SUNDAY UPDATE: News Corp issued the following statement from Los Angeles today confirming my reporting from Saturday — “Roger Friedman’s views in no way reflect the views of News Corporation. We, along with 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, have been a consistent leader in the fight against piracy and have zero tolerance for any action that encourages and promotes piracy. When we advised Fox News of the facts they took immediate action, removed the post, and promptly terminated Mr. Friedman.”
SATURDAY PM EXCLUSIVE: News Corp like all major Hollywood studios takes the crime of piracy very seriously. Nor will the Fox parent company tolerate it if its employees don’t. Especially after a stolen, early and unfinished work print of 20th Century Fox’s big summer blockbuster X-Men Origins: Wolverine was put onto the Internet illegally this week in a major scandal that the FBI is now investigating. So there was universal shock on Friday when long-time “Fox 411” freelance columnist Roger Friedman wrote what I’m told his bosses felt was a blatant promotion of piracy on his Fox News web outlet. Besides writing a review from watching the purloined print of Wolverine, Friedman posted, “I did find the whole top 10 [movies in theaters], plus TV shows, commercials, videos, everything, all streaming away. It took really less than seconds to start playing it all right onto my computer. I could have downloaded all of it but really, who has the time or the room? Later tonight I may finally catch up with Paul Rudd in I Love You, Man. It’s so much easier than going out in the rain!” I’m told that Fox News’ actions were swift and severe. First, Roger Ailes, who oversees Fox News, deleted the offending post after he was contacted by 20th Century Fox about it. And then Ailes fired Friedman as a freelance Fox News entertainment writer. I hear the move was done with the full support of News Corp. “He promoted piracy. He basically suggested that viewing a stolen film is OK, which is absolutely intolerable. So we fired him,” a source told me Saturday. “Fox News acted promptly on all fronts.”
Friedman has written his gossip column, “Fox 411”, for FoxNews.com for more than a decade and peppers it with celebrity items, industry news, and off-the-cuff movie reviews. He has long been a controversial writer who quite frequently angers the publicity machine surrounding actors, directors, producers, studios, celebrities, movies and TV. Occasionally he has scoops, especially about the music biz. Still, how could he not have known that his writings Friday would hit a nerve with his employers. After Friedman’s column on FoxNews.com appeared, both News Corp and Fox condemned it as “promoting a pirated version of Wolverine“.
News Corp issued this statement: “Roger Friedman’s views in no way reflect the views of News Corporation. We, along with 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, have been a consistent leader in the fight against piracy and have zero tolerance for any action that encourages and promotes piracy. Once we learned of Roger Friedman’s post we asked Fox News to remove it, which they did immediately.”
And Fox said, “We’ve just been made aware that Roger Friedman, a freelance columnist who writes Fox 411 on Foxnews.com – an entirely separate company from 20th Century Fox — watched on the internet and reviewed a stolen and unfinished version of X-Men Orgins: Wolverine. This behavior is reprehensible and we condemn this act categorically — whether the review is good or bad.”
UPDATE: I did reach Friedman for comment. He emailed back only that he was at the Paul McCartney concert.