MEDIA MISSTEPS

Rupert's Got Friends in High Places

Earlier this week The Guardian reported that three of Rupert Murdoch's British newspapers paid more than £1 million to settle court cases that alleged his journalists hired private investigators who illegally hacked into the cell phone messages of "numerous public figures," including Gwyneth Paltrow, Elle MacPherson, the deputy prime minister, and even aides to the royal family. But according to one veteran British tabloid journalist, the wiretapping scandal is nothing new. Wensley Clarkson writes in The Guardian on Saturday that he’s “been involved in my fair share of illicit snooping in the past,” adding that reporters in the “mad years” of the '80s and '90s frequently paid sources for compromising surveillance material of various public officials. The pressure to “make the story work at whatever the cost” drove tabloids to rely on private investigators to do their illegal dirty work. Murdoch has maintained that he knew nothing about payments to the investigators. "If that had happened I would know about it," he told Bloomberg News. But Clarkson writes that “many billionaire business people use the very same dodgy characters to check out their business rivals and other individuals they are interested in.” But the controversy has larger connotations for Rupert Murdoch’s stake in Europe. According to The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee, the European Union “is the one regulatory power stronger than [Murdoch’s] ability to twist the arms of national politicians.” But Murdoch still exerts a considerable amount of control over British officials: “All Tory and Labour leaders canoodle with the Murdoch apparat with a social desperation that demeans them and their office,” she writes.