Hugh Grant Accuses Tabloid Of Hacking His Phone

Actor Hugh Grant has told a British judge that he was the victim of hacking by a tabloid not owned by Rupert Murdoch. He, in effect, blamed the entire tabloid industry in Britain for invasions of his privacy.

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The phone hacking scandal in Britain has so far focused on one newspaper, Rupert Murdoch's defunct News of the World. But today, the actor Hugh Grant said his voicemail was hacked by another British tabloid. Grant made the claim in London in testimony before a public inquiry into media ethics.

Testimony that, as NPR's Philip Reeves reports, went far beyond illegal hacking.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Britain has some of the most cutthroat tabloids in the world. Hugh Grant is one of the most passionate campaigners for reform. Today, he depicted an industry with no regard for the law, a world of arrogant and ruthless newspapers that have, for years, intimidated British politicians and corrupted the police.

One newspaper story, he cited, from a few years back, claimed falsely, he said, that his romance with Jemima Khan was on the rocks. This story was published, not by the News of the World, but by a rival, The Mail on Sunday.

HUGH GRANT: I cannot, for the life of me, think of any conceivable source for this story in The Mail on Sunday, except those voice messages on my mobile telephone.

REEVES: This is denied by The Mail on Sunday's owners, Associated Newspapers. This public inquiry, led by Lord Justice Leveson, was created because of the News of the World hacking affair, but it's also addressing even bigger issues, the ethics of Britain's media and whether it needs regulation.

Grant described what it's like being a celebrity in the crosshairs of the paparazzi. He spoke of a mysterious break-in at his apartment and the difficulty of trusting anyone.

GRANT: If someone like me called the police for a burglary, a mugging, something in the street, something that happened to me or my girlfriend, the chances are that a photographer or a reporter would turn up on your doorstep before a policeman.

REEVES: Grant accused the tabloids of inventing stories, including one saying he has a new German girlfriend. Once these stories are out there, they're hard to stop, he said.

GRANT: This is one of the problems is if something's misreported. It just splatters all around the Internet instantly, so this is now fact that I have a new 21-year-old German girlfriend all around the world. Well, it doesn't really matter that much except when it's used, you know, as a stick to beat me with again and again and then it does become a little wearying and you sort of wish that they'd bothered to either ask me or that they bothered to listen to the girl's two denials.

REEVES: Newspapers tend to argue that it's OK to invade a celebrity's privacy if that celebrity trades on his or her good name and yet is perceived to have done something wrong. Grant said that same case was made about him in an article in Britain's independent newspaper just today. Grant poured scorn on this, citing an incident that filled all the tabloids shortly after he made "Four Weddings and a Funeral" a decade and a half ago.

GRANT: But I wasn't aware I traded on my good name. I mean, I've never had a good name, and it's made absolutely no difference at all. I'm the man who was arrested with a prostitute and the film still made tons of money. It doesn't matter.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, London.

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