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UK: Former PM Brown takes aim at Murdoch
Gordon Brown has disputed several previous comments from media tycoon Rupert Murdoch at the Leveson inquiry into media ethics in Britain, including the origin of a report revealing Brown's son had cystic fibrosis.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that Rupert Murdoch had misled the Leveson inquiry into press ethics on Monday, disagreeing with a number of claims made by the media tycoon.
Murdoch had told the inquiry under oath that Brown had called him and threatened war against his News International company after its flagship paper supported Conservative rival David Cameron ahead of 2010 elections.
"This conversation never took place. I am shocked and surprised that it should be suggested," Brown told the inquiry. "This call did not happen, the threat was not made."
Brown also submitted several statements from his aides, including special adviser Stewart Wood, supporting his side of the story.
Murdoch had told the inquiry in April that Brown had issued the threat in response to the popular Sun tabloid paper's decision to support the Conservatives had prompted the alleged angry call. Asked why he thought a serving prime minister would make such a threat, Murdoch had said "I don't think he was in a very balanced state of mind."
The former Labour prime minister, who lost the first general election in which he competed, also said it was "ridiculous" to suggest Murdoch's British News International media outlet exerted undue influence on his government.
"The idea that I was influenced in what I did by Mr Murdoch's views is faintly ridiculous," Brown said, laughing, and added that Murdoch would have wanted Britain to leave the EU and "probably would have had us at war with France and Germany."
Brown also contested News International's version of events as to how a story was published revealing that his then four-month-old son had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. The editor of the Sun at the time, Rebekah Brooks, had said Brown's wife gave her consent for the story to be published.
"I have never sought to bring my children into the public domain," Brown said. "I find it sad that even now in 2012 members of the News International staff are coming to this inquiry and maintaining this fiction."
He said the hospital in his hometown of Fife in Scotland had since apologized, saying it believed the information might have been leaked by a member of staff.
The lengthy Leveson inquiry into media ethics and practices was sparked by evidence of illegal phone-hacking by the British News International arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp company. Listening in on a teenage murder victim's cell phone mailbox was among the revelations that most damaged the company, and led to the demise of the popular News of the World weekly paper.
msh/mz (AFP, Reuters)
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