During a media ethics inquiry on Wednesday, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch described David Cameron’s disabled son as “retarded” while trying to praise the British Prime Minister as a family man.
In the wake of a hacking scandal at News Corp.’s now-defunct News of the World, Lord Justice Brian Leveson asked Murdoch to testify under oath about his bid to take over British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC.
Only a day earlier, documents released by Murdoch’s son, James Murdoch, suggested that a Cameron ally had smoothed the way for News Corp. to take control of the lucrative satellite broadcaster.
Leveson inquiry lawyer Robert Jay asked the older Murdoch on Wednesday if he recalled first meeting Cameron.
“I first met him once, maybe even twice, at family picnics at weekends at my daughter’s house in the grounds of Blenheim Castle (Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire) where he came with his family,” Murdoch explained. “We were overrun with children, there were no politics.”
“But I was extremely impressed at the kindness and feeling he showed to the children, particularly to his retarded son,” the News Corp. chairman added. “And I came away talking about this — what a good family man.”
London Centre For Children With Cerebral Palsy Chief Executive Marc Crank told the Daily Mail that Murdoch’s choice of words were “unfortunate.”
“It’s an unfortunate turn of phrase. Using it is very much of a certain age and 81-year-olds do tend to use words that we wouldn’t use today,” Crank said. “We would hope that people now would be more enlightened that to use such negative terminology.”
Mark Gale, who serves as a campaigns and policy officer for learning disability charity Mencap, agreed that the word was “damaging.”
“From Mencap’s point of view, the use of the word is completely outdated and it is quite shocking that someone of Rupert Murdoch’s standing, who is supposed to be close to public views and the public opinion, would be so careless in his choice of language,” Gale explained. “We want people to be aware of how damaging this language is and move beyond the use of that word.”
Cameron’s son, Ivan, died at the age of six in 2009. He had suffered from severe epilepsy.
Watch the video below from Lord Justice Brian Leveson Media Ethics Inquiry, broadcast April 25, 2012.