written by: Linda Richter
• edited by: Michele McDonough
• updated: 8/26/2011
Rupert Murdoch, downfallen mogul, has managed to get away with a formidable list of bad behaviors—not to call them crimes, of course—exemplifying a brand of poor business ethics that we don’t need in this day and age. Here’s a look at three leaders I wish we’d never had.
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Rupert Murdoch: Hoist by His Own Petard
In October 2010, the editors of Vanity Fair magazine published the 16th annual list of the world’s top influential people of the information age, and the editors put Rupert Murdoch in fourth place. According to CNNMoney, his company, News Corp., ranked second place (Disney took the top spot) in terms of revenue, with place number 83 on the Fortune 500 list. I wouldn’t be surprised if Murdoch still places on the list this year, although he undoubtedly has earned himself a place much further down. The mere size of his conglomerate guarantees his continued influence at some level.
I just think the business world be a better place without him. He has hacked (correction: ordered the hacking of) the phones of politicians, dead children, celebrities and sport figures, endangered soldiers, and even possibly the victims of 9/11.
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The most egregious of these impossibly unethical deeds goes back to the 2002 tragedy of Millie Dowler, a 13-year-old British girl kidnapped on her way home from school and murdered, her body not found until five months after her death. News of the World staff hacked into her cell phone and even deleted messages, which sustained her parents’ hope that she was still alive somewhere. Can there be a worse crime?
Murdoch’s payola of policemen minds no limits. Public servants who accepted his bribes have irretrievably blemished the reputation of Scotland Yard. Even the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, felt the heat from Parliament for his naiveté, accepting as a trusted adviser Murdoch’s former henchman and News of the World editor, Andy Coulson. Murdoch is nothing if not sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the five most common forms of business ethics violations include abusive or intimidating behavior toward employees, email and/or Internet abuse, misreporting actual time or hours worked, behavior that places an employee’s interests over the organization’s interests and calling in sick when not ill. Murdoch is probably only guilty of three of these—it’s unlikely that he falsified his time card or played possum on busy workdays—but he has bought and paid for his entry into the Business Ethics Hall of Shame.
As long ago as 1995, British MP Chris Mullins in The Guardian recollected a conversation with the chief executive of Murdoch’s Mirror group, David Montgomery. Montgomery lamented, “Rupert has contempt for rules. Contempt even for governments. He can’t enjoy success unless he is causing someone else pain." Unfortunately, Murdoch had another 16 years to wreak his own personal brand of havoc on the world—and now the FBI is investigating him for violating the phones of 9/11 victims for a post-mortem eavesdrop on their last conversations on earth.
It’s only fitting that with all the slimy tabloid papers Murdoch has sold, he is finally at the top of the 2011 List of Eternal Cads--placed there by his own former fellow journalists!
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Rush Limbaugh: Purveyor of Pessism
With the American people sick to death of the conflict between the Democrats and Republicans who make our laws in Washington, I can’t think of any one person who has done more to widen that gulf of enmity than conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. When he first popped across my radar in 1992, I thought he had a lot of interesting things to say, even though ultimately I cast my vote for Bill Clinton. Over the last 20 years, Limbaugh has consistently shown poor business ethics, earning his bucks by deftly pitching coworkers, brothers, friends and spouses against one another.
He joined the Business Ethics Hall of Shame when he appallingly picked on a little girl. On his (thank-you-Lord) ill-fated television show, he claimed the Clintons were breaking the rules about no dogs allowed in the White House, and then he held up a picture of Chelsea Clinton, 13 years old at the time. What a weasel!
There are a lot of gullible people out there, and Limbaugh speaks to those fearful Republicans who think of Democrats as godless scallywags. In 2009, he deplored Jewish nationals for carrying on about the holocaust—because it was almost 70 years ago, after all, he said—and he belittled Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize. He also stated outright in early 2009 that he hopes President Obama will fail. Now, I believe that in this country we have the right to say that the president is a bum, but how can any good citizen hope that a president actually fails? I am also tired of his innuendo that Obama is not American and that Obama wants to subvert this country with his policies.
Earlier this year, according to the Huffington Post, Limbaugh (who is himself no svelte Sven) picked on Michelle Obama for eating ribs—saying that she proposes Americans should follow a healthy diet but she would not make the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. Once again, here is another person—not to sound like Gomer Pyle—just being mean, mean, mean.
At the time of the real estate crash, I personally felt outraged to learn that the men heading up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were each earning upwards of $14 million per year. But that is nothing compared to Limbaugh’s take-home pay. In 2008, he signed an eight-year contract for $400 million. That, folks, comes to $50 million per year, and those are 50 million reasons why Limbaugh keeps the country ripped apart. After all, if Democrats and Republicans learned how to compromise, what would happen to Limbaugh?
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Dick Cheney: A Master of Manipulation
When Dick Cheney took office as George Bush’s second in command in 2000, my first feeling was one of woe, seeing another nefarious politician holding a position of prominence. After all, this was a man who cut his teeth training under Richard Nixon, the trickiest Dick of them all, so Cheney’s negative nattering came as no surprise. He has cemented himself a solid place in the Business Ethics Hall of Shame—when he’s not manipulating, he’s whining, whining, whining.
PBS reported in 2004 that Cheney supposedly retired from public life after supervising the first Gulf War for the first President Bush. He next showed up running Halliburton, a company that profited immensely from its contracts in the Middle East during the 1990s, until the second President Bush tapped him for public office in 2000. Bush needed someone to work the mechanism in the back of the puppet, right? But after 9/11, according to Jim Lehrer on PBS.org, Cheney kept a low profile, saving himself for succession in the event that Bush was assassinated. In 2002, as the deficit began to mount higher and higher, he insisted that “deficits didn’t matter." Huh?
Now he’s about to publish a book, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, in which according to NY Times’ Charlie Savage he disses such national (and Republican) heroes as former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. He also promotes waterboarding as a totally acceptable interrogation technique. I wonder, has he tried it?
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Who Else Goes on This List?
Murdoch, of course, is so despised right now that nobody, except maybe his mother, will defend him. But I fully expect to take a few hits here on my criticisms against Limbaugh and Cheney. Let it come—let’s talk about it! Who's a rat and who's done wrong? Just take the time to tell me whom you would nominate into the Business Ethics Hall of Shame in 2011.