THE MAGAZINE VANITY FAIR published a special story on Rebekah Brooks in February 2012. Read it to get an idea out of Brooks in making.
Vanity-story Untangling Rebekah Brooks was written BY SUZANNA ANDREW
The prime minister, Gordon Brown, and his wife, Sarah, attended, as did David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader and prime minister–to–be, and his wife, Samantha. Rupert Murdoch, The Sun’s owner, had flown in. Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth and her husband, the P.R. man Matthew Freud, who had helped to orchestrate the “media blackout,” had driven over from Burford Priory, their $7 million, 22-bedroom country home, 15 miles away. The guest list attested to the power Rebekah Wade had achieved, at the age of just 41, as the editor of The Sun, a tabloid with three million readers, and as the first woman to hold that job. But it also attested to her charm, “her warmth,” her “gregariousness,” and “her straightforward, sympathetic manner,” because the guests were also close friends. Sarah Brown had her for “sleepovers” at Chequers, the prime minister’s country retreat. David Cameron was so close he reportedly signed his letters to her “Love, David.”
Brooks was the woman almost everybody had heard of, but about whom almost nothing was known. She rarely spoke in public or gave interviews, and when she did, she revealed nothing about herself. She was said to be closer to Rupert Murdoch than any of his six children, but of that relationship she never uttered a word, leaving it to Murdoch to raise questions about his own grip on reality in a remark he made on July 10. In an effort to stem the public rage, he had just shut the 168-year-old News of the World and put 280 people out of work. While walking with Brooks in Mayfair, he was asked by a reporter what his top priority was. Looking at Brooks with what seemed like deep affection, he answered, “This one.” It was a stupefying remark, but what Rebekah Brooks thought of it, no one could tell. She just smiled at the cameras, the cryptic Mona Lisa smile that could be seen in so many of her photographs—“as if she knows something she’s not telling,” says one journalist.
But that smile wasn’t on display on July 19 as Brooks told the parliamentary committee investigating the hacking scandal that she had never “condoned or sanctioned” hacking or even known that it was taking place at the News of the World while she was the editor. She said she had learned about the allegations that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked only when they were revealed in a story in The Guardian two weeks earlier. At the hearing she appeared exhausted, her trademark hair stringy and disheveled, but she testified calmly and coolly for nearly two hours. She said she had never met or had any dealings with Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator whose files, seized by the police in 2006, would trigger the national scandal with some 11,000 pages of notes and 690 audiotapes, indicating that nearly 6,000 people—including politicians, celebrities, police officers, and crime victims—may have had their phones hacked by the News of the World.
Like Rupert Murdoch and his son James, who both testified before her that day, Brooks would say there were facts she could not recall, matters she could not discuss, issues for which she had not been responsible. But her testimony was more impressive—she didn’t fumble like Rupert Murdoch, showed none of the testy defensiveness of James. Some would say her testimony was “masterful” and “deft.” Critics would go so far as to suggest that she had hired a makeup artist in order to make her appear so wan and worn. “She looked so vulnerable,” says one prominent author. She was “amazing,” says a woman who has known Brooks for more than a decade. “Here she is, the most hated woman in Britain, on national television, and the only sign that she was nervous was that she blinked a little more than usual,” says this friend. “She is completely nerveless.” But her testimony would also raise a question: if she knew as little as she said she did, how had she risen to such power?
Road to Ambition
McMullan says that Wade knew about the use of private investigators—“Impossible not to,” he says. “I was deputy features editor. I ran the same department that she did, and every week we’d see the bills from the private investigators: £2,000, £4,000.” However, he can’t be sure she always knew what they were doing.
“She was quite sweet in those days,” says McMullan. “She knew she was out of her depth and would rely on other people to make her shine. And, funnily enough, it was because she was so hopeless, we wanted to protect her as our boss when we would find out she didn’t know what she was doing,” he recalls. “So that worked, as one management style, if you like.”
“She’d get you to do things,” says another former News of the World reporter. “She had this charisma, this magnetic attraction,” he says. “She would praise to high heaven, make you feel like you were on top of the world. It was only afterwards that you realized you were manipulated.” In a largely male tabloid world—a business in which Brooks was once asked at a corporate golf gathering to sew a senior executive’s button back on his shirt, which she did—perceptions counted for a lot.
