Rupert Murdoch: Sun King or engaging innocent abroad?

Apr 26, 2012

What the commentators made of the media mogul's first day of evidence at Leveson

AS MEDIA mogul Rupert Murdoch prepares for a second day of evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into media standards, the commentators have been lining up to analyse his performance in the witness box yesterday.

The 81-year-old said he had "never asked a Prime Minister for anything" and denied ever offering political leaders the endorsement of his newspapers in return for favours. Commentators were struck by his humble demeanour, quite at odds with his formidable reputation. Not all of them were convinced...

Peter Oborne in The Daily Telegraph: "Rupert Murdoch presented an impression of almost otherworldly innocence in Court 73 of the Royal Courts of Justice: harmless, cuddly, a bit forgetful for sure, but nevertheless a man of definite integrity... [but] it was easy to forget one important truth. The newspapers Mr Murdoch owns are under investigation for a number of crimes that include bribery, perversion of the course of justice, destruction of evidence, interception of emails, phone hacking and perjury.

Editorial in The Times: "The session was humanising. Instead of a caricature, Mr Murdoch emerged as someone with broad experience, a ready wit, a commitment to newspapers and readers, and a becoming humility."

Michael White in The Guardian: "The media mogul repeatedly insisted that he enjoys little political influence, let alone charismatic authority over prime ministers or underlings... Sun King? He was trying to sound more like Burger King or a benign but lofty emperor summoned to a remote island province to arbitrate a dispute between local tribal leaders."

Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail: "He could have been a character in a Pinter play. He may have taken a while to respond to some questions from the inquiry's leading counsel, Robert Jay, QC, but that was because Citizen Rupe's mental cogs and spools were swivelling, analysing dangers from every aspect, computing the ramifications of each word about to be glurped from his molten core."

Harold Evans, who disputed Murdoch's account of his dismissal as editor of The Times, in The Guardian: "Murdoch's performance before Leveson and his myth about me suggests that he might do well on the road as the man with the most convenient memory in the world."

John F Burns in the New York Times: "Murdoch wrapped himself in an entirely different persona: engagingly modest, self-deprecating, charming and funny, a balding, bespectacled Mr Magoo lookalike. He presented himself as bemused by the very notion that he wielded awesome political influence, much less that he ever used it to advance his commercial interests or even his distinctive brand of conservative, free-market, anti-elitist philosophy."

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