Tobacco and Rupe

Secret documents show that Philip Morris loves Rupert Murdoch’s tobacco-friendly media. That might explain why he’s on their board.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


It’s hard to open a newspaper or switch on the TV news these days without getting an earful about “corporate synergy.” But when that synergy is between the tobacco industry and the media, don’t expect it to be front-page news.

A 1985 document unearthed in the Minnesota attorney general’s tobacco lawsuit shows how the lure of advertising revenue can compromise news coverage of tobacco issues. The paper, from the files of tobacco giant Philip Morris, is titled “The Perspective of PM International on Smoking and Health Issues: Text of the discussion document used at the meeting of top management.”

That “discussion document” is a memo from Hamish Maxwell, a former Philip Morris chief executive, which outlines a broad strategy to shape public opinion in the company’s favor. Maxwell urges that Philip Morris use its “very considerable clout with the media,” who “like the money they make from our advertisements.” He names Rupert Murdoch and Malcolm Forbes as media proprietors “sympathetic to our position.”

In an appendix to the memo, another Philip Morris executive emphasizes the point, using Murdoch as the model for tobacco-media relations: “Murdoch’s papers rarely publish anti-smoking articles these days.”

Ancient history? Well, Rupert Murdoch is now on the board of Philip Morris, where he has held a seat since 1989. Hamish Maxwell is no longer top dog at the company, but Geoffrey Bible is, and Bible was voted onto the board of Murdoch’s News Corporation on June 23 of this year — an event which received virtually no media coverage.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate