Rupert Murdoch’s ally for more than half a century, Les Hinton, flew the coop late last night, another resignation to end a bruising 24 hours – as his flagship tabloid The Sun was dragged down into the phone hacking scandal.
Hinton resigned as chief executive of Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, following Rebekah Brooks out of the News Corp. door, and leaving Murdoch and son James even more exposed.
Losing two of his most loyal lieutenants in a day will be a bitter blow to Murdoch, who yesterday apologised to the family of Milly Dowler and today published a series of apologies in the national papers. Former Guardian editor Peter Preston likened Murdoch and Hinton to Laurel and Hardy, and it’s difficult to see how the scandal could’ve been handled worse had the pair been running the show.
Preston told BBC News 24 this morning:
“Everybody’s saying they didn’t know anything about it but it happened on their watch, and that’s why they’re resigning. Murdoch losing Hinton will be a bit like Laurel without Hardy… Over 52 years their relationship has lasted, he’s always been the good adviser, an extremely important person to the empire…
“If you take this as a lesson in public relations, I can’t think of anything, not including the Suez Crisis, that comes close to it… There’s denial, ‘he’s not going’, and then he goes, they’re always playing catch up…
“It’s not a question of bringing in a PR person, the big question is the decision making in the first place.”
On the reporting of the scandal, and the Guardian’s apology for an error in the Gordon Brown story, Preston added:
“Are people getting slightly carried away? It’s very important to get things right, everybody knows that at some stage or other something will go wrong, and the other thing is this happening against this background…
“It’s difficult not to get carried away; I hope the stories will be well researched and well sourced.”
Moving on to the Sun, and the Indy reports that Jude Law is suing the tabloid over the alleged hacking of his voicemails, at the time when Rebekah Brooks was editor:
News International (NI) confirmed the lawsuit by Law after being approached on Thursday by The Independent with evidence that the suit, filed at the High Court in London last month, made phone-hacking allegations against The Sun rather than the now-defunct News of the World.
The claim for breach of privacy and confidence is the first time that The Sun has been named in civil proceedings brought by public figures who were targeted by the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire…
The Sun last night issued a forceful denial of the claim by Law, describing it as a “deeply cynical and deliberately mischievous” attempt to draw the newspaper into the furore surrounding the alleged interception of voicemails by Mr Mulcaire and News International journalists.
If proven, the lawsuit by Law, whose former fiancée Sienna Miller last month won £100,000 damages and “sincere apologies” from the NOTW for the repeated hacking of her phone, would have been particularly embarrassing to Ms Brooks, who was in charge of The Sun at the time of the alleged voicemail eavesdropping…
In a statement, NI said:
“We deny completely a legal action by Jude Law against The Sun. We believe this is a deeply cynical and deliberately mischievous attempt to draw The Sun into the phone-hacking issue.
“The allegations made in this claim have been carefully investigated by our lawyers and the evidence shows that they have no foundation whatsoever.”
However, Law’s lawyer insists:
“Accusations of cynicism and mischief-making by News International are ridiculous. Their record speaks for itself.”