WASHINGTON — John Edwards criticized Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday for taking more than $20,000 in donations from News Corp. officials, arguing that the company's Fox News Channel has a right-wing bias and Democrats should avoid the company.
Edwards led the Democratic candidates' boycott of Fox's plans to host a Democratic presidential debate. Now he is objecting to News Corp.'s purchase of Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co., and highlighting the relationships that Clinton and other rivals have with the company's executives.
"The time has come for Democrats to stop pretending to be friends with the very people who demonize the Democratic Party," Edwards said in a statement.
He challenged his rivals to refuse contributions from executives of News Corp., and return any they had already received. The Edwards campaign said it would return less than $1,000 in donations from three Fox employees — a worker at a local Fox station in Florida and two staffers from Fox Cable Networks — even though they are not executives.
Edwards told reporters in Los Angeles, where he is on a fund-raising swing, that Rupert Murdoch's Fox News "has a clear and long history of bias against Democrats."
"We have to stand up to him. It's time to put a stop to this," Edwards said.
The Edwards campaign sent an e-mail to supporters with the subject line, "Unfair and Unbalanced," asking them to donate in support of his stand against the company.
Said Edwards spokesman Eric Schultz: "Thousands of good people work at Fox News and News Corp., but this is about the bias of top executives, those who make real editorial decisions like Rupert Murdoch, people who continually sanction unfounded attacks on Democrats. And that's why Democrats like Senator Clinton should either reject their money or return it."
The campaign timed the challenge to come two days before Edwards, Clinton and other candidates are scheduled to appear at a convention of liberal bloggers, who applauded Edwards' revolt against the Fox-sponsored debate in March.
Most of Murdoch's donations go to Republicans, but he gave $4,200 to Clinton's Senate campaign in 2006 and held a fund-raiser for her at News Corp.'s midtown headquarters. He also donated $2,300 to her presidential campaign, according to online campaign donation database Political MoneyLine. Murdoch's son James, who is seen by many as a likely candidate to eventually succeed his 76-year-old father, gave $3,450.
A Political MoneyLine search of donors employed by News Corp. finds $20,900 in donations to Clinton's presidential bid from nine company attorneys and executives, including Murdoch's No. 2, Peter Chernin, who gave the maximum $4,600 allowed.
Chernin is a frequent donor to Democratic causes. He's also contributed $2,100 each to Democratic presidential candidates, Barack Obama and Chris Dodd, Political MoneyLine shows.
The Clinton, Obama and Dodd campaigns declined to respond to Edwards.
Dodd issued a statement urging government antitrust lawyers to review the deal. He expressed concern that The Wall Street Journal would become biased because of News Corp.'s control.