Erstwhile News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks faced a grueling five hours of questioning Friday at the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics. The session focused largely on the relationship between politicians and the press and, as expected, it was confirmed that Brooks has had close dealings with senior British politicians. Those include current Prime Minister David Cameron, who, Brooks said, used to sign his text messages to her “DC” or “LOL” – which he thought meant “lots of love” until she corrected him that it meant “laugh out loud.” She did however refute the idea that Cameron at one time called her as many as 12 times a day. “That’s preposterous,” she said. Cameron did contact her regarding the phone-hacking scandal in 2010 she said, amid news reports of a bevy of civil suits against the ultimately-shuttered News Of The World. She maintained the conversations were general.
Brooks also said she spoke frequently with Rupert Murdoch – “sometimes every day” — when she was one of his senior executives. It’s been well-documented that Murdoch and Brooks were very tight, but she stopped short of confirming that the pair used to swim together during the News Corp chief’s visits to London as was put to her by inquiry counsel Robert Jay. “You need better sources,” she told Jay to laughter in the hearing room.
Brooks said that when she resigned from News International she received a number of indirect messages of support from Conservative politicians as well as from Downing Street, the Home Office and the Foreign Office. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair also sent a message of support. Jay asked if politicians wanted to get close to Murdoch to “advance their interests” and she countered that they wanted to “put their cases to him,” but she denied that they wanted to get close to her as a conduit to Murdoch. “I was the editor of a very large-circulation newspaper with an exceptional percentage of floating voters and I believe politicians wanted to get access to the editor of The Sun as much as possible. But I don’t think people ever thought to get to Mr Murdoch they had to go through me,” she said. (Brooks was editor of The Sun from 2003-2009.) She also added, “I have never compromised my position as a journalist by having a friendly relationship with a politician and never known a politician to comprise their position.” Regarding News Corp’s ultimately aborted bid for BSkyB, Brooks said she had “an informal role” in lobbying politicians once an anti-Sky bid alliance had been formed by other media outfits. She also denied ever having any inappropriate contact with the police. Brooks was arrested in March on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in relation to the phone-hacking investigations. Last year, she was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and on suspicion of making corrupt payments to public officials. She is on bail.