Today's round of the British government's inquiry into the phone hacks at at News Corp. newspapers just concluded after interviewing three of its former journalists -- but it was Paul McMullan, a seven-year News of the World veteran, who was the showstopper. Twitter went wild (under the hashtag #leveson) in response to many of the blazen, off-the-cuff remarks from McMullen, who was an investigative reporter and deputy features editor for the now-defunct Murdoch tabloid. McMullen seems to spill the beans on his and the News of the World's dubious journalistic practices and general disregard for its subjects -- speaking on privacy rights, car chases, bribery, Piers Morgan, David Cameron, and Princess Di. We culled some of the best McMullen quotes below, from The Guardian's live stream and blog.
In 21 years of invading people's privacy I've never actually come across anyone who's been doing any good. Privacy is the space bad people need to do bad things in.
Privacy is evil; it brings out the worst qualities in people.
Privacy is for pedos; fundamentally nobody else needs it.
On bribery (in this case, bribing Princess Diana's security guards), he said:
Someone phoned and said she was landing at Helsinki airport at 3.30pm this afternoon; 'Can I have £30,000, I need to pay the mortgage?' [and the answer is] 'Yes.'
Dangling a carrot with a lot of money was a way to get the best stories, which the British public lapped up.
On the perils of being a journalist, he recalled...
...sitting with two guys who would knife me at the drop of a hat – it was a very dangerous job – I was getting close to the end of the tape and just waiting for the click. I had to get out of there. It was like a test. They rolled a bit of joint and put cocaine in it. [They then asked him to smoke it to make sure he wasn't a policeman.] … That's the kind of pressure you're under when you're doing an investigation.
On car chases:
We had a set of pool cars – about 12 – that you can swap around. I absolutely loved giving chase to celebrities. Before Diana died it was such good fun. How many jobs can you have car chases in? It was great.
On Piers Morgan:
Piers Morgan said 'I don't care what it costs, I just want to get the defining stories of the week.' I never felt financial constraints and that's the joy of working for Murdoch – we had a big pot of money compared to the Guardian which has nothing so pays nobody.
On Hugh Grant:
I have a huge amount of cynicism for both Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan who have really done quite well by banging on about their privacy.
All you [Hugh Grant et al] have to do is jump off the stage for five minutes and people lose interest very very quickly.
He ends up with Murdoch lite – James – and Rebekah Brooks. For 21 years you have a culture of illegality of phone hacking and fiddling your expenses and so on, so what you have is a future PM cosying up and being moulded by Rebekah Brooks [former chief executive of News International].
At one point, Brian Leveson, who's leading the inquiry, had to remind McMullen that he does not have to incriminate himself. McMullen indeed admitted that News of the World reporters phone-hacked and editors knew, but that it was only done as a "last resort." Still, this whole chapter of the suggests how highly the paper thought itself -- and how that hubris might have been its undoing. "I think in a sense we were the most powerful journalists in the country because we had the biggest readership ... If you're talking the power of the pen, you could say that we were the most powerful publication," He went on to defend the paper as one of the "least bad offenders" when it came to phone hacking. That, of course, didn't stop Twitterers from tearing what he said apart, with most latching on to that "Privacy is for pedos" comment. It's a quote that very well could be meme-worthy. As one tweeter wrote:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.