Conrad Black Eviscerates Rupert Murdoch!
In a column published in the Financial Times Thursday, Black excoriates the Sun and News of the World owner for presenting himself as a “pillar of contemporary, enlightened populism in Britain and sensible conservatism in the U.S.,” while pushing forward business enterprises that pander to base instincts and sensationalism.
“Although his personality is generally quite agreeable, Mr. Murdoch has no loyalty to anyone or anything except his company,” writes Black, former owner of Telegraph Newspapers, a competitor of News International. “He has difficulty keeping friendships; rarely keeps his word for long; is an exploiter of the discomfort of others; and has betrayed every political leader who ever helped him in any country, except Ronald Reagan and perhaps Tony Blair.”
He continues: “All (Murdoch’s) instincts are down-market; he is not only a tabloid sensationalist; he is a malicious myth-maker, an assassin of the dignity of others and of respected institutions, all in the guise of anti-elitism … His notions of public entertainment and civic values are enshrined in the cartoon television series The Simpsons: all public officials are crooks and the public is an ignorant lumpenproletariat.”
Last month, Black, 66, was resentenced to 13 months in prison on fraud and obstruction of justice charges. In 2007, the British lord and former Hollinger International Inc. chair was sentenced to 78 months in prison after being found guilty of three counts of mail fraud and one count of obstruction of justice. He had served 29 months at a low-security prison complex in Coleman, Fla., before the U.S. Supreme Court threw out two of his initial convictions over a misuse of the controversial “honest services” law. He will return to jail on Sept. 6.
While his distaste for Murdoch’s business orientations are evident in the column, Black notes that he believes it is unlikely the News Corp. chair, his son, James, or Rupert Murdoch’s close adviser, Les Hinton, committed any crimes.
Arguably, Black saves his harshest criticism for Britain’s establishment, which, for decades, has allowed Murdoch’s media empire to tar and feather public figures, celebrities and professional athletes seemingly with immunity.
“It is, on this subject at last, a time for truth. For decades Britain’s establishment professed to despise Mr. Murdoch but appeased and grovelled to him, (“I thoroughly disapprove of Rupert, but I quite like him,” was the tedious refrain),” says Black.
“There must be a reckoning with decades of establishment cowardice towards someone whose nature has been well known throughout that time. The fault is the British establishment’s and it must not be seduced and intimidated, so profoundly and durably, again.”
Meanwhile Thursday, Murdoch and his son made an abrupt turnaround, saying they will in fact appear before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee next week to provide evidence related to the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.
In a letter to the committee Thursday, Murdoch had declined to appear, but said he would be prepared to give evidence at the judge-led public inquiry, for which a date has yet to be set.
His son, James, who is deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., told the committee in a separate letter that he would only be available to give evidence in August. But public pressure and comments by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg urging the father and son to appear seem to have changed their minds.
The Murdoch’s will join News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, who had already agreed to meet the committee, at the House of Commons on Tuesday when the trio is expected to be grilled by MPs over alleged phone- and data-hacking and payments to police that took place at News International publications.
Brooks was editor of News of the World from 2000 to 2003, during which time much of the hacking was alleged to have taken place, including the interception of voicemails on the cellphone belonging to murdered teenager Milly Dowler.
The change of heart comes just a day after Murdoch withdrew his much-publicized $14-billion takeover bid for British Sky Broadcasting. The deal had already lost the support of the House of Commons, which had intended to vote to demand News Corp. cease its pursuit of the digital satellite broadcaster.
Also Thursday, Scotland Yard announced it had made another arrest as part of its ongoing investigation into the alleged phone-hacking and police payments. Neil Wallis, 60, a former executive editor at News of the World, was reportedly taken into custody early Thursday. He is the ninth person to be arrested in the case."