Murdoch media scandals intensify by the day

Eric Boehlert noted this morning, “Like a getaway bandit trying to lighten his load, Rupert Murdoch keeps making frantic sacrifices in hopes of containing the phone-hacking scandal that’s now consuming his News Corp media empire.”

The latest, and arguably biggest, sacrifice came this morning.

In a stunning setback after days of building scandal surrounding its British newspaper operations, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation announced on Wednesday that it was withdrawing a $12 billion bid to take over the shares it does not already own in Britain’s main satellite television broadcaster.

The withdrawal from the bid for complete control of British Sky Broadcasting, also known as BSkyB, represented the most severe damage inflicted so far on Mr. Murdoch’s corporate ambitions by the scandal.

Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB was, up until recently, considered a foregone conclusion. Now, with every day bringing new scandalous revelations of alleged crimes and misdeeds, the deal is dead.

Increasingly, attention is turning to whether, and to what extent, the Murdoch media scandal will reach U.S. soil.

With news that News Corp’s phone-hacking scandal may have included 9/11 victims and possibly other Americans as targets, two Democratic Senators, Frank Lautenberg and Jay Rockefeller, are calling on U.S. authorities to launch an investigation.

And they’re not alone.

Angry family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks on Wednesday called for a U.S. investigation into allegations that journalists at the British News of the World tabloid sought to hack the phones of their lost love ones.

“Someone should look into it to see if their rights were violated — the family members I’ve talked to are appalled, they’re disgruntled, they have to relive the pain all over again,” Jim Riches, a former deputy chief in the New York Fire Department whose 29-year-old fireman son was killed in the attacks, told POLITICO.

“I think they crossed the line. They’re trying to get messages from loved ones in the last moments of their lives. It’s horrible, and they should be held accountable. It’s despicable and unethical,” Riches added.

Sally Regenhard, vice chairwoman of 9/11 Parents and Families of Firefighters & World Trade Center Victims, said that she also supports an American probe and added that the latest allegations come at a particularly hard time for victims’ families.

While Murdoch’s media control is arguably worse in Great Britain, he also still dominates in the U.S. Actor Hugh Grant, who’s played a surprisingly important role in this story, told NBC this morning that Americans may want to start asking themselves, “Who is this man who owns such a large part of our media?”

Seems like a reasonable question.