Newspaperising the World
The scandals that have engulfed News International over the past year have given us many memorable moments, but Rupert and James Murdoch’s appearance before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons last July is first among them. While James cut a predictably bitter figure, his octogenarian father could hardly have seemed less like his ruthless public persona. The Dirty Digger had become the Wizard of Oz: an old huckster, accustomed to menacing the world from behind a corporate curtain, his frailty suddenly apparent. Assailed by a protester with a foam pie, Rupert had to be protected by his much younger wife. Interrupting James’s own strangulated apology with a paternal squeeze of the arm, he wanted one statement on the record from the outset. ‘This,’ he proclaimed, ‘is the most humble day of my life.’
Vol. 34 No. 14 · 19 July 2012
From Rufus MacKenzie
Sadakat Kadri calls Camillagate and Squidgygate ‘tap-and-tell stories’ (LRB, 5 July). But the recordings the Sun used as the basis for the Squidgygate story were not acquired by phone tapping. The conversation between James Gilbey and Princess Diana was picked up by a 70-year-old amateur radio enthusiast called Cyril Reenan and sold to the Sun. It was also recorded by another Oxfordshire-based hobbyist, Jane Norgrove, who offered her tape to the Sun but backed out when it came to taking money for it. Neither of the hams had hacked a phoneline. Gilbey and Diana talked on New Year’s Eve 1989, not on 4 January 1990, which is when Reenan made his recording. Analysis of the tapes showed that the recording had originally been made via a wire tap, and doctored to sound as if it had been picked up over the airwaves, then rebroadcast – by whom is anyone’s guess. At the inquest into Diana’s death, her former bodyguard Ken Wharfe accused GCHQ, though official reports issued under the Major government had cleared British intelligence of any responsibility. These reports were criticised by one MP as little more than ‘old buffers saying that in their opinion the security services act with integrity’.