Rupert Murdoch may have been suffering "selective amnesia" when he claimed to have forgotten a key lunch with Margaret Thatcher, the Leveson inquiry heard today.
The media mogul's evidence about the 1981 meeting at Chequers, which took place shortly before his takeover of The Times was cleared, could also raise wider questions about his integrity.
Robert Jay QC, counsel for the inquiry, highlighted the issues as he opened its third module - dealing with relations between media figures and politicians.
Referring to Mr Murdoch's statement last month that he had "no recollection" of the event, Mr Jay said: "One does at least have to question whether this is selective amnesia. Mr Murdoch told us in evidence that he did not enjoy frequent encounters with Baroness Thatcher.
"The acquisition of the Times and its associated titles must have been one of the most important in his commercial life.
"This was a time of heightened emotion. Could an intimate lunch at Chequers really have been forgotten?
"Human recollection is notoriously patchy and unreliable, we all know that. The fact that I, for example, would be 100% certain of being able to remember an event such as this occurring 30 plus years ago is not going to assist you in coming to a conclusion either way."
Mr Jay said if the inquiry accepted Mr Murdoch's evidence the "point goes not further".
"But if you do not the consequences are capable of being wide ranging," he went on. "Not merely would the selective amnesia appear to be convenient but inferences might be drawn as to Mr Murdoch's true motives and intentions seeking out the Prime Minister's ear in January 1981.
"Furthermore this case is capable of bearing on Mr Murdoch's integrity."
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