Rupert Murdoch ordered his US editors to kill any negative stories about President Clinton and his wife Hilary, according to claims made in a US lawsuit.
Former New York Post gossip writer Jared Paul Stern, who was fired last year for allegedly trying to extort money from a wealthy California businessman Ron Burkle, on the promise of keeping negative stories about him out of the paper, is now planning to file a suit against News Corp of America. He is alleging illegal dismissal and claiming substantial damages.
An attached affidavit by another former member of the NY Post staff, Ian Spiegelman, who was fired three years ago, makes many allegations about how Murdoch runs his newspapers, especially the NY Post.
They discount Murdoch’s claim that he does not interfere with any of his papers’ operations – and that he would not do so if he gains control of the WSJ.
For example, Spiegelman claims that Murdoch ordered his editors at The Post to kill any negative stories about President Clinton and his wife Hillary.
He also said that Murdoch ordered a story about a Chinese diplomat and his visits to a New York strip club to be killed because it might have angered the Communist regime and endangered News Corp’s broadcasting privileges in China.
It also suggests that Murdoch cancelled the publication of a book, by Harper Collins, a News Corp subsidiary, by former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten that was critical of the Beijing regime.
At the same time, claims Spiegelman, Harper Collins was ordered to publish a flattering book about Communist Party boss Deng Xiaoping, written by his daughter Deng Rong. Although Spiegelman claims it is “stunningly awful” Deng Rong was given, he alleges, a $1 million advance.
Whether true or not, these allegations are overshadowed by suggestions that the staff of the New York Post behaved unprofessionally – accepting gifts from restaurant owners, and sexual favours at New York strip clubs. The New York Times, reporting the allegations, described them as “eye popping”
For example, according to Spiegelman, Page Six editor Richard Johnson accepted a $1,000 Christmas gift from a New York restaurateur, Nello Balan, whose restaurant was a favourite of the Page Six staff and often figured in the gossip column.
Also the editor of The Post, Col Allen, it is alleged, was a frequent non-paying visitor to Scores, the same strip club which the Chinese diplomat supposedly was often a guest. Allen, it was added, had received “sexual favours” in a private room.
And the response of The Post? To everyone’s surprise it ran the allegations as the lead item on Page Six – labeling them “lies and smears”.
The feeling is The Post wanted to get in first, before the allegations are possibly aired in court. To some of the charges, The Post did respond. It said that the acceptance by the Page Six editor of the $1,000 Xmas gift was a “grave mistake”. He was, the paper added, subsequently reprimanded and was told such indiscretions in future would not be acceptable.
As for the “sexual favours” he is alleged to have received at Scores, the Post’s editor-in-chief Col Allen insisted that his behaviour was always ” beyond reproach” – and the allegations were a tissue of lies.
Not unexpectedly, the rival NY Daily News had a field day exploiting the allegations. They also – to some surprise – made Page One news in the NY Times. It reported that Spiegelman had expected his affidavit to be kept secret until Stern’s case came to court.
The Times, at the same time, noted that the alleged tawdry details of life at the NY Post coincided with Rupert Murdoch’s $5,000 million bid for Dow Jones, the company that owns the WSJ.
And his assurances to members of the family that owns the paper that he stands for the same kind of august journalism that they do, and his journalists adhere to the highest standards.
As for the motives of Paul Stern, who it was alleged demanded $100,000 (plus a monthly stipend of $10,000) to keep unflattering stories about Ronald Burkle, the multi-millionaire owners of a chain of California stores, out of The Post, it’s been reported that after the authorities announced they were not planning to pursue the case against him he applied to The Post for his job back. When he got no reply he decided, his lawyer said, to go to court.