Not long after Phonehackgate blew up, Max Clifford appeared on BBC’s The Big Questions one Sunday morning. The second media event that had occurred not long before transmission had been the well-publicised exit from the Daily Star by Rich Peppiatt: he, too, was on the show. This was not good news for Cliffus Maximus, as Peppiatt caught him lying in very short order.
Yesterday's paper, yesterday's spinner
Clifford deflected and evaded, and was otherwise uncomfortable. His accuser persisted. Ultimately, Nicky Campbell intervened and guided the discussion away from the point in contention. But what was the most unusual feature of the exchange was that it was rare for anyone to challenge Clifford. He was handled very much with kid gloves by the media. Until yesterday afternoon.
Arsenal fan shows commendable restraint
Because now Clifford has got guilty on eight counts of indecently assaulting women and girls – one as young as 15 – and is due to be sentenced on Friday, any hold he had on the press by means of his ability to hand out useful stories – plus the threat of holding dirt on anyone not inclined to play along – has loosened considerably. And don’t the papers know it – starting with the Mail.
“Simon Cowell becomes first high profile celebrity client to ditch Max Clifford after being 'horrified' by the PR guru's attacks on young women ... Clifford has handled Cowell's dealings with the media for at least 12 years” it tells, as The Black Helmet feels able to cut Clifford loose, safe in the knowledge that the latter is going direct to jail and certainly not collecting £200.
Then the Dacre doggies really let rip: “Max Clifford's career was founded on lies: Freddie Starr never ate that hamster, David Mellor did not make love to Antonia de Sancha in a Chelsea strip, and Derek Hatton wasn't ever going out with Princess Diana's cousin ('Di's Cousin Dates Degsy'). 'I was always instinctively good at lying,' Clifford would later reveal”. And the Mail bought it all.
Another paper that at the time had no problem taking the approved Clifford line was the Mirror, and again, vengeance was swift: “Image expert Max Clifford presented himself as a Surrey boy done good - a man who built his PR firm from scratch and raised millions for charity. But while he manipulated the truth for a living, Clifford was living a lie at home, seducing women and abusing young girls”.
Yeah, what a sleazebag! But the Mirror was usually up for taking whatever Clifford fed them – or lifting previously published copy from other recipients of his taller tales. The Mail was not averse to repeating what he told them. And Paul Dacre’s hacks know all about lying, as Jo Rowling has just demonstrated after getting the paper to ‘fess up to libelling her. They took no action until he got nicked.
The tabs never do bother until someone else does the heavy lifting, do they?