Rupert Murdoch attacked: an eyewitness account

July 19, 2011

I write this with shaving foam still spattered on my face and shirt. When Rupert Murdoch was struck with a paper plate covered in foam, I was perhaps 10 feet away, on the press bench in the Wilson Room of Portcullis House.

The limited television pictures of the incident give you the bare facts: a man who had sat through almost two-and-a-half hours of evidence from Rupert Murdoch, walked from the back of the committee room, approached Mr. Murdoch, swore at him and struck him.

What you might not have seen is the full instinctive and furious reaction of Mr. Murdoch’s wife, Wendi. Having sat through the evidence unsmiling, she moved faster than anyone else. First, she swung a slap at her husband’s attacker. She followed up by picking up the plate and trying to strike him with it. And then she moved back to her husband. Sitting on the table before him, she started to clear the foam from his face, sometimes embracing him, holding his bald head in her arms.

As for Mr. Murdoch, his reaction was as limited as his wife’s was expansive. He sat, barely moving, as the room erupted in anger. Behind him, his legal team protested to the security staff and the committee chairman. Before him, committee members fulminated about the “disgrace.” A policeman, his face also plastered with foam, struggled to restore calm. Was Mr. Murdoch contemplating the event and its meaning? Or was he simply physically stunned? Certainly, the presence and authority he had periodically shown during his evidence had gone. He looked shaken.

Given the passions Mr. Murdoch evokes, it may be that there are some people who think that some sort of rough justice has been done today. Personally, sitting 10 feet away, all I saw was an 80-year-old man, trying to have a civil conversation, being struck in the face.

This story originally appeared on the Daily Telegraph’s site.

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