Catching up with UK hacking scandal .. Rebekah Brooks (nee Wade/Mrs. Ross Kemp) and Wendi Deng Murdoch!

Jul 21st, 2011 | By | Category: In Brief

Rebekah Brooks (nee Wade) hard at work at the office. Born 27 May 1968, she finally became chief executive of News International, having previously served as the first female editor of The Sun in London, England. And then along came the summer of 2011.

TORONTO, CANADA. JULY 21, 2011. My first reaction when the latest and apparently most serious phase of the UK “phone hacking scandal” hit the local press a few weeks ago was: when will the new international management at the Globe and Mail discover that Canada is no longer the first self-governing dominion of the British empire? Thanks in part to a subsequent article in the Toronto Star on “The Witch of Wapping,” I have now realized that this was a bit too much of a parochial reaction in its own right.

As the relevant Wikipedia article explains (and yes I do think Wikipedia is often if not always helpful in such contexts!): “The News International phone hacking scandal is an ongoing controversy involving the News of the World, a now-defunct British tabloid newspaper published by News International — a subsidiary of News Corporation — and the revelation that individuals working for the newspaper engaged in phone hacking.”  The point here of course is that News International is owned by Rupert Murdoch — “the most powerful man in the media,” not just in the United Kingdom, but certainly in his native Australia , and arguably in the United States too.

(See, eg, Brian Stelter’s recent article in the New York Times, “Scandal Stirs US Debate on Big Media.” Despite recurrent fears in some quarters, it remains the case that “Canada doesn’t have Murdoch papers or a Murdoch-owned television network” … yet. But that may just be because his arguably closest living Canadian-born analogue, Conrad Black, is already scheduled to go back to jail in the USA this coming September 6 — although without having any love or even serious respect at all for Mr. Black, this does strike me as approaching cruel and unusual punishment, given the reputed state of his and his wife’s health.)

Rebekah Brooks (nee Wade) with her boss, Mr. Murdoch. In early February 2011, just as the phone hacking scandal was starting to get serious, he took her to dinner “ in what will be seen as a massive show of support.”

The point is, of course, that in the new age of globalization and so forth (and some would also say, the global “Anglosphere”), so-called “private-sector” empires like that of the Murdoch family today certainly do transcend mere national boundaries. So in the United States and Canada — as well as Australia and no doubt New Zealand, and even in some respects Hong Kong, India, Kenya, South Africa, Trinidad, and Tuvalu, etc, etc, etc — many of us at least periodically looked in on this week’s televised testimony of Rupert Murdoch and his son James before a committee of the old Mother of Parliaments at Westminster (still for some reason technically a separate city from London!).

There are, no doubt, some serious questions being raised by the “News International phone hacking scandal,” headquartered at the moment in the UK, as it were, for various parts of the global village today. (On our local CBC TV in Canada there has been much talk about  democratically troubling hidden linkages among the mass media, politicians, and the police — not exactly news to some among us, perhaps, but ….) The scandal also already has a history of some length in the early 21st century. If you do want to pursue all this, the relevant Wikipedia article is one point of departure. For balance, you could also try the in-depth “Phone Hacking” issue backgrounder on the guardian.co.uk site.

Head of News Corp. Rupert Murdoch (l) and wife Wendi Deng attend Time magazine's 2008 list of the world's 100 most influential people gala in New York USA, 08 May 2008. EPA/PETER FOLEY.

Meanwhile, right now what intrigues me most is the related lives and times of two women I have known next to nothing about (well, to be honest, absolutely nothing) until quite recently. The first is Rebekah Brooks (nee Wade, and also formerly Mrs. Ross Kemp), who has recently resigned as chief executive of News International, having previously served as the first female editor of a Brit tabloid called The Sun. And the second is the 80-year-old Rupert Murdoch’s 42-year-old trophy wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch — “who has emerged as an unlikely heroine after leaping to defend her … husband …  from a pie-wielding protester” at the Mother of Parliaments on July 19, 2011. My fascination here may be that both these women were born in 1968 — the year I started full-time employment after graduating from college. If you think you might share my curiosity, for this or any other reason, by all means read on!

CW EDITORS’ UPDATE: For the latest in the ongoing adventures of the remarkable Rebekah Brooks, see Mr. Berry’s March 14, 2012 report, “Our Mrs Brooks arrested again in UK .. Hamm slams Kardashian, Axelrod stalks Mormons, and “robocalls” lingers in British North America.”

How Wicked is the Witch of Wapping … really?

As noted above, it was an article in the Toronto Star this past Monday — on how  “Rebekah Brooks, ‘The Witch of Wapping,’ made many enemies” — that first made me sit up and pay some serious attention to the UK phone hacking scandal.

Rebekah Wade (later Rebekah Brooks) and Ross Kemp (aka Grant Mitchell on the Brit TV classic “East Enders”) back in the good old days. They “began dating in 1996, married in Las Vegas in 2002, but became ‘estranged’ in 2006 and were granted a ‘quickie’ divorce at London’s High Court in 2009.”

