Murdoch: 'Leveson could end up helping future Jimmy Saviles'
Media mogul also rounds on 'scumbag' celebrities and castigates the BBC ahead of crucial AGM
RUPERT MURDOCH has been busy on Twitter this weekend, lobbing hand grenades in the direction of his enemies, including the BBC and those calling for tighter press regulation. In a series of tweets, he appeared to brand privacy campaigners like Charlotte Church and Hugh Grant as "scumbags", suggested that the results of the Leveson Inquiry could end up protecting people like Jimmy Savile and hinted that the BBC had more skeletons in its closet.
The media mogul got the ball rolling on Friday after it was reported that Church and Grant, two of the star witnesses at the Leveson inquiry, and former Crimewatch presenter Jacqui Hames, had met the Prime Minister at the Conservative Party conference to discuss their concerns about press regulation and the findings of the Leveson Inquiry.
Murdoch tweeted: "Told UK's Cameron receiving scumbag celebrities pushing for even more privacy laws. Trust the toffs! Transparency under attack. Bad."
The 81-year-old was swiftly taken to task by other Twitter users and later apologised for his language and insisted that he was not specifically referring to Church and Hames. However, both women sent messages to Murdoch demanding that he withdraw the comment.
"His tweet was a revelation of the ruthless and unrepentant Murdoch, the man who spent 30 years either excusing News of the World excesses or simply ignoring them," wrote Roy Greenslade in The Guardian.
Murdoch's next trick was to link the Leveson Inquiry to the Jimmy Savile scandal. In reply to another message on Twitter, he insinuated that new privacy laws would aid people like the late BBC presenter, now accused of being a predatory sex offender.
"Likes of Saville [sic] further protected if we don't fight Cameron, dodgy celebrities in UK. Could not happen in US," Murdoch wrote.
Again Twitter reacted angrily, with many pointing out that the Murdoch papers had failed to expose Savile during his lifetime. Defenders of the Murdoch press countered by saying that Savile had used libel law to prevent stories coming out.
By now the rumpus was even being noticed in America. New York Times columnist Bill Keller got in on the act and wrote: "Murdoch's tweet does prompt a subsidiary question: How did Britain’s scandal-hungry tabloids, with or without the illegal tools of privacy-invasion, miss the Savile story for all those years?"
Others just thought Murcoch’s comment was vulgar and ill-informed. "Attempting to benefit from the awfulness of the Savile story isn't just incredibly tasteless, his nonsense logic puts Murdoch on a par with former News of the World hack Paul McMullen who infamously told the Leveson Inquiry that 'privacy is for paedos'," pointed out The Media Blog.
Murdoch’s next salvo, tweeted last night, was: "Saville [sic] - BBC story long way to run. BBC far the biggest, most powerful organisation in UK.”
He knows all about media giants and long-running stories, of course. Tomorrow, he attends News Corp’s AGM in Hollywood where a growing number of shareholders are set to back a motion calling for an end to Murdoch's twin role as chairman and chief executive of the company, and for an independent chairman to be brought in. There will also be calls to remove Murdoch's sons Lachlan and James from the board.