Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Murdoch Misses Being Pied, But Cameron Ties Tighten, Police Bribes "Obvious"

Clearly, the British get to have so much more fun than Americans do, as News Corporation mogul Rupert Murdoch narrowly missed being pied by a merry prankster, and further revelations tied Prime Minister David Cameron ever closer to disgraced and now-defunct News of the World. Meanwhile, a rowdy crowd gathered outside hearing site Portcullis House, singing loud choruses of rock band Queen's Another One Bites the Dust.

England was jolly as ever as another day came and went in the News Corp phone hacking scandal. All that, and universal Public Health.

Rupert Murdoch and his son James were being grilled by lawmakers in a small meeting room when British comedian Johnnie Marbles tweeted his Twitter warning, "it is a far better thing i do now than i have ever done before #splat."

Marbles approached Murdoch and tried to pie him in the face, but Murdoch's nimble wife Wendi sprang from behind her husband and clocked the would-be avenger. Most of the shaving cream missed the mogul. Bobbies hustled Marbles away, who looked like he'd gotten the worst of the splatter himself.

When the lawmakers' questioning resumed, Conservative Member Louise Mensch asked Murdoch whether he had ever considered resigning.

"No," Murdoch replied. "Because I feel that people that I trusted let me down, I think that they behaved disgracefully," and added, "Frankly, I am the best person to clean this up." It wasn't immediately clear whether he meant News Corp, or the shaving cream on his sleeve.

Murdochs Rupert and James naturally claimed they knew nothing of the phone hacking and police bribery scandals that have rocked Jolly Olde.

"These actions do not live up to the standards that our company aspires to everywhere around the world," James Murdoch told lawmakers, in an astonishing reference to the company that owned Fox News in the United States and the News of the World and the Sun tabloids in England.

 "I employ 53,000 people around the world who are proud, ethical, distinguished people," Rupert Murdoch said under oath, apparently omitting any number of U.S. Republican politicians, American Tea Party zealots, and talking heads.

Whether British Prime Minister David Cameron might be considered one of those 53,000 proud, ethical, et cetera, et ceteras was becoming a bigger question for Her Majesty's subjects, as new information revealed closer ties between the PM and Murdoch's empire. Turns out Neil Wallis, the former deputy editor at News of the World who'd gotten himself arrested for the phone hacking scandal last week, worked as an advisor to Cameron's Conservative Party in the run-up to the general election. Wallis joined former Cameron press secretary Andy Coulson and Cameron pal Rebekah Brooks as News of the World or News Corp jailbirds with ties to Cameron.

Wallis apparently spent a week doing some pro bono helping out of the Conservatives. Very thrifty. A party spokesperson said, "it has been drawn to our attention that he may have provided Andy Coulson with some informal advice on a voluntary basis before the election. We are currently finding out the exact nature of the advice."  Maybe just pointing out to Andy which fork to use with the fish.

Meanwhile, ex-Scotland Yard boss Sir Paul Stephenson and his sidekick John Yates - who'd resigned Sunday and Monday, respectively - were telling lawmakers Cameron chief of staff Ed Llewellyn had been keen on shielding the PM from information about the scandal.

And while the cops - sorry, ex-cops - were busy telling tales out of school, Lord Macdonald, the very upstanding former head of the Crown Prosecution Service, was telling the home affairs select committee that he'd been shocked by what he'd discovered last month when News Corp lawyers asked him to take a gander at some News of the World emails and tell them what he thought.

Lord Macdonald said it took him only "three to five minutes" to find "blindingly obvious" evidence of bribes to police officials.

"The material I saw was so blindingly obvious that trying to argue that it should not be given to the police would have been a hard task," the ex-prosecutor-in-chief told the committee. "It was evidence of serious criminal offenses."

The ten or so emails Lord Macdonald handed over to Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Cressida Dick formed the basis for Operation Elveden, the ongoing police bribery probe.

All of which leaves the Yanks over in the Colonies pining to get in on the fun. At the moment, certain analysts were still saying News Corp wasn't going to get its FCC licenses pulled.

"If alleged bribery and phone tapping are confined to the U.K., we believe the likelihood of U.S. broadcast licenses being revoked or not renewed is very low," analysts Rebecca Arbrogast and David Kaut of Stifel Nicolaus, an investment firm, soothed clients.

Unfortunately for News Corp, that was before even a single rock had been turned over, and even a single slimy, crawly, disgusting multi-legged abomination had been revealed. "It would be a grave problem if the company is found in the United States to have committed a massive coverup of misconduct or questionable links with law enforcement that is emerging in the U.K.," Arbrogast and Kaut advised.

You're kidding right? Murdoch just about invented the Tea Party.

Crank up Queen. "And another one bites the dust..." 

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