Rupert Murdoch’s Groundhog Day

Rupert Murdoch

News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch followed son James in front of the Leveson Inquiry Wednesday. Thursday morning he’ll do it all over again.

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Rupert Murdoch’s Groundhog Day

News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch followed son James in front of the Leveson Inquiry. Thursday he’ll do it all over again.

Storified by Staci D Kramer · Thu, Apr 26 2012 01:40:30

James Murdoch’s session at the Leveson Inquiry Tuesday was dominated by a hefty batch of emails from  News Corp. PR exec Frédéric Michel trying to get the BSkyB deal approved. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt took the worst of it, other politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron, made unflattering cameo appearances. The ripple effect has Hunt fighting for his political career and now Murdoch bête noire The Guardian reports the emails could be part of an insider trading investigation:

The stock market watchdog, the Financial Services Authority, is looking at whether a series of emails from the office of the culture and media secretary to News Corporation representatives broke rules on insider trading, the Guardian understands.Emails disclosed on Tuesday during the Leveson inquiry into the media, appear to show that News Corp’s public affairs executive Frédéric Michel was given a unique insight into decisions being made by the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt into News Corp’s £8bn bid for BSkyB by Hunt’s special adviser, Adam Smith. Michel then relayed the information to his boss, James Murdoch, a News Corp executive and chairman of BSkyB at the time.

Rupert Murdoch, who come off much sharper most of the day than he did before Parliament, spent most of the day insisting the vision of him as a political string-puller isn’t fair or right.

He gave nothing. In the face of what every reasonable person might understand to be true, he held his ground. He was the ordinary and down-to-earth guy, whereas his Leveson inquiry antagonists were just this side of wild conspiracists. He was Hyman Roth in the Godfather: just "a retired investor living on a pension".The inquiry’s lead counsel, Robert Jay, who has been a masterful interrogator of the many witnesses who have come before, was reduced to demanding Murdoch confess to being … well, Murdoch. Isn’t it true Mr Murdoch, Jay in effect found himself insisting, that you are a corrupt manipulator of the system?

KRM: “Well, put it this way: I go to election every year, Mr Jay, every day. People can stop buying my newspapers any time. Often do, I’m afraid. And it is only natural for politicians to reach out to editors and sometimes proprietors, if they’re available, to explain what they’re doing and hoping that it makes an impression and it gets through …

The Murdochs aren’t the only ones with instant access to mass distribution, something Rupert might want to keep in mind when he gives his version of events. Take this comment about Sir Harold Evans: 

KRM: “I only remember ever talking to Mr Evans about policy once, when he came to me, shut the door behind him and said, ‘Look, tell me what you want to say — what do you  want me to say, and it needn’t leave this room, but  I will do it’, and I said to him, ‘Harry, that is not my  job.  All I would say to you’, and this is the nearest thing I ever came to an instruction, was “please be consistent. Don’t change sides day by day.”

Evans is not only the former editor of The Sunday Times — he’s the husband of The Newsweek/Daily Beast ‘s Tina Brown and he had an instant outlet for his indignant response.. 

There is a pattern to the Murdoch sagas. He responds to serious criticism by a biting wisecrack or diversionary personal attack. What is denied most sharply invariably turns out to irrefutably true.

Rupert Murdoch was overheard at the break protesting the possibility of stretching into a second day:

Rupert to advisers in courtroom: "Let’s get him to get this fucking thing over with today".Dan Sabbagh

Splitting between days should be better for him; he was getting tired and a bit less sharp. Wednesday was nearly all BSkyB and politicians. Thursday, probably more of that given claims that he wasn’t telling the truth:

Gordon Brown: Rupert Murdoch’s evidence on oath about me was wrong×5/twDan Sabbagh

But the main dish likely will be phone hacking. Thursday’s hearing starts at 10 am in London and is expected to last 2-3 hours. It will be live streamed.


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