News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch tells Leveson he 'never asked a prime minister for anything'

Thursday 26 April 2012 11.09
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News Corp Chief Rupert Murdoch said he had meetings with several British leaders
News Corp Chief Rupert Murdoch said he had meetings with several British leaders
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has defended his conduct during News Corporation's takeover bid for BSkyB
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has defended his conduct during News Corporation's takeover bid for BSkyB

News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch has sought to play down his influence on British politics at the Leveson Inquiry, saying he had "never asked a prime minister for anything".

His testimony under oath in London came a day after claims emerged during evidence from his son James that a minister leaked details to Murdoch's News Corp about a bid for control of BSkyB.

The 81-year-old told British politicians last year that he had meetings with a string of British leaders, including current premier David Cameron.

However, this morning Mr Murdoch said he wanted to "put some myths to bed."

"I've never asked a prime minister for anything," Mr Murdoch told the judge-led inquiry, as he discussed ties going back as far as Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s.

Mr Murdoch also rejected "untrue" rumours that he was unhappy with Mr Cameron for ordering the inquiry following the phone-hacking scandal that closed down his News of the World newspaper in July last year.

Giving evidence, Mr Murdoch said he welcomed the inquiry: "I think the need is fairly obvious, there have been some abuses shown.

"I would say there have been many other abuses but we can all go into that in time. 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."

He was asked about his relationships with several prime ministers, including Mrs Thatcher, whom The Sun supported in the election of 1979.

Mr Murdoch met her for lunch at Chequers on 4 January 1981, during which he discussed his plans to buy The Times and The Sunday Times.

But again he said he did not ask her for any favours and she did not offer him any.

Mr Murdoch rejected suggestions that he was a "Sun King" figure who used his charisma to exert his authority over his worldwide media empire.

He also denied claims that he used his titles to promote his business interests.

Mr Murdoch said: "I take a particularly strong pride in the fact that we have never pushed our commercial interests in our newspapers."

He said he never gave instructions to editors.

Hunt defends contact with News Corp

Elsewhere, British Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has defended his conduct during News Corporation's takeover bid for BSkyB.

Mr Hunt is battling for his political life amid demands for his resignation over claims that he was a "cheerleader" for Mr Murdoch's company.

In a hastily-arranged statement to the House of Commons, Mr Hunt told MPs that he had handled the bid with "scrupulous fairness" and he was not influenced in any way by contacts with News Corp.

Prime Minister David Cameron met Mr Hunt in private after yesterday's release of a dossier of emails detailing links between his office and News Corp executives.

Mr Cameron told the Commons that the Culture Secretary had "my full support for the excellent job that he does."

But the row claimed its first scalp, as special adviser Adam Smith quit, admitting his contact with News Corp "went too far".

Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has called for Mr Hunt's resignation, said the affair has left "a shadow of sleaze" over the Government.

A 163-page dossier released by the Leveson Inquiry into media standards yesterday revealed scores of emails from News Corp executive Frederic Michel detailing his contacts with Mr Hunt's office during the bid process.

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