LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged Sunday that he wooed Rupert Murdoch as he attempted to win power in Britain, but insisted he never struck a tit-for-tat deal to support the media mogul's business dealings in return for favorable coverage.
Ties between Cameron's government and Murdoch's News Corp. are under scrutiny after Britain's judge-led inquiry into media ethics raised questions about a minister's handling of a decision on whether the company should be authorized to take full control of British Sky Broadcasting, in which it holds a 39 percent stake.
Lord Justice Brian Leveson's inquiry has disclosed 163 emails sent by News Corp. lobbyist Frederic Michel about his contacts with Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's office, mainly with special adviser Adam Smith.
Hunt was supposed to be acting as an impartial judge to decide on whether to approve the takeover or refer it to regulators, but Michel's e-mails portrayed the minister, or his office, as leaking sensitive information to Murdoch's representatives and supporting the News Corp. case.
Smith resigned Wednesday, and claimed he had held some discussions without Hunt's authority.
Cameron told the BBC in an interview that "as things stand, I don't believe Jeremy Hunt broke the ministerial code," but warned that if any evidence emerged that Hunt had acted inappropriately, he would order an investigation.
Both Cameron and Hunt will give evidence, along with other lawmakers, to the Leveson inquiry on the relationship between the press and politicians.
The inquiry was launched in the wake of the tabloid phone hacking scandal, which forced Murdoch in mid-2011 to close down the country's top selling Sunday newspaper, the News of The World, and to drop News Corp.'s takeover bid for BSkyB.
Cameron said that when in opposition he had wooed Murdoch and his British newspapers. Murdoch's daily tabloid The Sun switched support from Britain's Labour Party to Cameron's Conservative Party before the country's 2010 national election. The Conservatives won the most seats but not a majority, forming a coalition government with a smaller party.