Questioned under oath at a judicial inquiry prompted by revelations of endemic phone-hacking at his News of the World tabloid, which he shut down last July, [Rupert] Murdoch gave a confident performance in which he amiably played down the power he holds.
If his enemies had hoped to see him squirm under the forensic questioning of the inquiry’s top prosecutor, especially after a memorably unimpressive performance before British lawmakers last July with his son James, they were disappointed. Last time, a protester threw a foam “pie” at the elder Murdoch and was hit by his formidable wife, Wendi Deng.
Under questioning last July, Murdoch had looked old and tired, and said it was the humblest day of his life, as the extent of public outrage at the way the News of the World had treated ordinary people as well as celebrities sank in.
But at Wednesday’s hearing at London’s Royal Courts of Justice, one of the few times Murdoch has been hauled into any court, he appeared in command of the proceedings and quickly won over lawyers, journalists and the public alike. He smiled, was sometimes stern and left onlookers wondering how good, or bad, his memory of recent British political events really was.
Lest anybody underestimate him in his ninth decade, Murdoch jogged back to his seat after one of the breaks in proceedings, and showed he was as sharp as ever when it came to the quick put-down.
Had he thought British Prime Minister David Cameron was “lightweight” when he first met him? “No, not then.”
What did he think of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown threatening to wage war on News Corp, his company? “I did not think he was in a very balanced state of mind.”
SUN WOT WON IT
Murdoch’s many detractors say he uses his vast multi-media empire to promote his right-wing views, further his commercial interests and gain covert influence among the rich and powerful for himself and his children.
The media mogul conceded that politicians often courted him, but shrugged at the suggestion that his papers could swing British elections.
“We don’t have that sort of power,” he said, disowning the famous “It’s The Sun Wot Won It” front page run by his favourite tabloid on the morning after the Conservatives unexpectedly won the 1992 election.
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Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.