Does Elizabeth Murdoch know how to make gnocchi? Because this was the week when it became blindingly obvious that whoever was scripting Rupert Murdoch’s moves—personally flying in to London to open a new Sun on Sunday to replace the toxic News of the World; tweeting a defense of his fallen favorite, Rebekah Brooks, when it emerged that in addition to presiding over a paper that paid hundreds of thousands of pounds in bribes to policemen she’d also been loaned a police horse to ride; stripping his son James of his power over News International, the subsidiary that runs the News Corp.’s British newspapers and packing him off to work with Moe Greene in Las Vegas (Surely that should be “with Chase Carey in New York”?—ed.)—the swelling soundtrack had to be by Nino Rota and Ennio Morricone.
We still have a long wait for the box set—and the next installment, Murdoch in America: Judgment Day, won’t be released until prosecutors at the Department of Justice decide whether the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which is designed to prevent the payment of bribes to foreign officials by US corporations in order to gain unfair advantage, applies to what Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers told the Leveson Inquiry was “the delivery of regular, frequent and sometimes significant sums of money to small numbers of public officials by journalists” in order to gain exclusive access to “salacious gossip” which the Sun, Murdoch’s flagship British tabloid, could then splash all over the front page. Which presumably helped the paper sell more copies than its less-wired competitors.
Akers’s clear, detailed and devastating testimony on Monday meant that the Murdoch organization’s brief counter-attack against Brian Leveson’s investigation into British press corruption, which culminated in Trevor Kavanagh, the Sun’s former political editor and hatchet-man, whining about a “witch hunt,” was now sleeping with the fishes. Indeed if you were looking for the moment when the phone hacking probe turned from scandal to soap opera you could hardly better Kavanagh’s complaint that Murdoch’s “journalists are being treated like members of an organized crime gang.” Just how far that fall from grace is measured was shown on Thursday, when John Yates, the former assistant police commissioner who resigned over the summer, and who in 2009 decided there was no reason to reopen the phone hacking investigation—and who refused to tell deputy prime minister John Prescott his phone had been hacked—was quizzed about his habit of sharing a relaxing glass—or bottle—of champagne, or a meal at the Ivy, with his good friends at News International.