The article (actually from the Associated Press) began with: “Rebekah Brooks broke barriers during her 22-year career with Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers, becoming one of Britain’s most powerful female executives. Her friends included the prime minister. But to her many critics, she was ‘the Witch of Wapping,’ a ruthless figure at the heart of a media empire … Brooks emerged as the villain as soon as the scandal broke, shaking Britain’s media establishment and rocking Murdoch’s empire. She was arrested Sunday [July 17], two days after she resigned from her post as chief executive of News International. She has been at the centre of a media firestorm for more than a week in the phone hacking scandal at one of her newspapers, which are based in the London district of Wapping.”

What went on to impress me about Mrs. Brooks even more was a clip on my local TV news, that showed her walking with a gentleman I recognized very well from my several years (albeit a while ago now) as a fan of the superior Brit evening TV soap opera East Enders. The gentleman in question was Ross Kemp, who played the very hard and tough (even quasi-criminal) Grant Mitchell (who nonetheless had intermittent streaks of tenderness, especially about women).

What I have subsequently discovered can be summarized as follows: Ross Kemp (born in 1964, the year I started college) and the then Rebekah Wade “began dating in 1996, married in Las Vegas in 2002, but became ‘estranged’ in 2006 and were granted a ‘quickie’ divorce at London’s High Court in 2009 … Rebekah got a decree nisi on the grounds of the actor’s alleged infidelity … ‘I found certain evidence indicating adultery,’ read Rebekah’s court papers. ‘The respondent then admitted the adultery.’ … The redhead [ie Ms. Wade, later Mrs. Brooks] is now married to former racehorse trainer and author Charlie Brooks.” (This second marriage took place in June 2009.)

Our Ms. Brooks back in 2007 — when she was still really Ms. Wade, but time had finally proved that her love affair with Ross Kemp really was too hot not to cool down!

I bumped into another item on the marriage of Rebekah Wade and Ross Kemp that probably bears some special note. On November 3, 2005 the BBC reported: “Sun newspaper editor Rebekah Wade has been released without charge following her arrest for allegedly assaulting her EastEnders actor husband Ross Kemp … Scotland Yard said no further action will be taken against the 37-year-old … Ms Wade was held for eight hours after officers attended an address in south London at about 0400 GMT on Thursday, a police spokesman said … Scotland Yard said Mr Kemp, 41, sustained a cut to the mouth but declined medical treatment … Mr Kemp, who plays hard man Grant Mitchell in EastEnders, left the show in 1999 to join ITV … He recently rejoined the soap’s cast for a three week stint and has signed up for another three months next year, along with Steve McFadden who plays his on-screen brother Phil … Their return boosted the soap’s flagging ratings to 13 million viewers.”

(There is another wrinkle here that may amuse old fans of East Enders: on the very same night in early November 2005 Steve McFadden, who played Ross Kemp’s quasi-criminal on-screen brother Phil Mitchell, was also assaulted — in real life — by his girlfriend of the moment. See, eg: “Phil And Grant In A ‘Spot Of Bovver’.” History, as the Londonner from St. Louis, Mo. T.S. Eliot told us back in the 1920s, “has many cunning passages”!)

Rebekah Brooks (nee Wade) and her current husband, former racehorse trainer and author Charlie Brooks. They were married in June 2009.

So … what does all this add up to, as far as “How Wicked is the Witch of Wapping … really” goes? I can point quickly to six more items, before drawing my personal provisional conclusions, from a very great distance, of course:

* 6 May 2010 … “Rebekah Brooks can’t be happy with her ex, Ross Kemp … Brooks persuaded Rupert Murdoch to support Cameron. Then her former husband backed Brown.”

* 3 February 2011 … “Best buddies: News International tycoon Rupert Murdoch takes chief executive Rebekah Brooks to dinner last night in what will be seen as a massive show of support.”

* 4 February 2011 … “Brooks quick to solve a tricky puzzle in The Sun … What all journalists do not want is for NI CEO Rebekah Brooks to become a casualty of the phone hacking scandal. Brooks is, says NORMAN GILLER, a true champion of our profession … Rebekah Brooks is a decent, caring person and she is ready to fight the corner for us much-maligned journalists.”

* 11 March 2011 … “A new name added Friday to the News of the World phone-tapping case is casting more doubt on former editor Andy Coulson’s pleas of ignorance—and shifting the media glare to News International CEO Rebekah Brooks.”

* 20 July 2011 … “Rebekah Brooks defends friendship with David Cameron” (the current Conservative British PM, in case you’ve forgotten).

A website that describes itself as “Cherry picking the best of lesbian London and frosting it with our very own buttercream of cool” published this photo of Rebekah Brooks a week or so ago, along with the comment: “It’s not like being ruthless or amoral is a turn-off on the lesbian scene ...”

* 20 July 2011 … “Brooks claims she was repeatedly told phone allegations were untrue … Former editor denied she had gone riding with David Cameron or spoken to him about the appointment of Andy Coulson.”

From all this hasty research, I draw a few main conclusions (wisely or unwisely):

(1) Personally I wouldn’t want to bump into Rebekah Brooks in a dark alley;

(2) This having been said, any woman whom Ross Kemp would get married to in Las Vegas must have some redeeming qualities — not the least of which is that, in some respects somehow, she must actually be or once have been quite hot, hot, hot;

Rebekah Brooks, at left with journalists Ben Preston and Piers Morgan, talks with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle in 2002. FIONA HANSON/AP.

(3) The fact that Rebekah Wade and Ross Kemp finally broke up probably suggests something not good about her — as does the fact that he backed the Labour Party in the last British general election, while she backed the aggressively (and perhaps even mindlessly) public-sector cost-cutting Cameron Conservatives;

(4) Like her (former) boss Rupert Murdoch, Mrs. Brooks has apparently refused to take any final responsibility for the various acts of corrupt monkey business and even illegality that took place, during her watch, in organizations for which she was ultimately responsible. Apparently the concept of “the buck stops here” applies to highly placed politicians who manage public bureaucracies, but not to corporate executives in the private sector? Double standard, wot? And/or what happened to the palpably accurate concept that what happens in any organization finally reflects the character of those at the very top of its management hierarchy?

Who is Wendi Deng Murdoch … and what does she tell us about her husband?

I have taken up so much space-time with Rebekah Brooks that I don’t have much left at all for the 80-year-old Rupert Murdoch’s 42-year-old trophy wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch. Guided by a late-night conversation with my wife, I will simply highlight a few salient points from her current Wikipedia entry:

News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch and wife Wendi Deng Murdoch attend The Australia Week 2009 Jacob's Creek Black Tie Gala on January 23, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images).

Wendi Deng Murdoch was born (on December 8, 1968)  “in Jinan, Shandong [China] and raised in Xuzhou, Jiangsu,” and “was originally named Deng Wenge … In 1987 Deng met an American businessman and his wife, Jake and Joyce Cherry, who had temporarily relocated to China to help build a refrigerator factory. Deng asked the couple for tutoring lessons in English, which Joyce eventually provided. In 1988 [the year she turned 20], Deng abandoned her [initial] medical studies [in China] and travelled to the United States to study, with the Cherrys sponsoring her student visa.  Deng enrolled at California State University, Northridge, where she studied economics and was among the top 1% of students.”

In “the United States, Deng lived with the Cherry family for a while when attending university. Mrs. Cherry suspected her husband was having an affair with Deng (30 years his junior) and demanded she leave the house. Mr. Cherry soon followed and moved in with her. The two married in 1990. Deng and Cherry’s marriage lasted 2 years and 7 months before they were legally divorced, but he would later explain they only stayed together for 4 or 5 months, after which he learned of the extramarital relationship Deng had with a David Wolf, a man closer to her age. Nonetheless, she had been able to secure a green card through being legally married to Cherry … In 1997, Deng met Rupert Murdoch at a company party in Hong Kong. Deng and Murdoch married in 1999, less than three weeks after his divorce from [his second] ex-wife Anna Maria Torv Murdoch Mann was finalized. They live in Manhattan with their two daughters: Grace Helen Murdoch (born 2001) and Chloe Murdoch (born 2003). Deng is a vegan.” (Where “vegan” means an extremist vegetarian, and not someone who has never had sex with anyone but god.)

I won’t say much more here. I do think it is interesting that in the new age of the rising Chinese economic giant Rupert Murdoch’s third marriage has been to a much younger Chinese-American trophy wife — who is also apparently adept at deflecting cream (foam?) pies destined for her husband’s aging face! Beyond this, you can draw your own conclusions.

Rupert Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch, springs into action to protect her husband when prankster ‘Jonnie Marbles’ attacked with a foam pie during the Parliamentary hearing into the phone hacking scandal.

By way of a more general conclusion, or segue to the next scenario etc, I just note an article from today’s Toronto Star, headlined “Britain’s phone hacking scandal more widespread: reports.” It begins: “LONDON—An investigation into possible illegal activity by British newspapers may have moved beyond Rupert Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the World tabloid to other papers, according to reports by CNN … The data protection division of the British Information Commissioner’s Office told CNN Thursday that the Metropolitan Police have asked for its files from a 2006 probe into the work of a private investigator who allegedly sold illegally obtained information to a number of newspapers including the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail … The request for the files from the ‘What Price Privacy Now?’ report came three months ago, the commissioner’s office told CNN … A police spokesman declined to give details on what they were exactly investigating, CNN reports.”

So, as they say, it’s not all over till the fat lady sings. And right now it still does not seem entirely  clear just who the fat lady is!

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