“She was very tactile, touching you on the arm, looking straight into your eyes as though there was no one more important in the room,” this former News reporter says. “From the way she acted, you would think she wanted to sleep with you.” But “no,” he says, “she didn’t want to sleep with the help; she was way too up the scale for that.”
She worked nonstop. “She was going at 150 all day,” this man recalls. “She was very intense. I thought she was a very insecure woman, actually, desperate for a lot of love and attention,” he says. “I was quite friendly with her at some point, as friendly as anyone can get with her, and in her quieter moments she would say, ‘No one loves me; I’m in a battle here.’ ” But even then, she was careful. Even out drinking after work, “she did not get pissed, ever. She never let her guard down,” and never spoke about her past. Like others, he wondered. “In the early days she used this accent, a girls’-school accent, meaning she’d been poshly educated, but every now and again the accent would slip and you’d realize: Oh, yeah.” There were rumors of a father who “was absent or who left,” of some kind of abandonment or “betrayal” that was felt deeply by her mother in particular, with whom Wade was, and still is, extremely close. But no one pressed.
If to some in the Murdoch empire she was “the impostor daughter,” Brooks did share, more than any of his actual children, one of Murdoch’s great passions. “She was the one who expressed his love for newspapers,” says one newspaper executive. While many at News Corp. would be happy to sell the newspapers, says one former executive, and Murdoch’s children have not appeared to share his enthusiasm for the business, Brooks was as passionate about newspapers as Murdoch. He saw her as a “great campaigning editor.” Indeed, he supported one of her most controversial campaigns, the 2000 “Name & Shame” series for theNews of the World, which was prompted by the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne by a registered sex offender. For two weeks, she published photographs, names, and the whereabouts of convicted pedophiles. In the process, she became very close to the child’s mother, Sara Payne, at one point giving her a company cell phone, which, according to investigators, may have been hacked, an allegation that Brooks said was “abhorrent.”
Murdoch loved Rebekah Wade’s “fantastic drive,” says one executive. More than anything, he loved the fact that her whole life was wrapped up in his beloved papers; when she was scooped by a rival, she could go into dark funks, so much so that on one occasion, when she was beaten to a story by the Mirror, Murdoch reportedly called Les Hinton, who at the time was the executive in charge of the U.K. newspaper business, to ask, “Is she all right?”
And at every turn, she gave him the papers he wanted. A co-founder of Women in Journalism, an organization to help promote women’s careers in the field, Wade—along with Murdoch’s former wife Anna—was reported to be personally offended by The Sun’s “Page 3,” which daily features photographs of bare-breasted women. But they were what Murdoch wanted, and so she continued to run the photos, and defended them roundly. In 2004, in response to criticisms of “Page 3” from Clare Short, a former Cabinet minister, Wade ran a “Hands Off Page 3” campaign which included running a photograph of Short’s head on a flabby, naked female body, and describing Short as “fat,” “ugly,” “short on looks,” and “short on brains.”
The Power and the Story
Absence and Malice
Wade’s absence from the newsroom may have set up a situation where things could occur that she didn’t know about. She was on vacation in April 2002 when the News of the World published the first story that referenced messages that had been left on Milly Dowler’s cell phone. The story was quickly pulled and re-written, which is why many people didn’t notice it then—including Brooks, who told Parliament in July that vetting the story’s sourcing would have been the responsibility of her subordinates. Paul McMullan, who was covering the Dowler story for the Sunday Express, is among those who believe that Brooks was probably accurate on this point. “I don’t think they’d have bothered telling her, ‘This is where we got it from.’ ” Roy Greenslade says it is “possible that, although she should have known [that hacking was going on], she genuinely didn’t know, because I don’t think she knew how stories arrived most of the time.” Or what her staff was doing.
Five years older than Wade, Brooks, now 48, had never been married when the two met at the Chipping Norton home of a mutual friend. They began seeing each other in early 2007. Warm, easygoing, and unambitious, Brooks was, according to friends, Wade’s opposite, and a perfect foil for her intensity. He’d been a racehorse trainer, dabbled in sports marketing, and run a mail-order sex-toy company. He had also tried his hand at writing, and in April 2009 came out with his first novel, Citizen, which was published by Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins.
