Cable news is abuzz over a story in the Wall Street Journal today reporting that Wendi Deng Murdoch, the ex-wife of Fox News (and Journal) owner Rupert Murdoch, was identified as a potential agent of Chinese influence during an intelligence briefing for Jared Kushner last year.
Journal reporters say that counterintelligence officials advised the presidential son-in-law that the former Mrs. Murdoch “could be using her close friendship with Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, to further the interests of the Chinese government.”
Still calling herself Ms. Murdoch, the China-born Wendi Deng was married to media mogul Rupert for 14 years. Mr. Murdoch stopped trying to reach the Chinese television market when he gave up on his marriage to Wendi Deng, but in the meantime, Fox News became the acknowledged leader in conservative news and views while his News Corp became a media juggernaut.
Wendi Deng is certainly close to the couple. Indeed, she is responsible for Ivanka and Jared getting back together after a split in 2008.
During a “routine senior staff security briefing” early in 2017, the agents warned Kushner that “Ms. Murdoch was lobbying for a high-profile construction project funded by the Chinese government in Washington, D.C.”
The project, a planned $100 million Chinese garden at the National Arboretum, was deemed a national-security risk because it included a 70-foot-tall white tower that could potentially be used for surveillance, according to people familiar with the intelligence community’s deliberations over the garden. The garden was planned on one of the higher patches of land near downtown Washington, less than 5 miles from both the Capitol and the White House.
Foreign espionage is always a very real problem around the nation’s capital and its outlying intelligence centers. Readers may recall that as punishment for Kremlin election interference, President Obama seized an ambassadorial property in Maryland that was being used as a listening post.
China emerged as a primary influence threat during the 1990s and a primary espionage antagonist over the next decade. Just a week ago, David Ignatius of Washington Post wrote that Donald Trump’s own National Security Council has warned him China is acting “outside traditional espionage, in the gray area of covert influence operations.”
In a 2007 article, the New York Times reported that Rupert Murdoch “cooperates closely with China’s censors and state broadcasters,” cultivating “political ties that he hopes will insulate his business ventures from regulatory interference.”
In speeches and interviews, Mr. Murdoch often supports the policies of Chinese leaders and attacks their critics. A group of China-based reporters for The Journal accused him in a letter to Dow Jones shareholders of “sacrificing journalistic integrity to satisfy personal and political aims,” a charge the News Corporation denies.
China wanted nothing to do with Mr. Murdoch’s anti-totalitarian rhetoric. By contrast, he wanted access to China so badly that he removed BBC from his lineup on Star TV to appease the Communist Party.
According to a 2000 Journal profile, Wendi Deng acted as “a de facto diplomat on behalf of News Corp. in China” and carried News Corp business cards. If she is an agent of Chinese government influence now, what was she doing back then to shape the way Fox News covered China?
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