News In Depth
'Unbalanced' Brown 'declared war'
Rupert Murdoch claimed that Gordon Brown rang him in an "unbalanced" state of mind and "declared war" on his media empire after The Sun switched support to the Conservatives.
The News Corporation chairman and chief executive told the Leveson Inquiry on Wednesday that successive British prime ministers wooed him to win his papers' backing, but insisted he never asked them for any favours.
At the start of a two-day appearance before the press standards inquiry, the billionaire recounted how his one-time "warm personal relationship" with Mr Brown broke down after The Sun stopped backing Labour.
Britain's top-selling newspaper announced it would support the Conservatives at the next general election on its front page on September 30 2009, the day after Mr Brown's speech to the Labour Party conference in Brighton.
Mr Murdoch told the Leveson Inquiry that the then-prime minister phoned him after this and asked him if he knew what The Sun was doing.
He said he told Mr Brown he was not warned about the exact timing of the paper's announcement and added: "I am sorry to tell you Gordon, we have come to the conclusion that we will support a change of government when and if there is an election."
The media tycoon went on: "He said, 'Well, your company has declared war on my government and we have no alternative but to make war on your company'.
"And I said, 'I'm sorry about that Gordon, thank you for calling', and end of subject."
Mr Murdoch said he did not know how the former prime minister might have "made war" on News Corp, adding: "I don't think he was in a very balanced state of mind."
But Mr Brown said that the "serious allegation" that he declared war on the media mogul's company was "wholly wrong", and called on Mr Murdoch to correct his evidence.
He said in a statement: "I did not phone Mr Murdoch or meet him, or write to him about his decision.
"The only phone call I had with Mr Murdoch in the last year of my time in office was a phone call specifically about Afghanistan and his newspaper's coverage of the war.
"This was in the second week of November after his newspaper, The Sun, printed a story in the second week of November about the death of a soldier and his mother's complaints.
"I hope Mr Murdoch will have the good grace to correct his account."
Mr Murdoch also told the inquiry that Mr Brown made a "totally outrageous" statement after the phone-hacking scandal broke last July, suggesting a 2006 Sun story about his son Fraser having cystic fibrosis had been obtained illegally.
The inquiry heard evidence about Mr Blair's trip to Hayman Island in Australia to address Mr Murdoch and his executives at News Corp's annual conference in July 1995, when he was leader of the opposition.
Mr Murdoch admitted that he may have commented to Mr Blair at the time: "If our flirtation is ever consummated, Tony, then I suspect we will end up making love like porcupines, very, very carefully."
He told the inquiry he saw Mr Blair two or three times a year, but denied his relationship had ever led to any favours from the prime minister.
"I want to say that I, in 10 years of his power, never asked Mr Blair for anything," he said.
"Nor indeed did I receive any favours. If you want to check that, I think you should call him."
Mr Murdoch was criticised for using the word "retarded" during evidence to describe Mr Cameron's son Ivan, who suffered from severe epilepsy and cerebral palsy and died in 2009.
Mark Gale, from learning disability charity Mencap, said: "It is quite shocking that someone of Rupert Murdoch's standing, who is supposed to be close to public views and the public opinion, would be so careless in his choice of language."
Mr Murdoch, who was watched in the hearing room by his wife Wendi Deng and son Lachlan, told the inquiry he wanted to use his evidence to "put some myths to bed".
He said rumours that he has not forgiven Mr Cameron for setting up the inquiry were untrue, and rejected suggestions that he is a "Sun King" figure who uses his charisma to exert his authority over his worldwide media empire.
The billionaire also denied claims that he used his newspapers to promote his commercial interests, adding: "I have never asked a prime minister for anything."
But he admitted: "It's only natural for politicians to reach out to editors, and sometimes proprietors if they are available, to explain what they are doing and hoping it makes an impression and it gets through."
He added: "If any politician wanted my opinions on major matters, they only had to read the editorials in The Sun."
The inquiry also heard that:
:: Mr Murdoch is "disappointed" that Times editor James Harding published a story that derived from a reporter hacking the emails of a detective to unmask him as the author of the anonymous NightJack blog.
:: He cannot recall discussing News Corp's bid to take over BSkyB with Mr Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne, Business Secretary Vince Cable, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt or Education Secretary Michael Gove.
:: Mr Murdoch did not involve himself in or ask about news-gathering techniques at The Sun or the News of the World.
:: News International registered internet domain names for the Sun on Sunday after the closure of the News of the World last July in order to "protect our intellectual property rights".
what do you think?
I was never a Brown fan when he was Premier because he was never suited for that roll, his forte was as chancellor, but if anyone believes Murdoch there's something wong with them, the man is trying to cause a diversion.
Dear Orange if you persist in the bad language ie Gordon Brown i will block you.
Whe Brown sold off our gold reserves at the bottom of the market the alarm bells should have been ringing loud and clear.
Paul Robert Terry
Murdoch suffers from a convenient memory. He can't remember meetings, but remembers a telephone conversation with Gordon Brown that seems not to have taken place. The attack on Brown is just a smoke-screen to divert us from the BSkyB deal with Hunt and the generally deplorable activities of News Corporation. If anyone needs psychiatric help, it's Murdoch.
Murdoch is a media tycoon and Brown is a politician. The only reasonable conclusion given this evidence is they thet are BOTH lying