Rupert Murdoch appeared on Wednesday before an inquiry delving into the power he wields over politicians and police and how far it resulted in a culture where phones could be hacked by his journalists and rules routinely broken.
Following are key quotes from Murdoch’s testimony:
On meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron aboard his daughter, Elisabeth Murdoch’s, yacht in Santorini, Greece: “He was being flown by my son in law’s (Matthew Freud’s) plane on his way to holiday in Turkey and he stopped in Santorini and she says in fact that I met him on her boat ... Politicians go out of their way to impress people in the press and I don’t remember discussing any political things with him at all. There may have been some issues discussed, possibly, but it wasn’t a very long meeting and I don’t really remember the meeting.”
Asked if, on first meeting him, he thought Cameron was a light-weight: “No, not then.”
On the use of newspapers to gain political advantage in BSkyB bid: “I want to put it to bed once and for all ... That is a complete myth ... That I used the influence of The Sun or the supposed political power to get favorable treatment.”
“Politicians, let’s be clear, always seek the support of all newspapers and all media outlets and I think that is part of democracy.”
“It is only natural for politicians to reach out to editors and sometimes proprietors, if they are available, to explain what they are doing and hoping that it makes an impression. But I was only one of several.”
“I never let my commercial interests, whatever they are, enter into any consideration of elections.”
Asked if it was true he had once told Tony Blair ‘If our flirtation was ever consummated Tony, then I suspect we will end up making love like porcupines: very, very carefully:’ “I might have.”
“I don’t believe in using hacking, I don’t believe in using private detectives or whatever. I think that’s just a lazy way of reporters not doing their jobs.
“But I think that it is fair when people hold themselves up as iconic figures, or great actors, that they be looked at. And sometimes, to give an example of it in Mr Simon Cowell, I think a lot of these people are very big in the lives of ordinary people. Big television stars, film stars, and of course, that includes politicians.
“Forgetting the issue of privacy, I think people in public position with public responsibilities, and I would include press proprietors in that, I don’t think they are entitled to the same privacy as the ordinary man on the street. If we want to have a transparent society, transparent democracy, let’s have everything out there.”
On editorial style
“Some papers you can recognize as having very strong Conservative roots and some very strong Labour roots. You can’t say that of the Sun - I think perhaps we’re the only independent newspaper in the business.”
On exercising editorial control at The Sun as a traditional proprietor: “I’m a curious person, interested in great issues of the day, and I’m not good at holding my tongue.”
“I only remember talking to (former Sunday Times and Times editor) Mr Evans on policy once, when he came to me, shut the door behind him and said ‘Look, tell me what you want 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 instruction - was ‘Please be consistent, don’t change sides day-by-day.’ I don’t mean political sides but on issues.”
(Harold Evans is currently editor-at-large at Reuters)
“I never gave instructions to the editor of The Times or The Sunday Times ... Sometimes when I was available on a Saturday I would call and say ‘what’s the news today?’. It was idle curiosity perhaps. Other times I would ring on a Tuesday from New York when the Sunday Times would come in and I would say ‘that was a damn fine newspaper you had this week’. I probably wouldn’t have read the editorials.”
On Sun newspaper
“I think the Sun has never been a better paper than it is today. I couldn’t say the same of my competitors but we won’t go into that.”
On relationship with Margaret Thatcher
Asked whether he would ever have been “so undeft and cack-handed” as to ask a favor of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher directly: “I hope not. I’ve never asked a prime minister for anything.”
On discussions with Thatcher relating to his acquisition of Times newspapers: “I didn’t have the will to crush the unions. I might have had the desire, but that took several years.”
“The need (for this inquiry) is fairly obvious. There have been some abuses shown ... The state of the media in this country is of absolutely vital interest to all its citizens ... Frankly I welcome the opportunity because I wanted to put some myths to bed.”