New documents show that media magnate Rupert Murdoch had a direct line to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street. The British government, which had blocked the release of the documents for years, “backed down in a surprise change of heart the day after Mr Blair resigned last month.” The Independent reports:
Yesterday the Cabinet Office said there were six telephone discussions between Mr Blair and Mr Murdoch in 20 months, all at crucial moments of his premiership. The subject of their calls was not revealed.
In 2003, Mr Blair phoned the owner of The Times and The Sun on 11 and 13 March, and on 19 March, the day before Britain and the United States invaded Iraq. The war was strongly supported by Murdoch-owned newspapers around the world. The day after two of the calls, The Sun launched vitriolic attacks on the French President Jacques Chirac. The Government quoted him as saying he would “never” support military action against Saddam Hussein, a claim hotly disputed by France.
The diaries of Blair’s communications chief Alastair Campbell, reveal that Blair was afraid that the press would find out about Murdoch’s influence on him: “[Blair] said he didn’t fear [the press] coming at him about me, but about the relationship with Murdoch. … It was faintly obscene that we even had to worry what [he] thought.” Campbell’s deputy, Lance Price, called Murdoch “the 24th member of the [Blair] Cabinet.”
These revelations are especially troubling coupled with the news that Murdoch, who currently ranks first in the UK press and publishing world, may acquire the Wall Street Journal. He has consistently slanted coverage in his publications to benefit his political and business interests. For example, in 1997, he endorsed Tony Blair as prime minister and “gave him favorable coverage.” As the New York Times reported, this move ensured “that the new government would allow him to keep intact his British holdings.”
Murdoch infamously owns Fox News, but he also controls other right-wing publications such as the Weekly Standard and the New York Post. Wall Street Journal reporters are already saying that they find the thought of Murdoch’s takeover “devastating.”