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Stuart Kuttner, managing Editor of the News of the World
Stuart Kuttner of the News of the World
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW WITH STUART KUTTNER, MANAGING EDITOR OF THE NEWS OF THE WORLD ON APRIL 8TH, 2001

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST:

Well the talk of the Countess of Wessex' incautious remarks has been an enormous story two weekends running and as we saw just then last Sunday we had an authorised interview in the News of the World while other papers carried a string of embarrassing stories about what Sophie Rhys Jones was reputed to have told the undercover reporter. This week as we heard in the news, the News of the World has dished up every last detail and Stuart Kuttner is Managing Editor of the paper, good morning Stuart.

STUART KUTTNER:

Good morning David.

DAVID FROST:

Just a bit of background first because we've read so many different things about this, was your original target in fact Mr Harkin and then Sophie Rhys Jones, the Countess surprisingly turned up?

STUART KUTTNER:

I think that puts it very neatly, I wouldn't use the word target but the original information was about Murray Harkin, it was about drugs, it was about other unsavoury activities and it was of course about his business association, his proximity to the Countess.

DAVID FROST:

And so when she turned up your guys were surprised were they?

STUART KUTTNER:

Well no they expected her to come to a meeting, it was one of a series of meetings and this one was in the Dorchester in rather smart suite there, but what did surprise us was, you know, the way she ranged over all these, these indiscretions, these extraordinary open remarks about, about the Blairs, about William Hague, about John Major, about Charles and Camilla and so forth. She just let it run.

DAVID FROST:

And in terms of the conversation, who was playing the Sheikh?

STUART KUTTNER:

Well one of our people was playing the Sheikh.

DAVID FROST:

The famous Mazhur?

STUART KUTTNER:

Well the famous Mazhur was a Sheikh but on the, on the last meeting the famous Mazhur was in, in Western dress although he'd been a Sheikh at previous meetings. But he was still a Sheikh from Dubai.

DAVID FROST:

And what about in terms of the arrangement that was made last week, you got the, an official interview in return for handing over the tapes of the unexpurgated version, is that right?

STUART KUTTNER:

The, that's right in essence, the Palace were enormously alarmed that, that you know, Sophie had sounded off in this incautious way that she had and so an arrangement was made that she would provide the News of the World with a startling, scorching interview which she did and all was fine. Thereon after for the next six or seven days all the media, the newspapers, television, radio, recycled, churned out all these false, inaccurate quotes that she was alleged to have made on the tapes. We took a view as the week went on it was time to clear the air, to get the words down, get it right and in a sense to partly vindicate, to partly exonerate Sophie.

DAVID FROST:

And in term, the Sunday Telegraph here says career is in jeopardy and so on and so forth, and says that it's unclear last night whether the tabloid paper had gone back on a legal agreement not to publish the transcripts or whether the contract drawn up with lawyers representing RJH Public Relations was not watertight. Did you in fact go back on last week's agreement?

STUART KUTTNER:

No I don't think we did go back on last the, the you know seven days is a long time in the history of a scandal or an affair of this kind, the whole situation changed, the circumstances changed, we gave very careful consideration and there were certain discussions and we take, and we take the view that we did not go back, we did not renege on the original contract.

DAVID FROST:

But you did have a deal which you didn't go through with?

STUART KUTTNER:

I wouldn't put it in those terms, we had a deal the previous weekend but over the days the situation changed, we've had no complaint about, about what we've done today and I, I very much doubt that we will have one.

DAVID FROST:

And what is the relationship with the palace?

STUART KUTTNER:

Well as always I mean there's a creative tension between, between the Palace and the media as you know. I guess it's, you know it's a bit bruised at the moment but essentially it's a symbiotic relationship and it'll no doubt come together again.

DAVID FROST:

People always talk about these sort of things, Stuart, being justified if they're in the public interest and so on, but is this really in the public interest, I mean it's not a mega-expose or it's not a revelation about a Cabinet Minister or something like that.

STUART KUTTNER:

Well

DAVID FROST:

Is it really in the public interest to drag all this up?

STUART KUTTNER:

Well I think there are two points, first of all the investigation into the original information about drugs and other unsavoury activities that led onto this. And then the second point is what is, we now have is a situation where to put it bluntly the Countess unwisely in her discussions with us clearly shows herself to be trading off her Royal connections, so she's, you know she's mixing up her Royal persona with the harsh commercial world.

DAVID FROST:

But, but it's sort of, it's a sort of no-win situation isn't it, because there are, there are editorials from time to time in the papers saying the younger Royals should jolly well earn their own living and not be on the Civil List, they should go out and get a job and like the rest of us have to. But the moment they do that, the moment they obey that instruction then they're told that they're, you know exploiting their Royal connections. What, what are the poor folk to do?

STUART KUTTNER:

Well they're to do one or the other, they're to either, you know work in a private way, she could be Mrs Sophie Windsor, or whatever, she could run a PR company, she could do what she likes, but she was, she was indicating that there are hidden benefits because she was, after all the Queen's daughter-in-law, hidden benefits to her clients and really that's not on is it? I mean just take a position one way or the other, either, either enjoy the Royal life with all the adornments and, and everything that goes with it, or set up in private business, I think to merge the two is, is, is frankly, I think it creates a conflict, I think it's an incompatibility.

DAVID FROST:

Stuart thank you very much for being with us this morning.

END

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