Agony aunt reads out heart-rending letter to tycoon from tabloid executive’s wife
Exaro today runs audio of the dramatic final minutes of the private meeting between media mogul Rupert Murdoch and senior staff on The Sun.
The meeting ended in high emotion, with at least one newspaper executive left sobbing. Murdoch felt the full force of the anger directed towards him by senior journalists on the most beloved newspaper in his media empire.
The executive’s wife had written a heart-rending letter to Murdoch about their plight after the publisher of The Sun, News International – since rebranded News UK – handed over details to police that identified a wide array of confidential sources, including public officials who had received payment for information.
Murdoch was taken aback by the strength of feeling about how his company had betrayed its journalists.
Mike Darcey, chief executive, quickly drew the meeting to a close.
The high drama came in a 45-minute meeting in which Murdoch indicated that he knew for decades that his newspaper journalists were bribing public officials. He banged the table repeatedly as he criticised the investigations into his company, railed against “incompetent” police, and complained about judges.
He said that the company had made a “mistake” by setting up the management and standards committee (MSC) to hand over to the police information that identified confidential sources. But, said Murdoch, it had not supplied the police with any documents “for months”.
Exaro has already published a full transcript of the extraordinary exchanges between Murdoch and his staff, redacting a few passages for legal reasons.
And we compiled an audio file of his key comments at the meeting, held in March at News UK’s headquarters in London.
Tom Watson, Labour MP, reacted yesterday by calling on senators in America to investigate the disclosures.
A spokeswoman for News UK told Exaro in a statement on Monday: “The Sun has been, and continues to be, supportive of its employees. Mr Murdoch has great empathy for those whose lives have been overturned, and continues to believe everyone charged deserves the right to be presumed innocent unless proven otherwise.
“It is simply false that Mr Murdoch knew that payments were made to police before News Corporation disclosed that to UK authorities. The MSC continues to co-operate with those authorities, under the supervision of the court.”
Exaro worked with Channel 4 News to break the story on Wednesday, and it has caused a storm, not only in the UK, but globally – in particular, in America and Australia.
Murdoch met nearly two dozen executives and reporters from The Sun who had been arrested by detectives over allegations of illegal news-gathering practices, including the paying of police officers and other public officials for information.
The journalists were accompanied by Deidre Sanders, The Sun’s agony aunt, who read out the emotional letter to Murdoch.
The transcript published by Exaro on Wednesday included the letter, although we decided against naming the executive or his wife because of concern among colleagues about the potential impact on them. They have, however, since been named in other coverage of the story.
The closing five minutes of the Murdoch meeting can be heard by clicking on the Exaro ‘Dear Deidre’ image above.
The transcript of this passage is re-printed below:Deidre Sanders: “I think there are a lot of partners who would have liked to have been here today because they have been so affected by this as well.”
(DS reads out letter from wife of Sun executive:)
Dear Mr Murdoch,
I thought I would take this opportunity to let you know what it’s like to be a wife of one of your arrested and bailed journalists. We all feel much the same way: betrayed. Just over a year ago, lying in bed asleep, the phone rang. It was the Met Police asking how to find my home, as they were coming to arrest my husband.
I handed him the phone. I felt sick. I’d recently come out of… hospital having had a heart operation. I knew I had to keep calm, but didn’t know what to do. My husband went to let the police in. There were 10 of them. I heard them charge him with conspiracy and corruption. It all felt surreal.
My husband, who loves News International, had been arrested for doing his job. The man who’d left family holidays mid-week because they needed him, who’d never been to a school nativity play or carol concert, who wouldn’t even park on a yellow line, was being arrested at the hands of the company whom he’d worked so hard for.
After he’d been led away the police went into our house, room by room, looking for evidence. By then I was comforting my two-year-old grand-daughter, who was a witness to her grand-dad being led away to prison. The police left with all our old video-tapes: ‘If you can’t prove what’s on it, we have to take it,’ and a small bag of expenses sheets and letters from the editor etc. Seven hours later, after most of the TV crews had gone, he came home shattered by the unending questions, as well as by the betrayal at the hands of the MSC.
Many other partners had their underwear drawers rifled, cereal boxes emptied in front of their children, neighbours blocked in by a seemingly endless supply of police cars. A disgusting show of bullying. None of our property has been returned.
So, time’s passed and we’ve been left in a horrible limbo. Our relationships are at breaking point, some of the kids who watched their dads dragged away are still in counselling.
DS (aside to RM): “And I have to say as well, I know that some are starting counselling now.”
(DS continues to read letter:)
And one 15-year-old girl has had her hair fall out in clumps because of the stress. Characters have changed. There have been suicide attempts. For what? A hideous political game: for what end? To save News International’s integrity, put way before the well-being of its employees. They deserve better, these are… not the debris. They’ve been on the firing line, literally for you, and have loved every minute. Those people will never come back, they’ve been lost forever.
There appears to be no end in sight, and while the master of this drama has been sent to America to do some fancy new job, he’s left behind a huge mess. A man who under oath at Leveson said, it’s the fundamental right of all journalists to protect their sources, was happily handing the Met Police all the Sun’s sources and contacts, along with payment details. Priceless.
He even sanctioned Powerscourt to brief the Press against us, using the phrase: ‘Drain the swamp.’
Only last week one of the journalists was told he was going to be charged. His daughters took days off work-
RM (interjects): “That was a lawyer who said, ‘Drain the swamp.’”
DS: “It’s Powerscourt, the PR company.”
RM: “They were briefed, yes.”
(DS continues to read letter:)
Only last week one of the journalists was going to be charged. His daughters took days off work and university to support their distraught mum, only to have the police change their mind. He is of course still on bail, and just waiting for the next episode.
I’m waiting for March… when my husband’s day is up again. Weeks of, ‘What shall we do?’ ifs, if he’s charged, what happens afterwards? Will he ever be allowed to leave News International to go elsewhere? So, we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. He’s a changed man. No longer do we have the same relationship. He is tortured, and as a consequence, so are we.
I’ve always admired you, and liked the fact that you had such a great family ethic. We’re the families who made the sacrifices that allowed our partners to give you the loyalty and respect you sought. The husbands, wives and children, not to mention parents and friends who are all affected by the work of the MSC, feel abandoned and isolated.
There are men at the very top of their game who fear for their future. Their reputation’s destroyed, and their freedom, possibly about to be taken away. Can you tell us what happens next?
[Name of letter writer redacted.]…
RM: “Thank you very much. That’s very moving… I’ll go and shove it down the throat of the company lawyers. That was the most ups-”
(Sun executive sobs.)
RM: “It’s a very, very moving letter. Alright?”
MD: “That probably brings us to an end, anyway, doesn’t it?”
RM: “Okay. Thank you very, very much, and I’m sorry it’s like this. Sorry.”