Former Monty Python John Cleese has expressed his disappointment in the accuracy standards of the British Press and at not being among the News of the World’s estimated 5,700-strong list of phone-hack targets.
Interviewed by Mark Lawson for Radio 4’s Front Row, Cleese was asked if he had been told that his phone may have been hacked. “No, but I live in hopeful expectation because I would love to get money out of that bunch of bastards.”
Talking in general about the press, Cleese said: “I expect the fact that the press are going to get things wrong, what’s disappointed me so much about the British press…20 or 30 years ago they tried to get it right and they were slightly embarrassed if they didn’t…Now it’s my experience they are not even interested in getting it right.
“They get it legalled, they run it past the solicitors. Is it libellous? No. Print it.
“I wish they would get down to the fundamentals with this inquiry at the moment. They want to be trying to get it right.”
Cleese, who is currently touring a stand-up show called the Alimony Tour based partly on his failed marriage to Alice Faye Eichelberger, said: “I think the most disappointing thing about England in my lifetime has been the deterioration of the newspapers.”
In 2003 the High Court awarded Cleese £13,500 in libel damages after a piece in the Evening Standard headlined: “So, has John Cleese lost his funny bone? How the legendary comedian faces humiliation after his latest TV flop”.
Making the settlement, Mr Justice Eady criticised the Evening Standard for taking three months to publish an apology which he said was insufficiently prominent.