Damning Emails Put Murdochs, UK Government Back in Headlines
(LONDON) -- After simmering on the backburner for months, the Murdoch scandal is back on the front pages of London’s newspapers on Wednesday with damning revelations that are igniting a new crisis for British Prime Minister David Cameron and his government.
More than 170 pages of James Murdoch’s emails have been released. They show that senior staff in the office of Britain’s Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt’s were repeatedly giving confidential information to Murdoch’s lobbyist during critical negotiations over News Corps’ $13 billion efforts to take over BSkyB, Britain’s powerful and highly profitable satellite broadcaster.
Publicly, Hunt had insisted that he was acting independently and impartially, but the emails suggest he was secretly acting in the interest of the Murdochs.
On Wednesday, one of Hunt’s senior advisors resigned. Now, there are widespread calls for Hunt’s resignation. Hunt has dismissed those calls, telling parliament, “The idea that I was backing this bid is laughable.”
One email quotes Hunt referring to Murdoch’s efforts to push through the takeover, saying “we’d get there in the end,” and adding he “shared” News Corporation’s objective.
But the smoking gun is in an email sent by Murdoch’s lobbyist the day before Hunt was to give a key speech in parliament about the takeover.
The lobbyist wrote to James Murdoch: "Managed to get some infos [sic] on the plans for tomorrow (although absolutely illegal…!)”
The email goes on to give accurate information about what the minister would be saying a day later -- a serious breach of parliamentary privilege in Britain and explicit proof that the Murdochs were working inside the Cameron government.
That lead to screaming headlines in Wednesday morning’s London papers.
In parliament Wednesday, Opposition Leader Ed Miliband pounced on the revelations, saying a “shadow of sleaze” hangs over the Cameron government.
Not far from Westminster, James Murdoch’s father, Rupert, the scion of News Corp, began his first day of testimony at Britain’s media ethics inquiry. The 81-year-old was sharp, focused and calm under examination. He did get a little testy when pushed by what the inquiry counsel called subtle “sinister inferences” about his relationship with senior Conservative politicians in Britain.
“I’m afraid I don’t have much subtlety in me,” Murdoch responded.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio