Christina Patterson: When loyalty is stretched too far

Rupert Murdoch's continued support of Rebekah Wade is misguided
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The Independent Online

Was there a moment when he felt sick? Was there a moment when an 80-year-old Australian, whose ever-expanding empire was yesterday due to get the nod to expand even more, felt so sick that he actually paused? Was it, perhaps, the moment he heard that a dead girl's phone messages had been listened to by someone who wanted to turn them into money? Was it the moment he heard that some of those messages had been wiped off, and had made the girl's parents think their dead daughter wasn't dead?

Or was it the moment he heard about the messages for the parents of two little girls who had just been murdered? Or the moment he heard about the messages for people whose husband, or wife, or son, or daughter, or boyfriend, or lover, had just been blown up? Was it, perhaps, when he heard about the young men fighting a war, and how their parents had had the knock on the door that told them they would never see their son again, and then heard that the most private messages of their life may not have been private?

Is it possible that there wasn't a moment when Rupert Murdoch felt sick? When he thought that actually there were more important things in life than making money, and that some of those things had to do with people who might find it very hard to ever smile again? Is it possible that there wasn't a moment when he thought that whoever was in charge of the people who did things like this, even if he liked her, even if he loved her, even if he spoke to her every day, and even if he bought her paintings worth millions for her birthday, and even if he thought she was very good at what she did, which made him lots of money – she had to go?

And was there a moment when she felt sick? Was there a moment when a 62-year-old French journalist, whose inherited fortune allowed her to find $6m (£3.7m) for her husband's bail, and $4,400 a month for a very nice flat on Broadway, and $243,000 for security, felt so sick that she actually paused? Was it, perhaps, the moment a lawyer standing on a pavement, claimed to the world's press that her husband had pushed a chamber maid so forcefully that she had torn a ligament, and that he had grabbed her vagina so hard that the nurses who saw the bruising were shocked?

Or was it the moment she read an interview with a young French writer who claimed that she had gone to interview her husband, and that her husband had said he couldn't do the interview without holding her hand, and that he had then grabbed her hand and then her arm and then, although she had asked him to leave her alone, pulled her against him, and then, when she fell, with him, to the ground, undid her bra, and opened her jeans. Was it the moment the writer claimed that what her husband had done had ruined her life for the past eight years, and that she had finally spoken out because she wanted to be able to look herself in the eye?

Is it possible that there wasn't a moment when Anne Sinclair felt sick? When she heard that her husband had maybe persuaded, maybe forced, a woman he met two minutes before, who was there to clean his room, to stick his penis in her mouth, and who then spat his semen on the floor? Is it possible that there wasn't a moment when she thought that it really was beginning to look as if her husband, who was handsome, and powerful, and yes, a grand séducteur, in a fine tradition of grand séducteurs, sometimes went too far? And that although she loved him, and was still attracted to him, and never expected fidelity from him, which, in any case, was an idée ridicule, enough was enough?

If there was, we haven't seen it. If Rupert Murdoch ever felt that his loyalty to Rebekah Brooks had been tested a little bit too much, and that it really wasn't very convincing to say from the beginning there was just one "rogue reporter", when so many people thought there wasn't, and that perhaps she should have asked her staff where they were getting the scoops that kept the paper's sales the highest for an English language paper in the world, and that it probably wasn't a good idea to mislead Parliament, or to explain that you were on holiday when some of the sort of things you said didn't happen happened, he didn't show it. Instead, he kept the chief executive of what once was his core company in her job, and sacrificed the jobs of scores of journalists who never did anything wrong.

And if Anne Sinclair ever thought that it wasn't very appealing, or dignified, or respectful to her, of her husband to have a brief sexual encounter with a chamber maid that seems to have left her covered in bruises, or to have turned what was meant to be an interview into something the interviewer said was so traumatic that it still haunts her eight years on, we haven't seen it. Instead, she has said that she is "rather proud" of her husband's wide-ranging sexual appetites, and eats truffles with him in New York restaurants, and walks hand in hand with him, and smiles and laughs.

Loyalty, said Robert Baden-Powell, "is a feature in a boy's character that inspires boundless hope". I think what he meant, and maybe he also would have included a girl's character if he thought girls had such a thing as a character, was that loyalty is jolly nice. I think he meant that it was a good, and attractive, and sometimes even noble, thing for one human being to stick by another human being when the going gets tough. And that it's a good thing for one human being to stick by another human being when the other human being has made a mistake. I think he might have said that we all make mistakes, and we'd all like someone to stand by us when we do.

We do all make mistakes, and it is nice to stand by another person because we like them, or even love them, and when the going gets tough. But the man who invented "Scout's honour" might also have said that there are times when it's stretched. He might have said that the thing about Scout's honour is that there has to be some honour. He might have said that the thing about mistakes is that you have to admit you made them. And that you have to not blame other people for the mistakes that you've made.

I think he might even have said that there comes a time when loyalty begins to look less like "boundless hope" and more like blind, foolish, and sometimes disgraceful, faith.

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