When Murdoch, ex-editor `almost came to fisticuffs`
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Last Updated: Friday, May 18, 2012, 18:31
  
Harold Evans, the legendary former editor of The Sunday Times, that on one occasion when they were driving to the latter's home for dinner, they "almost came to fisticuffs".

Recounting one of the longest running spats between a newspaper proprietor and an editor, Evans, who deposed before the Leveson Inquiry yesterday, described how he and Murdoch "almost came to fisticuffs" when Murdoch disagreed with a story published in The Timesby an anti-monetarist writer.

Evans, who is credited with setting high standards of journalism, was the editor of The Sunday Times from 1967 to 1981, and later editor of The Times when Murdoch acquired the Times newspapers.

Evans remained with The Times for a year after the takeover, and resigned over differences over editorial independence with Murdoch, who he yesterday called the "evil incarnate".

Murdoch, who appeared before the inquiry last month, had referred to Evans in unflattering terms, which provoked Evans to ridicule him and question the ability of his memory to remember facts. Evans recalled the acrimony between the two: "I had the effrontery to call the Nobel prize winner in economics, Mr James Tobin, and say, 'Write an article looking at the British economic condition'."

At the same time I called up the government's economic advisor Professor Haynes and said, 'After Mr Tobin, will you please reply to this?' He added: "That night I was taking Mr Rupert Murdoch to my home to meet my wife and have dinner. By the time we reached the dinner, it was almost fisticuffs".

Evans recalled that the conversation then went like this: Murdoch: "Why did you publish that stuff, Tobin?" Evans: "He's a Nobel prize winner, it's an interesting view on economics".

Murdoch: "Intellectual bullshit".

Evans: "I said, Just a minute, what do you know about economics? You said inflation would be down?"

Murdoch: "No, no, no, no get off".

Evans told the Leveson Inquiry: "I was disgusted, dismayed, and demoralised. I believed that The Times should be open to different opinions, and he believed that it should not be."

Evans described Murdoch's takeover of the Times newspapers in 1981 as a "seminal event" in Murdoch's path to far-reaching influence over British public life. His ouster from the newspaper, Evans said, was "the saddest moment of my life."

According to Evans, Murdoch did not uphold the pledges about editorial independence made to parliament before taking over the Times newspapers in 1981, and regretted that since then, "never once has parliament intervened".

He said: "It seems to me that there's this tremendously clear thread connection between what happened then, the consequences for excessive power, and the nature, the nature of the ownership of that power."

Murdoch and Evans clashed often over the Times' stance on former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's policies.

He said: "Mr Murdoch was constantly sending for my staff without telling me and telling them what the paper should be," and added that Murdoch told one journalist his leader columns were too long and insisted he should be "attacking the Russians more".

Evans said he eventually resigned because he was "absolutely disgusted, dismayed and demoralised by living in a vindictive, punitive atmosphere".

PTI


First Published: Friday, May 18, 2012, 18:31


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