For the increasing numbers of believers in the notion of a Clinton-Murdoch alliance, which The Observer suggested a few months ago, today was a big day.
Rupert, famously dismissive of what he calls “gabfests” had agreed to join Time Warner’s Richard Parsons and Sony’s Howard Stringer on a panel moderated by Bill Clinton at his Clinton Global Initiative.
“When Murdoch’s executives start publishing diaries about working for Rupert in the Dubya years, my guess is you will see an entry, dated sometime in 2005 or 2006, about the shift in mood on the day he first murmurs that the neocons ‘have started to look like dying elephants.’”
Meanwhile, Murdoch’s London tabloids have fed the speculation that he has soured on Bush by giving buckets of ink to the President’s “bathroom break” note.
Murdoch’s appearance on the panel, then, was closely watched, though he gave no indication of feeling the scrutiny, slouching in the rightmost white armchair at the Sheraton ballroom, with Clinton to the audience’s left.
Clinton seemed to be taking a dig at Rupert when he asked — in the context of foreign aid, but with echoes of weapons of mass destruction — what a news organization should do “when you know you have a consistent misperception.”
“Rupert, would you like to start?” Clinton asked.
But the real sparring came between Murdoch and Parsons, on the subject of CNN International, which Parsons referred to in calling CNN “the best and best-positioned global news media company in the world.”
“I don’t watch CNN International, and I doubt that anyone else does,” Murdoch replied. The channel, he said, is “unwatchable…and it’s so anti-American.”
Bill came to Parsons’s defense: “I always watch CNN International overseas,” he said. “You make me feel like it’s like taking a shower with my shoes on here.”
So much for the sparring. After the panel, Clinton and Murdoch chatted in a corner, Clinton finally bringing a grin to Murdoch’s face. They then could be heard agreeing that agricultural subsidies in rich nations do great harm to the developing world.
Meanwhile, Murdoch fans, including a largely ignored Brad Pitt, waited patiently for a moment with the mogul.