Death of a PR Guy
Gary Ginsberg, Murdoch’s PR guy who got the ax yesterday, used to beg me not to call him a PR Guy—his official title was Executive VP of Global Marketing and Corporate Affairs—but that was his job: making Murdoch look good.
If not good, less bad.
Here’s the job description: Take one of the least sympathetic people on earth—cold, hostile, mean, old, almost pathologically opportunistic, and basically unconcerned with what anybody thinks about him—and run behind him and make sure he doesn’t say something cold, hostile, mean, or pathologically opportunistic that gets in the newspaper. (Murdoch’s strange, unmediated interview
last week in Australia suggests Ginsberg had already been off the job.)
Oh yes, and along the way, he treats you in a cold, hostile, and mean way. Not to mention he’s not above just a little touch of…well, call it what you will: One Christmas Murdoch has little crèches put on the desks in the executives offices just to rankle Ginsberg, a conscientious Jew.
Or, when Ginsberg told his boss he was going to a wedding of a friend who worked for Bill Clinton and that Clinton would be there, too, Murdoch, sensing some possible Clinton hijinks, sent a reporter from the New York Post
to spy on the festivities.
Ginsberg’s deal with the devil was a clear one. He was not only a Clinton Democrat (although when Clinton became much less popular he tried to downplay his connection), but a Kennedy Democrat. He was JFK Jr.’s best friend and aide de camp. Working for Murdoch must have seemed, at least in the beginning, like some adventure on the other side.
But then, of course, Ginsberg got to like his imputed power: He spoke for Murdoch. He liked the toughness of speaking for Murdoch. He liked the lack of pretense and sentimentality. Murdoch wielded raw power. If you wanted to screw with someone, you screwed with them. Still, the sheer brutality of the job, the absurdity or madness of covering for Murdoch, the mind-bending details of having to reinvent reality on Murdoch’s behalf—of having to relentlessly scrub the facts of his affair with his third wife Wendi even after the world knew the details—the constant specter of Fox News, oh, and the family, dealing everyday with the demands of the Murdoch children, could get you down. Ginsberg bonded with Peter Chernin, the number two in the company and the other Democrat. Together they saw themselves fighting a good fight—News Corp. reformers.
But earlier this year Chernin got pushed out. And then the writing was on the wall for Ginsberg. Both Ginsberg and Chernin had a common enemy: Fox News Chief Roger Ailes, evil incarnate at News Corp. At times it even seemed like they were making progress pulling Murdoch away from Ailes. Of even making Murdoch more liberal (Ginsberg believed in his boss’s mellowing—and that he deserved the credit). But then the recession happened. All of News Corp. became a financial wasteland, except for Fox News. Fox News and Roger Ailes were floating Murdoch.
And Ailes wanted Ginsberg’s head.
Ginsberg believed he could go to work for the devil and help tame him. But the politics of hell are tough to play.
More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NewserColumns.
If Arthur Miller were at it again, he’d call the play