Anorak News | Rubert Murcoh, The Chinese Diplomat And Fixing Page Six

Rubert Murcoh, The Chinese Diplomat And Fixing Page Six

by | 21st, May 2007

murdoch-deng.jpgDESPITE being able to afford the best PR in the world, billionaire Rupert Murdoch has a pretty poor image. But the last place you would expect to see negative press would be one of his own newspapers.

Yet, that’s just what happened last week, when the New York Post–a kind of New York version of the Sun–ran a piece alleging that Murdoch ordered his reporters to kill a story about a Chinese diplomat’s visit to a strip club because it could damage his business interests in China.

The same piece also alleged that Murdoch forced publishers at HarperCollins to drop former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten’s book that was critical of China. And that he ordered HarperCollins to publish a book by Deng Rong, the daughter of Communist Party boss Deng Xiaoping, and give her a whopping $1 million advance.

But no heads will roll at the Post. The paper was forced to print the allegations because of a lawsuit that may be brought against it by a former freelancer, Jared Paul Stern.

Stern was fired last year after a US billionaire claimed Stern was trying to shake him down for $220,000 in return for favorable coverage on the Post’s powerful gossip page, Page Six.

The billionaire, Ronald Burkle, is a close friend and frequent contributor to the Clintons. Burkle even released a secretly taped conversation with Stern and emails to back up his claims.

But federal prosecutors refused to bring a case against Stern. And the freelancer has turned his sights on his accusers, including Burkle, and the New York Post, among others.

In its search for evidence, Stern’s legal team turned to another former Post journalist Ian Spiegelman, who was fired by the Post a few years ago for allegedly making homophobic remarks. And it was Spiegelman’s testimony that formed the basis for the allegations against Murdoch.

But Speigelman had even more damning accusations against the Post’s editor Col Allan and Page Six editor Richard Johnson.

Under the breathless headlineLies & Smears Aimed At Post,” Page Six recounted the allegations against itself such as:

*[New York Post editor] Col Allan was [a] frequent visitor to [the] Manhattan strip club Scores, where women dance naked for money. Allan, however, was comped by the club, and did not have to pay to watch the women strip . . . He was also said to have received sexual favors from women provided by the club in a private room.

*Accepting freebies, graft and other favors was not only condoned by the company, but encouraged as a way to decrease the newspaper’s out-of-pocket expenses.

*”In Fall 2001, I was ordered to kill a Page Six story about a Chinese diplomat and a strip club that would have angered the Communist regime and endangered [News Corp. Chairman Rupert] Murdoch’s broadcasting privileges.”

*”Page Six was ordered to kill unflattering stories about Hillary and Bill Clinton on numerous occasions.”

The Post called the allegations a “tissue of lies”. Allan admitted to visiting Scores and then invoked the “I did not inhale” defense. The Post’s PR man, Howard Rubenstein, told archrival the New York Daily News: “He paid for everything, paid for admission…He told me, ‘Whatever I did was appropriate. There was no sexual contact.’ ”

Nevertheless, the Daily News delighted in every detail, calling the Page Six article a “bizarre and unprecedented confession” and “editorial suicide”.

The Post’s PR man, Howard Rubenstein, told the New York Times that The Post wanted to break its own story “so their denial would not be relegated to the last paragraph of a story in some other newspaper where all they would get to say is, ‘We didn’t do it.’

“They wanted to portray what they claim are false accusations — well, mostly false — and control the context in which they appeared.”

The Post’s decision to finger itself may have saved it from further embarassment. But how it will affect Murdoch’s multi-billion dollar bid for the Wall Street Journal is anyone’s guess. It’s not really the kind of PR you want, when you are trying to take control of one of America’s most prestigious and conservative newspapers.

Posted: 21st, May 2007 | In: Reviews Comment (1) | TrackBack | Permalink