Andy Coulson, the former editor of News Corp.’s News of the World, said he saw the irony in running a story on a politician’s affair while he was in an extra-marital relationship with Rebekah Brooks.
Coulson, 46, told a London court that he “regretted” publishing a story on former U.K. Home Secretary David Blunkett’s affair as he had been cheating on his wife with Brooks, the former head of News Corp.’s U.K. unit.
“I regret the decision, yes,” Coulson said while being cross-examined during his sixth day of testimony. “This was about someone having an affair. And given what was going on in my life, the irony is not lost on me.”
Coulson and Brooks are among seven people on trial for a variety of wrongdoing at News Corp.’s U.K. newspapers, including voice-mail interception and bribing public officials. Company Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the News of the World in 2011 in response to public outrage over the discovery that journalists had listened to messages on the phone of a murdered schoolgirl.
Prosecutors said the six-year affair between Brooks and Coulson is central to allegations that the pair conspired on illegal news gathering practices while both were editors at News Corp. tabloids.
The 2004 story on Blunkett was unearthed by Neville Thurlbeck, then the News of the World’s senior reporter. Coulson said last week that Thurlbeck played him a recording of a voice mail revealing the relationship.
Coulson, a former adviser to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, said today that Thurlbeck, who has pleaded guilty to phone hacking in the current case, wasn’t disciplined for intercepting messages on the phone of Blunkett’s lover.
Under questioning by David Spens, the lawyer for Clive Goodman, another defendant in the case, Coulson denied that he asked Thurlbeck whether he obtained the recording through phone hacking.
“You are a very bright man with a questioning mind,” said Spens. “Are you really saying you didn’t ask him how he did it?”
“The reason is that you knew it was happening at the News of the World and you didn’t need to know how,” Spens said.
“That is not true,” Coulson replied.
Coulson agreed that he made a decision not tell police about the Blunkett phone messages following the arrest of Goodman in 2006 to protect himself.
“You chose not to tell the police about Neville Thurlbeck because you were concerned to save your own skin,” Spens said.
“I accept that the impact on me was a factor, but there were other factors,” Coulson replied.
Goodman was convicted of phone hacking along with a private investigator and jailed in 2007. In this trial, Goodman is charged with conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.