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January 17, 2022

Tony Blair describes ‘pressure’ from Rupert Murdoch

LONDON – Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair came under “political pressure” from media baron Rupert Murdoch during his time in office, he testified Monday at an independent inquiry set up in response to phone hacking and police bribery at Murdoch newspapers in Britain, CNN reports. Asked if he was “too cozy” with Murdoch, as current Prime Minister David Cameron says many in the British political establishment have been, Blair denied it. “Coziness is not quite the way I would put it. You were in a position where you were dealing with very powerful people,” he said, elaborating on the power of the British press, a theme he referred to frequently. “If they were against you, they were all-out against you.” But he said his government had not acted in Murdoch’s business interests. “Actually we decided more stuff against the Murdoch interest than in favor of it,” Blair said. “Pressure from him was more political than commercial.”He said he believed Murdoch himself made the decisions about who his British newspapers supported, not underlings.Blair insisted that it was “inevitable, essential and crucial” that top journalists and politicians have close relations, but added that he was “acutely aware” that the relationship could be “unhealthy” because of the power of the press. “The relationship is one in which you feel this pretty intense power,” he said as he began testifying at the Leveson Inquiry into British press ethics.Murdoch’s best-selling Sun tabloid famously switched allegiance from the Conservative party to Blair’s Labour party before the 1997 election that swept Blair into power, prompting the Sun headline: “It’s the Sun wot won it.”But Murdoch himself criticized that headline when he testified before the Leveson Inquiry last month, saying he did not believe it was either true or a wise claim to make. He insisted strongly that there had been no quid pro quo with Blair for the support of his papers in 1997. “I, in 10 years in his power there, never asked Tony Blair for any favors and never received any,” Murdoch said, pounding his hand on the table for emphasis. The Leveson Inquiry was established after British public anger at Murdoch’s News of the World about the hacking of voice messages of a missing teenage girl who turned out to have been murdered.

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