Rupert Murdoch’s greatest frenemy, Sir Harold Evans, has finally spoken up about the hacking scandal. In a new preface just added to his much admired memoir “Good Times, Bad Times,” (available on Amazon and Kindle) Evans—whom Murdoch fired in 1981 as editor of London’s Sunday Times—gives a scathing take on Murdoch, son James, and their testimony in front of Parliament.
“Murdoch was a good witness, more direct than his son James who sported a buzz cut unnervingly reminiscent of Nixon’s chief of staff Bob Haldeman….Murdoch senior’s bluntness had the effect of rendering James’s testimony inconsequential.” He suggests that Murdoch’s various mistakes during the Parliamentary testimony, and that his early appearance of a doddering old man was interpreted by some as his version of “Uncle Junior” from The Sopranos.
Nevertheless, Evans isn’t too surprised by the deterioration of British journalism and Murdoch’s reign of terror after Evans was ousted in 1981. At the time he was the 12th editor of the Times in 200 years. There have been 18 more in the last 30 years.
“In the decade that followed my year at the Times, the inside rot was matched only by the menace that came to represent the civil discourse and the whole political establishment. Prime Ministers, Tory and Labour alike, were so scared of blackmail by headline they gave him whatever he [Murdoch] asked.”
Evan’s decimation of Murdoch is thorough, recounting all his moves, good or bad through the 1990s and up to today. He recalls Murdoch’s failed efforts to buy Warner Bros., his actual purchase and sale of the Chicago Sun Times, his failures with TV Guide, Premiere and New York magazine (not to mention the now moribund Village Voice), and his “coming to terms” with Ted Kennedy. He calls Murdoch the “Houdini of agreements.”
Evans observes: “He makes solemn promises, then breaks them when it suits him. He pledges loyalty to people, then double-crosses them. He commits a wrong, but then disguises his motives in a smoke trail of disinformation.”
Summing up his experiences with Murdoch, Evans concludes: “He lies with consummate ease and conviction, but he is also remarkably prescient about how politicians will swallow the most gigantic fiction with barely a gulp.”