Former UK PM Blair offered to advise Murdoch over phone-hacking

by Reuters
Wednesday, 19 February 2014 13:07 GMT

(Adds email details, attempt to seek comment from Blair)

By Michael Holden and Kate Holton

LONDON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair offered to act as an unofficial adviser to Rupert Murdoch during his media empire's phone-hacking scandal, suggesting the firm follow steps he took to address Iraq War anger, a London court heard on Wednesday.

Rebekah Brooks, the ex-boss of Murdoch's British newspapers, wrote an email to Murdoch's son James detailing advice Blair had given her during an hour-long phone call in July 2011 at the height of a furore over phone-hacking allegations at the media moguls' News of the World tabloid.

"He (Blair) is available to you, KRM and me as an unofficial adviser but needs to be between us," said the email from Brooks to James Murdoch who at the time ran News Corp. operations in Britain.

A spokesman for Blair, who is now a Middle East peace envoy, did not immediately answer telephone calls from Reuters seeking a response.

Blair also suggested they form an independent unit with outside lawyers to investigate Brooks and others before producing a "Hutton style" report, a reference to an inquiry headed by a judge which cleared Blair's government of misleading the public over the reasons it gave for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The email demonstrates just how close Brooks and Rupert Murdoch were to Britain's elite, a relationship critics said allowed him to use his powerful stable of British newspapers to influence politicians for the benefit of his business interests.

In the email, Brooks said Blair had suggested the company appoint an internal unit which would include "a great and good type" and "proper fact checkers".

"Get them to investigate me and others and publish a hutton style report," she wrote in the email. "Publish part one of the report at same time as the police closes its inquiry and clear you and accept shortcomings and new solutions and process."

"It will pass. Tough up."

The contents of the email were read to the jury at London's Old Bailey court where Brooks and six others are on trial over phone-hacking and other offences which she denies.

Brooks quit the job a few days after the email. (Reporting by Michael Holden and Kate Holton; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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