Media Matters is seeking the investigation following reports in New York magazine that Fox News General Counsel Dianne Brandi hired a private investigator to obtain the phone records of one of the organization’s reporters, Joe Strupp. Brandi denied the allegations, according to a network spokeswoman.

Fox News, part of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc., is already contending with allegations of sexual harassment against former Chairman Ailes, who was forced to step down following claims by at least two former employees. Media Matters said the latest revelations suggest Fox News employees broke the law.

“Anyone involved in the illegal hacking should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and we are considering all legal options,” Bradley Beychok, president of the group, said on his blog.

The News of the World, part of Murdoch’s News Corp. publishing empire, was forced to shut down in 2011 following revelations that the newspapers hacked into the cellphones of celebrities, politicians and even a missing British teenager who was later found murdered.

The revelations forced News Corp. to abandon its efforts to buy Sky Plc and led to the resignation of James Murdoch as chairman of Sky and from News International. He’s now chief executive officer of Fox News’ parent and is once again chairman of Sky.

Companies have gotten into hot water before trying to investigate journalists. Former Hewlett-Packard Co. Chairwoman Patricia Dunn stepped down in 2006 after overseeing a company investigation in which detectives posing as reporters tried to obtain phone records as part of a crackdown on leaks.

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