8:11 am Jul. 20, 20111
Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?
Daily News: I'd been wondering what it would take for the Daily News to finally give its whole cover to the recent troubles of Rupert Murdoch and News Corp., owners of hated crosstown rivals The New York Post. We have our answer: A shaving-cream pie.
I'll quote from the lede of the News' main story, just to get the facts behind us quickly for those of you who weren't glued to the Parliamentary testimony yesterday of Murdoch and his son, James, in Britain's phone-hacking scandal, and because it has my favorite line in the tabs today:
British lawmakers ready to cream Rupert Murdoch ended up apologizing to him instead Tuesday after a protester smacked the aging tycoon in the face with a pie.
Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng, leapt to her husband's defense, slapping impressively at the pie-thrower.
The News rated Rupert Murdoch's performance yesterday as less than effective: "sometimes doddering," even. And indeed, near the beginning of the testimony, the public seemed to agree with him, or at least that segment of the public that decided to tweet its reactions throughout.
So let's get to the cover treatment: The paper could hardly have chosen a less flattering photo of Murdoch's head. He looks every one of his 80 years, his carefully buzzed hair (slightly shorter where it's thinning out badly, slightly longer on the back and sides) beautifully and painstakingly silhouetted against the black backdrop. His eyes look like deep wells of flesh with the gloss of the eyeballs visible at their distant bottoms. Because Murdoch, in a statement he had asked to read at the beginning of his testimony--but which he was forced to read at the end, and which was interrupted by the Incident of the Pie--said it was the most "humbling" day of his professional life, the News goes with "HUMBLE PIE," a winner, even if an obvious one.
The bullet points hit all the marks: Murdoch admits he's "shamed" but "News Corp. bigs pass the buck," and "Wife Wendi slaps pie-in-face protestor." The paper advertises four pages of coverage.
The New York Post: First, if you need it, take a moment away from the computer to vent your frustration, surprise, or incredulity that the Murdoch hearings are nowhere on the front of his own New York tabloid today. OK, ready now? It's … Dominique Strauss-Kahn! There isn't much news out of New York for the embattled former chief of the International Monetary Fund, who was accused by a maid at midtown's Sofitel hotel of sexual assault. His case is on ice as prosecutors deal with reports their witness has lied to them.
But the accusation against D.S.K. spurred French journalist Tristane Banon to relate the tale of her alleged sexual assault at his hands back in 2003. French police are investigating Banon's claim that D.S.K. attacked her when she interviewed him for a book she was writing; she and her mother, Anne Mansouret, a prominent socialist who was a political ally of D.S.K., have said that for political reasons they hadn't gone public before, and Mansouret has claimed that at the time she confronted D.S.K. and several mutual friends about the incident and that D.S.K. had basically admitted it.
What's new is Mansouret's claim that she herself had an affair with D.S.K. which she described as "consensual" but "brutal." File this line under never in America: "He took me with the vulgarity of a soldier," Mansouret said.
The testimony is meant to show that D.S.K.'s reputation as a ladies' man and heartbreaker did not mean he has no capacity for sexual violence. I'm not sure how that would play in the U.S.
The cover is a photo of D.S.K. from back when things were looking very grim for him, early in the prosecution's case against him, and not the wide-smiling D.S.K. who was released on bail and freed from house arrest when the prosecution's case started to weaken. "ALL IN THE FAMILY" reads the knockout-white hed; the dek is "Mom of French accuser: Me, too!" This of course is a little misleading, but inset in the D.S.K. photo is a box of lede text that sets things straight, beneath what looks like a Hollywood hedshot of Mansouret.
Two boxes along the spine advertise a story about the suspect in the Long Island pharmacy massacre and one about Jose Reyes' return to the Mets.
Observations: A question lots of people have been asking since the British phone-hacking scandal began is whether Americans care about it. And while I tend to agree now with those who say that the Murdochs' performance yesterday was a win for him—the stock market, for what it's worth, seems to agree—the pie incident has had the effect of making regular America care about Rupert Murdoch again, and not in a good way.
Several people in my Twitter stream were suggesting "HUMBLE PIE" as a New York Post headline, and it would have been if the Post were really covering its owner's exploits in England, but of course they're not. It's a great one of course. And if D.S.K. has had more resonance with Americans recently than Murdoch himself, it remains that Murdoch's a local. What happens in a French criminal court to a French socialist can't possibly be as relevant as what happens to the city's biggest media mogul in Parliament, can it?
Winner: Daily News.