In the wake of the New York County District Attorney's decision last month to launch a criminal investigation into Joe Muto, a.k.a. the Fox Mole, for the alleged theft of videos from his former employer Fox News, we thought it would be worthwhile to find out what we could about what relationship, if any, exists between the DA's office and Roger Ailes' operation. So we used New York's Freedom of Information Law to ask for correspondence and emails between Fox News employees and staffers in the DA's office. Today they refused our request.
Investigators with the New York County DA raided Muto's apartment last month and seized his laptop, iPad, and iPhone. According to the warrant, investigators were looking for, among other things, evidence of "videos unlawfully downloaded and taken from Fox News." The warrant made clear that Fox News was cooperating intensively with the investigation. Prior to the raid, Fox had sent letters to both Gawker and Muto alleging Muto's posts constituted "likely criminal and civil wrongdoing."
Fox News chief Roger Ailes has a long history of developing ties to local law enforcement. He makes frequent use of the local police departments in both his New Jersey home and his Putnam County, N.Y., redoubt—calling them when he locks his keys in his car, spots a "suspicious vehicle," or forgot that he left the bathroom door open. The Putnam County Sheriff's office routinely details deputies to provide security for Ailes when he's there. The NYPD likewise devotes significant resources to providing security for Fox News, according to the Daily Beast, posting multiple officers "at the site to protect Fox News as part of a counterterrorism initiative"—protection that the department doesn't afford to other networks on a sustained basis. According to documents unearthed by NYPD Confidential, Ailes once dialed up a "Request for counter surveillance from [the NYPD] Threats Desk," apparently in the belief that someone was spying on him.
At the federal level, Ailes invited former Attorney General John Ashcroft to be Fox News' guest at three Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinners (his successor Alberto Gonzalez got two invites), met with Ashcroft for lunch just four weeks after 9/11, and praised him in private correspondence for doing "a great job for our country" shortly after he left office.
Given this history of cozying up to the authorities, we were curious whether Ailes and Fox News—or anyone else at News Corp.—had ever communicated with Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. (who, as a liberal Democrat, isn't as likely a target of Ailes' charms as Ashcroft). So we filed a records request for any emails, letters, or records of meetings between Fox News and DA staffers. The request was carefully delimited: We sought communications between Fox News and News Corp. staffers (or their representatives, by which we meant attorneys representing the company) and Vance and eleven other named members of his executive team (or their deputies, by which we meant chiefs of staff or second-in-command).
Today, the DA's office refused our request, rejecting it as too broad. "In essence," Assistant District Attorney Maureen O'Connor (no relation!) wrote, "you seek a broad category of documents between thousands of unidentified people or their representatives and hundreds of unnamed Assistant District Attorneys or employees of the New York County District Attorney's office."
That strikes us as a willfully obtuse misreading of our request designed to conjure the grounds on which to deny it. But we will gladly file anew a narrower request that will be more difficult to misconstrue. We filed a similar request of the NYPD as well; we'll let you know what, if anything, we get back.
[Image via Getty]