London Mayor Boris Johnson said Wednesday he had invited Rupert Murdoch to watch the Olympic Games, despite the controversy that the media baron faces over Britain’s phone-hacking scandal.
News Corporation boss Murdoch, 81, has been at the centre of a political storm in Britain over the past year following the eruption of the scandal at his now-defunct News of the World newspaper.
Johnson defended his decision to invite the Australian-born tycoon and his wife Wendi Deng to watch the Olympic swimming finals at the Aquatics Centre on Friday.
The Conservative mayor is openly trying to capitalise on the Games by promoting London to leading business figures in a bid to encourage investment and growth.
“I’ve invited loads of people and over the course of the last few days, we’ve had all sorts of big investors in London,” he said.
“There’s a sort of demonisation of Rupert Murdoch who, as far as I understand it, is not a proscribed character, he’s not a convicted criminal. He’s not even under any criminal investigation.
“He has done more to sponsor sport in London and indeed in the country than almost anybody else I can think of.
“We’ve just won the Tour de France thanks to Team Sky (sponsored by Murdoch’s BSkyB satellite broadcaster) and it’s very important that he keeps that sponsorship up and he continues to support it.”
Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins followed it up by winning the men’s individual time trial gold medal on Wednesday.
A British inquiry into press ethics, which has now retired to consider its recommendations, grilled Murdoch and senior politicians including three prime ministers over their links to the media baron and his papers.
Two former Murdoch executives — Rebekah Brooks, a close friend of Prime Minister David Cameron, and Andy Coulson, the Conservative premier’s ex-media chief — have been charged with offences relating to phone hacking at the News of the World.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported Wednesday that Johnson is seeking Murdoch’s support for a possible tilt at the Conservative party leadership, which would capitalise on the mayor’s Olympics profile boost.
[Rupert Murdoch photo via Shutterstock]