At Arianna’s Big Book Bash, Moguls Mingle But Mum’s the Word on Murdoch and Newsday

Arianna Huffington made The New York Times on Friday morning for a blog post she wrote on her Web site

Arianna Huffington made The New York Times on Friday morning for a blog post she wrote on her Web site about John McCain. In that post Ms. Huffington wrote that a few years back McCain told her at a dinner party that he did not vote for George W. Bush in 2000. This made McCain look like a hypocrite, and his campaign responded by calling Ms. Huffington “a flake and a poser and an attention-seeking diva.”

“I’m lovin’ this!” she said on Friday night to a room full of people, all gathered at the Chambers Hotel on 56th to celebrate the publication of her new book, Right is Wrong. She was giving a thank you speech, and she had just explained that she had McCain right where she wanted him.

“It’s actually very, very heartening to have to watch him tonight at the very moment when he had to start distancing himself from George Bush, whose approval rating is 28 percent. We have forced him, having revealed that he had actually not voted for George Bush, we’ve now forced him to go around saying how close he is to George Bush.” And a bit later: “Thank you for being here. We have a lot of work to do to make sure that there is no third Bush term. I think everybody in this room has a part to play.”

Before this speech Ms. Huffington had been standing by the stairs and hugging with friends. She hugged everyone, whether they were on their way up or down. Some of these hugs went to her team of young bloggers, many of whom seemed to wander about the crowded, dimly lit floor all evening unsure as to whether they had been invited as guests or as staff. The rest of the hugs went to Ms. Huffington’s grown-up friends, like CBS President Les Moonves, who came early and stayed pretty late.

“I love Arianna,” Mr. Moonves said.

A few minutes earlier, he’d been chatting with Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman, who has spent the last few weeks competing with a handful of other New York tycoons, including Cablevision’s Charles and James Dolan and News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, for the chance to buy Newsday from the Tribune Co.

It had been a stubborn competition, with Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Zuckerman thought by many to be keeping their chips in just to prevent the other one from prevailing.

On Saturday morning Mr. Murdoch unexpectedly withdrew his bid. But as of Friday evening the situation was still rather murky: the race had already been called for Mr. Murdoch twice, and yet the Tribune Co. hadn’t issued a decision and Newsday was still in play.

Mr. Moonves wanted to know what was up, and he wasn’t shy about asking Mr. Zuckerman all about it when he got to him. “What’s going on with Newsday?” Mr. Moonves asked. Mr. Zuckerman told him he had no idea.

Later, Media Mob asked Mr. Zuckerman the same thing.

“I think that if you saw the statistics in the Daily News, everybody’s reading the Daily News,” Mr. Zuckerman said. “Everything else is details.”

About halfway through the party Rupert Murdoch and his wife Wendi arrived. In his breast pocket he wore a folded white handkerchief, and he stood mostly still by the elevator while various people, like Radar publisher Maer Roshan, tried to talk to him.

Mr. Murdoch spoke to Mr. Zuckerman one-on-one for several minutes. Later, they took a picture together. Ms. Huffington was also in the shot, along with Charlie Rose and Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, who was co-hosting the party with former Viacom C.E.O. Tom Freston.

While the photographer was taking the picture, Mr. Wenner stuck out his arms so that it looked like he was struggling to keep Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Zuckerman apart. “Break it up!” Mr. Wenner said, smiling broadly, as the camera flashed.

This was over soon enough, and Mr. Murdoch retreated to a conversation with Ms. Huffington and a handful of her writers.

“Would you blog for us?” said a young political reporter. “Would you ever want to do a blog for us?”

Mr. Murdoch gazed at him silently for a few seconds, then smiled. “I’d love to,” he said.

At Arianna’s Big Book Bash, Moguls Mingle But Mum’s the Word on Murdoch and Newsday