Former News Corp. executive Rebekah Brooks told David Cameron before he became U.K. prime minister that her company and he were "in this together." The comment came the week after News Corp.'s Sun newspaper switched its support to his Conservative Party.
"I'm so rooting for you tomorrow," Ms. Brooks told Mr. Cameron in a text message on Oct. 7, 2009, the day before his closing speech to his party's conference, according to evidence at a media-ethics inquiry today. "Not just as a proud friend, but because professionally we're definitely in this together! Speech of your life? Yes he Cam!"
The last three words became the Sun's headline the day after the speech, when the paper said candidate Cameron "swept aside any last doubts about his capacity to lead."
The text message was disclosed at the U.K.'s media-ethics inquiry as Mr. Cameron defended his dealings with News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his staff.
Mr. Cameron established the probe in July after revelations about the extent of illegal activity at News Corp.'s now-defunct News of the World tabloid, once the best-selling Sunday newspaper in Britain. Mr. Murdoch closed the News of the World and dropped his New York-based company's bid for British Sky Broadcasting Group that month in response to public anger over the phone-hacking scandal. Ms. Brooks resigned as CEO of News Corp.'s U.K. publishing unit and was charged in a related case.
The prime minister said he hadn't made any "covert or overt" deals with the company. He denied promising News Corp. support for a takeover of BSkyB, the country's biggest pay-TV company, in exchange for political backing during the 2010 election.
"This idea that somehow the Conservative Party and News International got together and said you give us your support and we'll wave through this deal -- which we didn't even know about -- is nonsense," Mr. Cameron told the inquiry.
He defended his 2007 decision to hire as his press chief Andy Coulson, who had resigned that year as editor of the News of the World after one of his reporters was jailed for phone-hacking. Mr. Cameron said before hiring him that he'd demanded and received an assurance at a face-to face meeting that Mr. Coulson had known nothing about illegality.
"Yes I accepted these undertakings, but so did a large number of other people," Mr. Cameron said. He said hiring a former News Corp. editor hadn't been part of a "calculation" to win Mr. Murdoch's support.
Mr. Coulson resigned as Cameron's communications director last year as the phone-hacking scandal mounted. He was later one of dozens of former News Corp. journalists arrested in police probes into wrongdoing at the company's U.K. publications.
The 45-year-old prime minister was forced to discuss his personal life as the inquiry lawyer asked about his relationship with the Murdoch family and Ms. Brooks, who in September 2009 was promoted to CEO of News International, publisher of News Corp.'s U.K. papers.
He said his "level of contact went up" with Ms. Brooks when she began dating his school friend Charlie Brooks, who lived near his country home. They married in 2009.
"I was definitely seeing her more often," Mr. Cameron said. "Not every weekend. I don't think most weekends."
He'd earlier said relations between politicians and the press had become too cozy. An "overly close" relationship caused media regulation issues to be put on the "back burner," Mr. Cameron said, according to a reading of his witness statement by the inquiry lawyer, Robert Jay .
-- Bloomberg News --