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I'm not that powerful, Rupert Murdoch tells judge

By Raphael Satter

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, April 25 2012 10:55 a.m. MDT

But he denied that his personal friendship with Blair had led to any favors, thumping the table to punctuate his sentence.

"I never. Asked. Mr. Blair. For anything," he said.

Media-watchers have speculated that Murdoch would seek to inflict political pain on the Cameron's Conservatives, rumors which gained force when his son James gave damning testimony about British Olympics czar Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday. The younger Murdoch released documents that suggested that Hunt, a Cameron ally, had secretly smoothed the way for News Corp.'s bid for full control of the British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC, a lucrative satellite broadcaster.

The bid was contested by Murdoch's competitors, who feared that if News Corp. increased its stake in BSkyB, it would reinforce his dominance of the British media landscape. Hunt had told lawmakers he would be impartial, but the documents showed his department giving News Corp. behind-the-scenes advice and intelligence.

Hunt's political aide Adam Smith resigned Wednesday, saying he was responsible for the perception that News Corp. had "too close a relationship" with Hunt's office. Smith said he had acted without Hunt's authorization, but it was not clear how a special adviser could have acted so independently.

Although Murdoch was cooperative with the inquiry on Wednesday, he evoked a healthy helping of the phrase "I don't remember," particularly when confronted with potentially embarrassing anecdotes about his alleged remarks.

At one point, Jay quizzed Murdoch about a gleeful comment in which Murdoch took credit for smearing his left-wing opponents.

"If I said that, I'm afraid it was the influence of alcohol," Murdoch replied.

Throughout the hearing, Murdoch attacked the idea that he traded on his political influence, calling it a "complete myth. One I want to put to bed once and for all."

So determined was he that Murdoch appeared to claim he was totally blind to business considerations when deciding which politicians to back.

"You're completely oblivious to the commercial benefits to your company of a particular party winning an election. Is that really the position?" asked a skeptical-sounding Jay.

"Yes," Murdoch said. "Absolutely."

His testimony resumes on Thursday.

Online:

Inquiry website: http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk

Murdoch's witness statement: http://bit.ly/IDp5rc

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