Brooks, friends say, was devoted to Wade. And she to him. She was stunned, one friend recalls, when Brooks handed her his BlackBerry one day, and asked her to see if the tech specialists at News International could repair it. “She felt quite fantastic to have somebody who had no secrets,” says this friend, “someone she could trust completely” and “somebody who trusted her.” People were surprised when Wade took Brooks’s name after their wedding—something she had not done during her marriage to Kemp. Overnight, Rebekah Wade was gone, replaced by “Mrs. Brooks.”
The first sign of trouble came four weeks after her wedding. On July 8, The Guardian revealed that News International had made payments of more than $2 million to several people to settle claims that their phones had been hacked—including Gordon Taylor, the head of the football players’ union. It was the first public indication that the hacking had gone beyond one “rogue” reporter, as News International had referred to Clive Goodman, the former royals editor, who had been convicted of hacking the phones of members of the royal family. In a letter to Parliament, Brooks took issue with that story and other revelations in The Guardian, which, she wrote, “has substantially and likely deliberately misled the British public.”
During the next two years she would staunchly defend News International. When Parliament invited her to testify in late 2009, she declined. Even after it issued a report in early 2010 assailing News International executives for their “collective amnesia” in their repeated denials of widespread hacking, she stood firm. She revealed nothing about the growing tensions within News International, particularly as the relationship between Rupert and James began to fray. Described by sources close to the Murdochs as the “go-between” in an increasingly fraught father-son relationship, Brooks was now under pressure to please and protect not only Rupert but also James, who had both taken the position that they had no idea what was going on inside their company, and particularly James, passing blame on to subordinates.
Recently, Neville Thurlbeck, one of the News reporters implicated in the hacking scandal, said that in July 2009 he had prepared “a dossier” which implicated “an executive.” He claimed he had tried to get the file to James Murdoch and to Brooks but was rebuffed by people close to them. “I had a warm and trusting relationship with Rebekah,” he wrote in an article for the Press Gazette in November, blaming himself for not trying harder to get his dossier to Brooks. If this account is accurate, then—considering Thurlbeck’s key role in the hacking scandal and the investigations—what is striking is that Brooks does not appear to have ever spoken to him.
She does, however, appear to have spoken to a Scotland Yard detective chief superintendent named David Cook. Although she would tell Parliament in July that she did not recall the meeting, it seems from published reports and interviews with Cook himself and his attorney, Mark Lewis, that the meeting took place in early January 2003. Cook was the lead investigator in a brutal unsolved murder of a private investigator who had been found with an ax in his head in 1987. Cook had asked for the meeting because, several months earlier, his family had been followed and photographed by people hired by the News of the World. Cook’s mail had also been tampered with. The police investigation had allegedly found evidence that the surveillance had been ordered by one of the News’s top editors, Alex Marunchak, as a favor to two of the suspects in the case: Jonathan Rees and Sid Fillery, private investigators whose firm, Southern Investigations, had worked for the News.
The firm also did work for numerous media outlets, and the meeting shines a light on the questions that have been raised today, both in Parliament and in a government judicial review, about the practices and ethics of the British press in general. There is no evidence that Brooks had any prior knowledge of what was going on, but the police suspected that “News of the World staff were guilty of interference and party to using unlawful means to attempt to discredit a police officer and his wife,” according to the M.P. Tom Watson.
When Brooks heard from Cook about the surveillance, her response, Cook says, was that she had no idea that it had gone on, but if so it was “in the public interest”—a common justification used by the media in Britain for many of the more questionable reporting practices and privacy intrusions. This, she said, was because Cook was rumored to be having an affair with a television personality, a remarkable response considering that the woman, Jacqui Hames, was Cook’s wife.
Right to the end, Rupert Murdoch stood by her. It was only under “intense pressure,” says a family confidante, that he finally caved in and accepted her resignation on July 15, reportedly telling her to just take a “leave, travel around the world.” As it was, her severance of $2.7 million would cause yet more ire, along with the fact that she still has her chauffeur-driven Mercedes, courtesy of News International, along with an office in downtown London. If she was the perfect daughter, Murdoch was the perfect father. But his loyalty to Brooks, and that of his family—James in particular, who finds himself under increasing scrutiny—will be tested as the investigation, which seems to yield new revelations daily, intensifies.
Off to the Races
Source : Vanity Fair
Original Link to the story :http://www.vanityfair.com/news/business/2012/02/rebekah-brooks-201202